Deborah Blackburn is a Project Engineer at Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest processers and suppliers of cocoa and chocolate products. She has 6+ years of experience as a Project Engineer; during which time she has been responsible for capital projects from justification to installation. Some of her work includes but is not limited to: Meeting customer specifications, obtaining competitive quotes, formal request for project funds, management of funds, issue of purchase orders, installation, coaching and training. Deborah has a Bachelor of Science (BS), Chemical Engineering degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. You can find her on Linkedin here.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. With this being my first job straight out of college, I had no prior work experience however, I will say that college definitely prepared me for my role by working in groups with all different types of people and challenging us to solve complex problems together.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
• There is always room for improvement and growth. One of my goals is to be as well rounded as possible. I am constantly experiencing and learning new things but one area that I am lacking in is Plant Utilities (i.e. HVAC, Refrigeration systems). I’m currently working alongside maintenance to gain a better understanding of utilities.
• I also realize that I need to stay up to date with the latest tools and techniques in Project Management. Knowing this, I have become a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and am actively pursuing a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Association with this global organization will provide exposure to other project professionals and help me grow as a Project Engineer.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
Definitely. Working with a wide range of people from the plant floor to office executives, it’s essential that you are a good communicator. You must know how to speak to people and get your ideas across in a professional manner. You must also be a great multi-tasker, possess organization skills and be self-motivated.
3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?
I consider my job to involve all 4 types, but I would say that I am an “improver.” Plants rely on engineers to improve operations, equipment, processes, layouts etc.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
I do not have any direct reports however; I do lead and direct project teams. My teams often involve operators, mechanics and electricians. As the project lead, I am responsible for the project in its entirety and the quality of work that is performed.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
There are many groups that could be impacted if my job was not being done. For example, the company could be financially impacted if there wasn’t anyone to find cost effective ways of altering processes or equipment. Customer requirements would not be met or may take longer to accomplish if there was no one dedicated to this task. If there was no one to train the operators on new equipment or fix old equipment, production may be impacted. These impacts matter because it would either directly or indirectly affect the business financially.
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
I would say 7. Working in manufacturing, there is a lot of heavy, gas fired and high speed equipment that could cause major bodily harm. My facility has done well with guarding equipment and educating employees on the hazards associated with the equipment.
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
What I like most about my current role is seeing my ideas come together and helping people in the end. I love that I get to see how my role makes a difference in the company. It’s very rewarding.
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