Hi Himanshu,This is a great question that I hear from a lot of students that I interact with over time or new engineers. You're asking right questions.Below is a "bullet list" of what I think is important, and I will leave off key factors, but here are a few thoughts1). Operators usually know best. As scientists / engineers, it's our job to figure out how to design them and troubleshoot the WHY of why something will or will not work. Operators usually figure out HOW to get it to work. Get to know the operators, and if you can, spend a week, month, or year in their job roles, and you will be much more educated for the future. I did this as much as I could in my job with an operating company, and eventually the operators trusted me with running the control room board to opening valves and writing permits. Sounds boring? Maybe to some, but it's worth the effort and time to do this.2). EXPERIENCE TRUMPS EDUCATION--I find so many new students who just graduated think they know a lot--they do, but not nearly enough to consult the industry. Experience (like operators) will trump anything. Always put yourself under someone who really has experience in both design, evaluation, and operation, and ask for the opportunities to lead a task.3). Opportunities beget opportunities--the more tasks you take on to learn aggressively, the more tasks you will be assigned. In your culture, you have to figure out what that looks like (even in the USA, in different parts of the country, being aggressive means different things).4). Contrary to what is implied above--you do NOT have to work 7 days a week and overtime all the time. The best opportunities you can find are those that drive you to learn, not work harder. You don't want to be selective in your first 2 years, but eventually, you do need to be selective to maintain a good work/life balance. Otherwise I believe, you will find yourself working on the wrong stuff. Challenge yourself academically WHILE doing your work.5). Look at my pop quiz articles on LinkedIn...you will find a lot of "real world" experiences and is a good resource for yourself and many others on "How it really works" vs. initial thoughts of what we think will work.Reply for any more thoughts or comments, I have an old email to some graduating students somewhere with 20+ items like this that I could dig up and paste here if requested.
Hands on experience is the best way to learn. My first job was at Exxon Refinery and my supervisor told me to go to CLUE (Catalytic Light Ends unit) in the plant and come up with the problems to solve. Having spent lot of time in school, I had no idea what was doing and what was expected. But I went to the control room of the plant and started asking questions to the operators and came up with 10 issues that need to be resolved in the plant. My boss picked up one issue and asked me to solve the problem. Took this issue as technical problem, solved it theoretically and presented solution to my boss who was MIT Head of Chemical Engg Dept. in his previous assignment. He was shocked and said "Sudhir are you in school?" This is real world. Please remember three basic equations that you learned in Chemical Engineering in the school, Continuity Equation, material balance and energy balance and you can solve most of the mfg. problems. To day his advice has led me to 31+ patents and all of the are practiced worldwide. This has also led me to be on the list of who is who in the world. I have written and published many articles in the renowned technical magazines. After retirement, I have founded consulting business for helping chemical, pharma, biotech, environmental, Waste water treatment, steel, food industries to optimize operations, improve efficiencies, and solve environmental issues.
Hence hands on experience is the best way to transition from school to the practical world and use your talent to succeed in life.RegardsSudhir Brahmbhatt, Ph.D. MBA.