Your career aspirations won’t just be given to you – you have to make important decisions yourself and find out what makes you tick

Graduate Dan Smith
Daniel Smith
Process Engineering Assistant
MEng Chemical Engineering with Biotechnology
Dan is working for Wood Plc, a consultancy (primarily oil and gas) company, as a Process Engineering Assistant.  The breadth of modules covered on the course and the ability to specialise was one of the reasons Dan chose Sheffield. 

Why did you choose your course at Sheffield?

The course itself felt really structured towards developing you as a person and an engineer, and the Chemical Engineering Department at Sheffield was really friendly, with a sense that they wanted you to be a part of their faculty which wasn’t the feeling at other universities. It was such a friendly and comfortable environment. The opportunities for broadening my studies was really exciting to me at the time, as I didn’t feel I was limiting myself to one particular job – the possibilities could be endless with the breadth of modules covered at Sheffield. 18 year-old me didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do after university, and I could tell immediately the course at Sheffield would enable me to naturally grow into this decision. Halfway through my degree I was able to specialise with Biotechnology, as it is what I found I was most interested in, and it’s really helped me get to where I am going with my career.

What was one of your fondest memories about your study? 

I’d probably say my research project in my final year was a highlight of my degree! Being handed the responsibility to take part in valued research for the department was exciting, but it also showed me where I want to take my career and what I was really interested in and good at. The opportunity I had working in the Diamond Pilot Plant and the amount of knowledge I got from the project was amazing. However, I would say my fondest memories from my studies came from the people I became friends with – students and staff. The range of people I met during my time at Sheffield and on the course in particular will always be special to me and I am grateful for the opportunities I got to work with and learn from so many different personalities and experiences.

What are you doing now? 

Now I’m working for Wood Plc, a consultancy (primarily oil and gas) company, as a Process Engineering Assistant working on a gas fractionation project. I’ve had so many opportunities to apply what I learned during university, yet I’m still learning new things every day. I’m also working with so many engineers from amazing backgrounds, something which has been made easier by the projects which I was involved in throughout university. In September 2020 I’ll be joining GSK’s Future Leaders Programme as a Biopharmaceutical Engineering Associate, where I’ll be helping to design processes for live cell cultures for monoclonal antibody production, perform investigations for process optimisation, and take lab-based procedures right through to industry scale-up – just to name a few. The best thing is that I have the skills to move between industries now and take my career where I want.

What would you tell your first year self if you could? 

My biggest piece of advice would be to not worry about being the smartest in the class. Sometimes it’s not about knowing everything, but instead about how much you want something, so don’t put that pressure on yourself or put yourself down. Your passion and interest in something can often shine through a lot more than how many facts you can reel off from a lecture you went to. Also, just have fun and enjoy yourself as much as possible – four years will go by a lot faster than you think!

Any advice to current students before they graduate?  

Make the most of everything that the department has to offer – careers service, industry links, research opportunities and even the academic and student support staff – and really get involved in everything you can. Take opportunities to explore your career opportunities and find out what you want to do after university, and remember that all experience is good experience no matter what or where it is. You career aspirations won’t just be given to you – you have to make important decisions yourself and find out what makes you tick. Most importantly, make sure you follow a career path that you know you’ll enjoy and that you’re passionate about, and not one where you think will earn you the most money. And finally just have fun!