26 Oct CAREER AND COMPANY HIGHLIGHT: CHEVRON CHEMICAL ENGINEER GWYNETTA HENDERSON
MEI: So give me “a day in your life” with Chevron.
GH: Chevron has a very horizontal structure, meaning we usually work in teams within our divisions, and we solve problems across departments with other teams. I’m in the waste water treating unit in the refinery process, and every day is checking to ensure that all systems are running smoothly. We have creative freedom to work through issues and generate more efficient processes. Honestly, people are the best resources, so I love working with my team. I never know what to expect when I show up in the morning; every day it’s something different.
MEI: Did you always know you wanted to be an engineer?
GH: I’ve always known I enjoyed engineering. I loved chemistry in high school—which is weird, because most of my friends preferred biology—but I didn’t think about making it a career. I actually thought I would go into computer engineering, and even pursued it in college for a while, but then I realized I was much more interested in chemical engineering.
MEI: Did anyone influence your desire to become an engineer?
GH: While my parents aren’t engineers, they definitely encouraged my passions for engineering and STEM classes in general. They helped me find summer programs and camps so I could gain experience and make sure this was something I wanted to do. On that note, any student who can take advantage of a similar opportunity during a summer break should absolutely do it. It’s so beneficial to pursue career interests in low-risk environments like that.
MEI: It’s awesome that you were able to identify your interests so early in life. What would you say to students who also enjoy STEM classes and working with their hands and as parts of teams?
GH: Like I said before, pursuing opportunities during school breaks is a huge help. It’s a great way to figure out what you’re interested in without putting a ton of money into a degree you may not enjoy. Also, be proactive. Attend career fairs, take on leadership roles in groups at school, volunteer. For example, in high school, I played basketball and field hockey and was part of student government; in college, I continued student government and was elected vice president of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. Being well-rounded makes you more attractive to employers, and you’ll go much further in your career if you can get along with all kinds of people.
MEI: Any final words for today’s students?
GH: Get involved on campus and prove that you’re dedicated to your academic interests. It’s OK if those change, but develop your work ethic and leadership skills early.