Presidential Blog: To mentor or be mentored, everybody wins!

Presidential Blog: To mentor or be mentored, everybody wins!

27th October 2023

On National Mentoring Day, IChemE President Nigel Hirst talks about the benefits of mentoring for both the mentee and the mentor, the enthusiasm and contribution of our early career members and looks forward to Hazards 33.

In our last member survey, members told us that opportunities to mentor and be mentored were important to them, and IChemE is now working to bolster our services in this area. I have seen firsthand how mentees benefit hugely from the process by gaining both personal and professional development, access to resources and networks, and a new or different perspective on ideas, often meaning goals can often be achieved more quickly. But it is not a one-way process. I have also seen myself that mentoring is a hugely gratifying experience, and great satisfaction comes from passing on knowledge and empowering others. It really is a wonderful way of giving back to the profession.

This month we marked National Mentoring Day on 27 October which gave us an opportunity to celebrate our volunteer mentors, both those who support members applying for chartered status and those that have been contacting us to volunteer for our new service to provide career mentoring. I know the difference that our mentors can make to members’ lives and therefore the future of the profession, and I thank you all. If this is something you would like to get involved in, you can find more information on the volunteer page of our website or contact the team at

One of the most rewarding aspects of being IChemE President is the opportunity to meet so many of our members. I particularly enjoy hearing their individual stories as to how their career paths came about, and also like to use the opportunity to ask how IChemE can best support them. This month, I was delighted to virtually meet many of our members in Malaysia during our first regional membership engagement webinar, and whilst filming segments for our upcoming programme ‘Engineering a sustainable world’ which is being developed in partnership with ITN Business, I met some early career members who are fantastic ambassadors for chemical and process engineering. Their enthusiasm for our profession was palpable, and by sharing their experience to motivate future engineers I know the difference they will be making. I thank them, and all our volunteers, for their contribution.

Process safety has always been at the core of chemical engineering. Although the industry is continually evolving with new technologies emerging all the time, the fundamental principles of managing risk endure. IChemE is committed to working with governments, regulators and other stakeholders to build a common understanding of risk, and to collaborate with other professional bodies with the ultimate aim of developing a culture that delivers real improvements in safety, health and environmental performance. Our process safety conference, Hazards 33, kicks off in Birmingham, UK, from 7 November and I know that process safety and loss prevention professionals from all over the world will benefit from connecting with their peers to share knowledge and practical insight to advance understanding of managing major hazards.

Last week, I had the honour of giving an address at a memorial service held to celebrate the life of the late Sir David Harrison, a former IChemE President and my supervisor at the University of Cambridge. I quoted from an article David wrote in The Chemical Engineer back in 1991, “It’s not what you were good at in the last ten years that matters. It’s what you are going to be good at in the next ten” – there’s something for us all to think about. David was a strong advocate of improved scientific education in schools and better access to higher education for disadvantaged social groups. His expertise was employed by many government committees, and he was awarded a knighthood in 1997 for services to education and for his contribution to nuclear safety. My thoughts are with David’s family and friends, and I was honoured to give our condolences to them on behalf of the Institution.

I welcome input from all our members, so as always, if you have any ideas or questions you would like to put to me, please send me an email to I look forward to hearing from you.

Previous presidential blogs

September 2023 - Engineering a sustainable world

August 2023 - Futureproofing the profession

July 2023 - The hard work starts now!