James Girling

James Girling

A-levels: Maths, Chemistry, Physics
Place of study: University of Birmingham
Degree course: MEng Chemical Engineering

When I was young I wanted to be a pilot, but after deciding I didn’t want to join the armed forces it developed into a general interest of planes and engineering. The inspiration for engineering came from a family story: My Great, Great Auntie was awarded an OBE for inventing an orifice to fix the Hurricane and Spitfires during WWII – they had a habit of losing power and the engine would cut out during certain manoeuvres in combat, which was a huge disadvantage at the start of the war – she was a very determined engineer!

After completing my GCSEs, I did a general engineering Headstart course at the University of Surrey which covered civil, aeronautical, mechanical and chemical engineering – coupled with my enjoyment of chemistry and physics at the time I decided to study chemical engineering at university.

Making the most of work experience

I did a placement year at Esso Petroleum (ExxonMobil) working as a Process Safety and Project Development Engineer at Fawley Refinery. I also spent a summer researching water purity in the performance of hydrogen fuel cells in the laboratory at the University.

The thing I found most interesting at university was doing the detailed design for a brewery in my design project. The course was complemented by the opportunity to cover a lot of sustainable energy engineering modules.

Working well with others

I now work as an engineer within ExxonMobil’s Technical Services Department which supports the process units and operations teams. Currently, I develop projects from the initial idea to construction in the field (timespan of 18 months – 2 years), which aim to accomplish any (or all) of the following: improve safety of the plant; reduce energy consumption; increase the yield (or profitability) of a unit or replace end of life equipment (which we call capacity maintenance).

My favourite part is working with other engineers on site and within the wider organisation – particularly with very experienced process designers and engineers in the US – is that you learn a huge amount from any conversation!

In my current job role, my day-to-day travel involves going down to the plant to scope projects and interact with the process team. On occasion I travel to Prague and Brussels for training courses.

Enjoy it

Although the ultimate goal is to get a good job after graduation – enjoy your time at university. You won’t get to experience this again!

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