Engineer Kanch Sridhar tells her story of moving from graduate student to automation engineer and the many fantastic opportunities that came along with it.
How did you start working at NNE as an engineer?
As a student I was looking into opportunities for post-graduation, and NNE was at my university career fair. I stopped by their booth to talk, and they mentioned overseas travel. I grew up in Southeast Asia and frequently had the opportunity to travel internationally, so I’ve developed a passion to travel and see the world. When I heard that we have locations and projects in various countries, I was sold.
The Automation field is interesting because not only can I combine my interests in process engineering and modelling systems, but I am also constantly learning about new areas and can challenge my learning. I like that I can develop a system in the office and then go on site to implement it and see it working in real-time. And speaking to the consulting environment, with all projects, I know that there will be an end date, and I can move onto something else. It’s fun and I’m certainly never bored.
My first project was a SCADA system upgrade for the site Utility Systems of one of our customers located in the West Coast. I was paired with a senior engineer, and we helped with the migration of Wonderware and PanelView HMI graphics to Proficy iFIX solutions. This was a great introduction to iFix, PLCs and development and execution of test documentation. I transitioned next to a different project in the West Coast, through which I’ve become familiar with S88 batch modelling.
How are the travel opportunities at NNE?
I had shared my interest in working in Denmark since I was hired. My manager and I searched for opportunities and while initially it was difficult finding one because of the specific automation needs in Denmark, I kept pursuing it, and because of timing and my experiences thus far with S88 batch modelling, iFix, and test execution, I was able to go. I lived and worked in Denmark this summer and helped with a DeltaV upgrade during a customer’s shutdown period. I think that's one of the advantages of working for NNE – if you want to do something, you can make it happen.
This past year alone, I have travelled quite a bit for projects within California. I’ve had the opportunity to see different customer sites and learn how the culture varies from company to company. Additionally, I’ve been able to do fun things like stay at the beach, take the ferry to work and explore different towns along the way. I'm already looking forward to my next adventure.
What does it take to be a good pharma automation engineer?
To be a good automation engineer it helps if you are informed about various technology platforms but – especially as a consultant – it is also very important to know how to interact and communicate with customers and create a positive work environment.
One thing I’ve learned from having to suddenly take the lead on projects is to remain calm even though I may feel stressed – at that point I realise I’ve been working on the project long enough that I can usually find a solution to the customer’s problems. Even if I can’t, I have a fantastic support team to whom I can reach out for help. I’ve been lucky to have some great mentors guide me.
Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure the customer is satisfied while staying within the agreed scope of work. This can be a tricky balance, as I can often be the only person on site and the customer will request changes or additional work and it can be difficult not agreeing to all of their requests. You must be able to meet the customer’s needs within your agreed scope. At the end of the day, this is the kind of challenge I can handle and makes for the interesting work that I enjoy.
- Kanch received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and her M.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of California, Irvine
- Her main focus thus far is Process Automation. She is familiar with SCADA (iFix), PLCs and S88 batch modelling