STEP Reflection: Co-Op LyondellBasell

I worked as a Process Engineering Co-Op for LyondellBasell at our Victoria, Texas site (VTO). I intended to gain industrial experience, grow my professional network, and develop my technical skills. Over the course of the semester, I facilitated the revalidation of a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) for our Tank Farm & Pumping and Purification Area. I was able to design, locate, and install a pressure gauge and excess flow check valve in the plant. These projects exposed me to the Management of Change (MOC) and Process Safety Management (PSM) procedures. I collaborated with engineers, operators, and maintenance technicians to implement these changes within our process.

The experience reinforced my decision to pursue a career in chemical engineering. I really had no previous work experience before the term. I learned how to conduct myself and build appropriate rapport with others. I enjoyed the work I was completing and the people I worked with. Part of the challenge for me was adapting to an entirely new region of the country. I built friendships with my co-workers and embraced the company culture. Large emphasis was placed on the details. At LYB, Goal ZERO means we don’t cut corners or take short cuts because those actions can lead to accidents involving business interruptions, personnel injuries, or off-site environmental impacts.

I was able to focus on learning something new each day. From each morning meeting I would hear a new term or technique that I would research through our company’s intranet or ask co-workers about. I was able to explore other potential career paths within the company during a Co-Op exchange program which placed me at multiple sites including olefins, polymers, and acetyls. The program allowed me to further immerse myself within the petrochemical industry and build my professional network to better prepare me for the workplace after my graduation. This fulfills the STEP literature stating an internship experience will aid in “determining or narrowing your career focus while allowing you to gain workplace skills, increase your knowledge of a particular career field, and expand your professional network.” The experience will be highly marketable on my resume, so I will be able to work in a variety of ChemE disciplines and fully utilize my education and experiences upon graduation from Ohio State.

As mentioned in the Pre-Reflection document, I have enjoyed and greatly benefitted from interacting with other ethnicities and cultures. For me, Victoria, TX was no different. From corporate interactions in Houston to the informal night shift banter with the operators, I made friends with a variety of people with immensely different backgrounds. My time at Ohio State living and learning in such a diverse environment has been the best preparation for a future in the global market-place.

Lyondell’s company culture suited me well, and I have committed to advancing my career with them. Upon completion of the fall term, I was extended an offer to return, I have already signed on to work in Houston, TX for Summer 2019. This will further develop my technical skills as I will work in Process Controls and Automation. This previous term allowed me to demonstrate my eagerness and willingness to learn and contribute to anything. I received great feedback from my co-workers about my initiative to jump into projects of which I knew little about. The praise was affirmation that this was a transformational experience.

My mentor, Anthony Zimmermann, was a crucial part to my growth when I was at VTO. He helped guide me through working with other engineers, the importance of operator feedback, and the expertise of maintenance technicians. I was also challenged to refine my problem-solving skills and think critically. One of my projects was conducting a PHA revalidation. As the youngest and least experienced, I was the PHA Team Leader responsible for preparing content, maintaining meeting pace and focus, and documenting findings. We brought in operations, environmental engineer, mechanical engineer, instrumentation engineer, and the process engineer to get their input. I learned the importance of gaining opinions from every level within the company and engage the people running the unit at 3 am on Saturday Night. This project helped develop my management skills. It also helped improve my problem-solving abilities. It is easy to get overwhelmed, like when I saw I needed to fill out a 4-inch binder in 3 months, but when you break down a large assignment into smaller sections, it becomes manageable. I became more confident and efficient with my technical communication in the meetings by preparing myself by truly understanding our production process rather than simply following the previous 5-year old PHA.

At Lyondell, I was able to participate in several community outreach events. Global Care Day is an annual day of service company wide. I was recognized for my extra effort and spirit of service for going above and beyond. Another event was hosting a senior citizen’s lunch and bingo event. Here I was nominated by my coworkers to the position of greatest responsibility, bingo calling. Since I have been in school, I have struggled to find time to volunteer. When LYB offered these opportunities, I knew this was the company for me. I enjoyed the service and was able to serve with friends who shared the vision. The world is too large to be self-centered.

In conclusion, the semester not only served to develop my technical abilities and build my professional network as I had planned. It also exposed me to a company culture that aligns well with my own personal beliefs and values. I felt satisfaction at the end of each day as I walked out of the plant. I was productive and had something positive to show for my efforts. I reaffirmed my love with the problem-solving process and I will continue to carry it with me in everything I attempt. Moving forward, I will continue my academic pursuits Spring 2019 and will further my career with Lyondell Summer 2019.

First Time in Texas, Had to look the part.

PPE in Full Uniform


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