Helen Currah
Helen Currah

When choosing a university, reputation is paramount. Having a degree from a reputable university makes a huge difference when job hunting.

Graduated: 2007

Current occupation: Advanced Controls Engineer, Air Products and Chemicals 

What route have you taken to get to your current position?

Directly after graduating from Manchester, I joined the Air Products engineering development programme. This programme allows us to rotate round several different departments and we are encouraged to try out a wide range of positions to get broad experience. I chose assignments in Research and Development, Operations and Bid Development before finally settling in Advanced Controls. At Air Products it's very easy to move between different departments, even moving from engineering to IT or Marketing if you want. If you just work hard and contribute a lot your reputation will help you get interesting assignments.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

I love writing code and trying out new control ideas. I travel a lot and get to spend time on real chemical plants. I work with a wide range of people from operators to senior management, and advanced controls are becoming increasingly important to industry.

I currently design and install advanced controls systems for our plants in Asia. These systems are designed to improve the efficiency of our plants by automating them and ensuring that production targets are met with minimum input from operating staff. I also manage the production data from our plants and help other engineers get access to any data they need.

My greatest achievement to date is creating a plant start-up sequence for our large air separation plants using a new kind of code. It was the first of its kind in our company.

What skills/knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

A degree in engineering is almost essential to become an engineer. There are some people who do it via the apprentice route and prove themselves capable, but they will probably have to do a part-time or distance learning degree in order to finally secure a high level engineering job.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing a similar career route and what skills/experience do you consider to be necessary?

If you're struggling to get through a tough engineering degree, don't give up! This degree is worth its weight in gold and even if you don't want to become an engineer it will open many doors for you. Make the most of networking and internship opportunities when they come up and look for sponsorship opportunities. Some of the less well known companies offer sponsorships and internship programmes so make an effort to find out about them.

Why would you recommend the University as a good place to study?

When choosing a university, reputation is paramount. Having a degree from a reputable university makes a huge difference when job hunting.

Manchester is an amazing city in which to be a student. The cost of living is much lower than in London, there is plenty of entertainment and nightlife, and a lot of chemical engineering employers in the area.

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