Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Name: Vishal Patel

Job title: Process Engineer

Company: Amec Foster Wheeler

Country: UK
A-levels: Chemistry, Maths and Physics
University: Loughborough University

I always liked building things when I was a child and I was interested in how things worked. I liked science and maths at school and chose my A-levels by thinking about what I was good at and what subjects would be most financially rewarding later in life.

Chemical engineering wasn’t on my radar at that stage and it wasn’t until I got to sixth form and was told that my A-level choices were well suited to the subject that I really thought about it.

I liked chemistry and engineering sounded interesting. I was told that if I chose an engineering discipline, I would be able to switch to other discipline further down the line if I wanted to. The only thing I did know was that I really didn’t want to take the mechanical and electrical route.

University life

I liked the Loughborough campus but the course was quite daunting at first. I think it was harder than I expected but you adjust and get through it.

There was less chemistry on the course than I had expected and more maths. That’s one of the hardest things about chemical engineering – you know so little about it when you start. Using the resources here on are very important and so are university prospectuses.

I worked at Cargill for my industry placement and got to get a feel for all aspects of the business. I worked on the operations side of things, projects, safety, little projects, big projects – it really was a broad mix of stuff that opened my eyes to what life would be like as a chemical engineer.

The benefits of a year in industry

My year in industry was invaluable and really brought all of my learning together. If I’m honest I found parts of the first two years of my course a little boring but going out into the world of work brought all of the theory to life and made me much more enthusiastic about my studies.
It actually made going back to the course quite difficult because I had really enjoyed the hands on experience in industry. I don’t think it’s any surprise that I started to do much better in my university work when I got back – it was because I could see the applied relevance of what I was learning.

I ended up applying for more industry placements and managed to secure a summer internship at Total. It was at that stage I became familiar with the world of contracting and I ended up only applying for contracting jobs when it came to choosing my career path. Contracting appealed to me because you get to do lots of different projects both in the design office and out in the field and things are always changing.

I joined Amec Foster Wheeler in 2006. The company has a four-year graduate training programme where you rotate on to new placements every 3-6 months. You get to experience the wider angle of the business and I worked on a wide range of projects including FEED process design projects based in Singapore and Saudi Arabia on petrochemical design. Other rotations include safety, estimating and commissioning in Saudi Arabia.

At the end of the graduate training, I was able to choose which department I wanted to work in. This partly depends on the requirements of the business too but there is usually plenty of choice.

I now work in Amec Foster Wheeler’s process execution department. That means working on world-scale projects that are being built abroad and communicating with clients and contractors from all over the world. There is a lot of variety of work to get on with and usually this means attending team and client meetings as well as getting on with the design work to meet the schedule.

My future

I’d like to get chartered this year and work towards becoming a senior lead engineer here at Amec Foster Wheeler . I’m glad I completed a Masters at university because this has helped me get a job and it will be easier for my application to Chartered Chemical Engineer.

I think it’s important for you to read as much as you can about chemical engineering before you study it. Also look closely at the different sectors that chemical engineers can work in and think about what you want to do after your studies.