Hi, my name is Wendelle Caysip and I have a bachelors degree in chemical engineering from Heriot-Watt University and a masters degree in advanced chemical engineering from University of Manchester. I am currently working as a graduate Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) Engineer / Analyst at Cognizant in the LSMG (Life Science Manufacturing Group) department.
Take the opportunity to build your network from day 1 whether you’re in university or during summer internships/placements. This is really important in achieving success whether in securing a job or knowing about the valuable support systems/guidance available during your studies (e.g., taking relevant courses if you have a particular career in mind). This relates to seeking out mentors that can help you figure out the career direction or specialised route that you might be interested in. STEM is a broad subject, all your different modules in your course at university open a whole lot of career paths, deciding which is ones you’re most passionate about I think might be one of the most difficult decisions but the first step in starting your professional career.
If possible, try and do more extracurricular activities in university that would help you develop interpersonal skills or soft skills such as communication, teamwork, etc. (make sure they are relevant to STEM as much as possible). These skills are really important to have when you start working in industry. It doesn’t matter how amazing your CV/Resume is in terms of academics, a person who knows how to communicate professionally and work in a team will almost always be preferred. This is especially important if you want to progress in your chosen career path.
A career in STEM means that you must have a good mindset to deal with failures and setbacks effectively. When beginning your journey, you might be discouraged if you compare yourself with your peers who might seem to be progressing at a faster pace than yourself e.g. learning new concepts or seeming to have more opportunities for development. It is important not to compare yourself and your progress with other people. You need to focus on yourself entirely to be able to develop; your only competition is with your past and present self. It is important to surround yourself with the right people who support you to achieve your very best. It is important to try to always improve and keep learning to adapt in a STEM field which continue to evolve in terms of technology and understanding.
Back when I was in high school, I always knew that I wanted a career in STEM but I wasn’t sure whether to embark on a medical route or an engineering route. My mindset was to make sure I would have a job that would generate a positive impact in the world. I developed this idea with guidance from my family and teachers and after some research, I decided to take on the challenge of Chemical Engineering. I chose chemical engineering as I felt it would provide a wide range of possible career opportunities which are in line with my interests, skills and achieve my personal career goals. I have always had a logical way of thinking and I find dealing with problems that have an exact and unique answer or solution interesting. In terms of chemical engineering, the idea of solving complex problems related to production processes across various industries is something I enjoy being involved in and has a real impact. The flexibility within chemical engineering as well as the various career paths has helped me to realise opportunities and to secure my current role at Cognizant.
During university, I was involved in some mandatory design projects of common plant-based equipment such as pumps, compressors, and pipelines which were developed into more complex designs to optimise the production process. The main equipment I was involved with were reactors and distillation columns. During my postgraduate, I had the opportunity to be involved in a biopharmaceutical-based project where I had to perform data analysis on over 32,000 genes to optimize the life span of hamster ovary cells when in culture by observing the effects of specific genes after the genetic engineering of those cells. This is important in developing more effective drugs to help biopharmaceutical industries make product production more efficient. This project gave me an opportunity to work in a lab and learn new skills and my time in this project is something I will always treasure as it has given me the opportunity to study a topic related to the medical field whilst applying engineering knowledge.
This opportunity I think is useful for my current role as a graduate MES engineer/analyst at Cognizant who mainly deal with pharmaceutical clients. For the past 6 months at Cognizant, I was fortunate enough to be involved with one of their biggest pharmaceutical clients here in the UK to digitalize their data collection and improve the connectivity between their plant sites around the world. This ensured the company would have standardised procedures which make it easier to develop new sites and optimise current sites. I was also involved in another project with a client that is one of the leading providers of polyolefins for production of high-voltage and low-voltage electric cables. In this project, I am involved in lot tracking for inventory management to provide the client with a way to track their product throughout the process digitally, ensuring that the necessary data is being recorded and is accessible to ensure high-quality production.
There are 2 things I am currently proud of – achieving my degree and securing a job here in the UK. As an international student there was always that lingering doubt due to the instability of my status here in the UK. My goal back then was to finish my degree with flying colors and to secure a job before graduating. I think I set this goal for myself to prove that I can do this and that I chose the right career path. It is important to me to make sure I spend any free time contributing to chemical engineering through medical applications. I feel it’s important to make my parents proud after all their support and opportunities they have provided for me. Furthermore, securing a job in a highly competitive job market, especially here in the UK, I think is a significant accomplishment. This just proves that the hard work, skills and knowledge I have developed throughout my journey has helped me to get where I want to be and where I can make a difference.
A normal day begins with first checking my emails to see if there are anything outstanding to do or anything I need to catch up on (i.e. replies from clients / engineering team). This is followed by a daily meeting with my team on the project that we are currently involved in to discuss any feedback on the work done and provide more information on what is expected for each team member to accomplish by the end of the day/end of the week. I’ll then attend some meetings regarding specific tasks on current projects and also attend graduate training. After this, I’ll begin my work. There are also additional tasks that I take part in which involves training in the software that Cognizant generally uses and also working with new graduates including shadowing my work and giving an overview of the project.
On days when it is not that busy in terms of project work, I usually involve myself in personal development programs where I try and develop skills necessary for the project to keep myself up to date. This may involve learning a new computer language or getting some certifications on relevant topics.
