Spotlight: Melissa Perram

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Melissa Perram

Process Engineer, Phillips 66 – Rodeo,CA

Always thought that being an engineer meant you had to stay indoors? Well then be sure to check out this week’s Spotlight. Process Engineer, Melissa Perram, talks to us about how her Chemical Engineering degree from Purdue University helped her find a job that she loves and one where she’s able to be outdoors.

On Her Career Path:

One thing I felt was really beneficial was completing a few internships during my time in college. I worked in a laboratory for a summer where I focused more on biomedical research. Because of this research I realized I wanted to do something a little more fast paced. The next year, I found an industrial internship and worked in a refinery for the summer. While at the refinery, I liked the projects I was doing so I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I graduated. I wanted a job where I could be out in the field really working hands on and working with people.”

On Her Day-to-Day Work:

The thing I love the most about my job is I feel like I get to play when I come into the office. Every day there is a new problem to solve so literally my job is different every day - whether it’s trying to optimize equipment and make it run more efficiently, or troubleshooting a problem, such as a piece of equipment has failed and I have to come up with a solution to fix it- it’s always a new challenge. The other fun part about being an engineer is I get to work with a lot of big equipment, big reactors, heat exchangers, distillation columns, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Thoughts On Engineering Skills:

“The engineering skills you gain are really problem solving skills. They are transferable skills so engineers get involved in the business and the technical side of the job. They even go and pursue advanced degrees in the medical industry, the law field, or even go work in the business world.”

Chemical Engineering Job Opportunities:

“You can pursue careers in any sort of manufacturing facilities - such as a refinery or a chemicals plant. You can also manufacture other consumer goods - the products you’re picking up on the shelf at the grocery store. Research is another popular engineering field - you can go into research either in developing new products and technologies or working on scaling up these products from a laboratory bench to mass production.”

Advice To Girls Interested In Her Field:

“The advice I would like to share is not to hold back. You have just as much talent as the other people in the room so that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be heard or your opinion isn’t as important. It might be a little bit harder to make yourself heard but you’re definitely contributing and your ideas are valuable.”

Photography by Jennifer Leahy