geologists and geophysicists work with ideas, technology, information
and people. They invent, design, propose, communicate, and develop
new processes and technologies. Their work provides them with a
high level of responsibility, variety and creativity.'
Day in the Life" features stories from APEGGA professionals that provide
a glimpse into what it's really like to work as an engineer, geologist
A Day in the Life of....
Marcella Fiorillo deJong, P.Eng.
DOW CHEMICAL CANADA INC.
When I graduated from Chemical Engineering at the University
of Alberta in 1991, I had a vague idea of what I would be doing in the
workplace. Even after five work experience terms with four different employers,
I would have been very surprised to find out just what my days would be
like after several years of employment.
I have been working with Dow Chemical Canada Inc. in Fort Saskatchewan
Alberta since graduation. I spent three years as a junior engineer writing
computer programs to run chemical plants. After this, I moved into plant
engineering where I provided engineering support to a facility that mines
salt water from a layer of salt about two km below ground level and stores
hydrocarbon gases in the resulting caverns. Most recently, my job has
expanded to being more business management related (helping to run the
plant) as well as providing technical support.
My typical day starts with a half-hour drive from my home in Edmonton
to the plant in Fort Saskatchewan. Our site is quite large -- about ten
times bigger than West Edmonton Mall. To get in, I have to run an ID card
through a scanner at the security gate before I can drive my car onto
the site. I spend the first hour of the day in the control room with the
operators to ensure the plant equipment is running properly and that there
aren't any problems. Depending on what is going on, I may put on my fire-retardant
coveralls, hard hat, safety glasses and steel-toed boots and go into the
plant to review a maintenance job, check some equipment, or check on the
safety of people working in the plant.
Once I'm done in the control room (and sometimes in the plant), I head
back to my office to work on the day-to-day technical questions that have
come up, or I work on some of the other projects I'm involved in. I use
math and science to determine if equipment, like compressors and piping
systems, is functioning the way it was designed to work. I may also do
some research into product quality for one of our customers.
Sometimes I work on things that I never would have dreamed of when I
was in school. Every month I review the amount of money we have spent
to operate and maintain the plant. Much like running a household, I do
an annual budget and work with others in the plant to make sure we don't
go over budget throughout the year. The only difference is that in my
home budget I work with thousands of dollars and at work I deal with millions
of dollars. I also work with accountants on property taxes and other spending
issues. I didn't realize how much time I would be spending dealing with
these types of administrative tasks. The surprising thing is that I enjoy
this type of work as much as pure engineering work.
Another surprising thing about working as an engineer is how much time
I spend communicating with people and how much team work is involved in
the work world. I spend some time each day meeting with the people I work
with to resolve issues and solve problems. These include field operators,
electricians, pipe fitters, millwrights, accountants, business leaders
and other engineers. I didn't realize that my public speaking and writing
skills would be as important in my career as my math and science skills.
At the end of the day, I drive past the security gate and back to Edmonton
to spend the evening with my husband and daughter. This is the best part
of a great day!
Another site of interest:
Alberta Women's Science Network - Mentor
of the Month