I think the variety of work and the different types of clients is the most enjoyable part of my job. The work never becomes repetitive or boring as a result of the different set of projects that Cognizant offers. Additionally, the fast-paced work environment is something that I find mentally stimulating and thrilling. The sense of accomplishment is gratifying whenever a client is satisfied with the work and the feeling of excitement in being onboarded with new projects is something I always look forward to. The opportunities provided in a consulting company such as Cognizant has given me the ability to learn more valuable skills which challenge myself my flexibility and adaptability with the diverse range of projects that we take on. Furthermore, varied projects come with interesting set of individuals that I get to work with. Exposure to these team members help with improving my skill set, develop understanding in different ways of thinking and solving problems, and create a valuable learning environment for people like me who are just starting to grasp into the understanding of career growth and development.
The biggest career setback I might have faced is my lack of relevant experience in this industry. During my bachelors, I was based in Dubai and was discouraged to get some internships/placement due to the lack of careers support from the University as well as the lack of opportunities for students in STEM in most Asian countries. When I transferred to the UK, I have observed that most students would have a few internships/experiences under their belt by the time when we were doing our final year. This made it difficult to get interviews from notable companies since I would be seen as lacking compared to my peers who has attained the same excellence in academics but has an edge due to their previous work experiences. This led me to apply for a master’s degree as I was getting discouraged at that point and I wanted to create an advantage for myself, and I was fortunate enough to pursue this path at a renowned university (University of Manchester). In my postgraduate year, I did things differently from my bachelors. I made sure I contacted the careers service in early on the course as well as get some advice from alumnus that has finished the same program. Furthermore, I was more active in terms of creating more connection with my peers and reaching out/joining various societies to create a larger and diverse network. While securing a job prior finishing the course is more of an individual work, creating this connection would be precious in the long run of career progression either for yourself or for others. This was proven as I have referred a few of my university friends on certain opportunities which helped them secure a job.
My role model into pursuing a career in STEM has always been my family. Both of my parents are STEM majors, and a lot of my extended family (cousins, aunt, and uncles) were mainly STEM majors as well. Growing up and seeing how passionate my father is with his work made me want to aspire to do the same for my future (i.e., make a living in a field that I enjoy). I have always been competitive even with my cousins and seeing them go into an engineering route has also somewhat pushed me in the route as well and getting that boost of support from all my family with the career I wanted to go for have given me enough motivation to pursue this career.
There are three moods that I usually go for whenever I have free time:
- Stay in bed for as long as I could, and binge watch shows on days end
- Do some activities that would get my body moving like enrolling myself to enjoy new activities such as skiing, snowboarding, horse riding, swimming, climbing, hiking and such.
- Travel alone to new places and explore the city and culture at my own pace without worry.
One thing that is certain is that I would avoid doing anything stationary on a desk which I mostly do during workdays. I want to clearly separate my work life and personal life and work on my self on my free days. This means there must never be anything work related happening on weekends/holidays even learning a skill required for work or development for career progression. I make sure that kind of work is only done on weekdays.
I have personally experienced this every year during university just because I doubt myself most of the time when I encounter some problems, struggles, and challenges during that time. I tend to think that maybe STEM is not for me, and I have gone through a path that I cannot finish. I’ve dealt with this only because my parents have believed in me throughout this journey, and they’ve always reminded me to finish what I have started. To never back down from a challenge just because it has suddenly become hard. To always remember the times that I have enjoyed the course and that these bumps are temporary. I have always been a competitive person and my biggest competition is myself. Overcoming insecurities of oneself in general is difficult at start but once you have started to accept both blessings and misfortunes are both opportunities required in order for you to evolve in a better version of yourself, then you would start conquering those doubts and take on each setback as challenges that you would overcome in a matter of time. I do like this one saying that “a diamond only shines under pressure” and it resonates deeply in me to further strengthen my resolve. To summarize: believing in myself helps to prove to everyone that every opportunity that comes in my way is meant for me.
I have never been involved in volunteering works or any extracurricular activities back when I was in university and I sometimes regret not joining and using those opportunities to promote the course that I was doing thus, I have jumped on this opportunity to share my point of view in my journey in STEM. Furthermore, I have been recommending my juniors back in high school who reach out to me asking for guidance whether STEM is the right choice for them or not. I make sure they know what they would be signing up for but at the same time, letting them know the huge opportunity that would open to them in the future. It is not the easiest career path to break through but with the right push, guidance, and interests, I believe STEM would prove to be a worthwhile journey for most.
Breaking the norm. I think that is what mainly being a woman in STEM is for me. There are stereotypes in this industry wherein men have excelled at for hundreds of years which put women into self-doubting and experiencing impostor syndrome most of the times. That uncertainty and doubt over oneself is what I see as the main hindrance of having more successful and recognized women in STEM resulting to lack of variation of female role models. Our society has always made it a stigma to be different. We strive to make sure we belong and only a few aims to standout. This is completely understandable as it is human nature to feel safe when we are integrated into a group. However, this has greatly changed over the past few years and the current generation has been more open to such opportunities of breaking what is usual and has started accepting equality and understanding its difference with equity. This resulted to more and more women having the strength and courage to explore their own set of skills in STEM and breaking that barrier. Being one of those women means that I can also influence and prove to those women that there is a place for us in STEM and that we can overcome whatever challenges we might face and might possibly come out to the top if we only try and believe in ourselves.