Name: Harry Greenwood
Degree: Chemistry (MCHEM), University of Liverpool, Graduated 2013
Job Title: Chemist
Current Employer: EDF-Energy
Brief career history
After finishing my degree, I took 6 months to find a job, and worked for William Tracey who are a waste management company, doing analytical lab work. Although relevant to my degree I knew it wasn’t what I enjoyed, so I started applying for graduate schemes. I got a deferred entry into the EDF Energy grad scheme, where after 16 months of doing 2-3 month placements, I ended up at Torness Nuclear Power Station working as a Chemist. I have been here for 3 years, and have worked doing Conventional (water chemistry) and Reactor (gas chemistry) as well as fulfilling roles such as confined space testing and COSHH management.
Where was your current job was advertised, why did it appeal, what attributes were the organisation looking for?
I found the EDF Energy Graduate Scheme on their own website which ultimately led to a permanent role. The job appealed to me as it seemed like getting experience in a wide range of roles. I had already done a brief stint in the industry during a summer placement at AMEC.
Although at the time being reluctant to join a ‘big’ company, EDF Energy seemed to have a real ethical stance, and was committed on sustainability, which is something I had a keen interest in.
Which other organisations offer similar roles?
Most companies in the energy industry do graduate schemes which were quite appealing. Read the description of the roles carefully, would you like to end up at the locations that the company works at?
Can you describe what your job entails or a typical week in your job? With your crystal ball, what does the future for your sector/job look like?
I work Mon-Fri 8:30-16:30
Typical Week (cue the no 2 days are the same cliché) :
- Data collection/Analysis – going into our labs around the power station and checking on the health of our on-line instruments (pH, conductivity, dissolved gasses). Once data is collected, it is checked against our technical specifications to make sure plant health is optimised and corrosion is minimised. This involves a lot of Excel based data trending.
- Giving advice to the control room and operations Chemistry procedures which involves some quite challenging conversations
- Operating plant – dosing chemicals into vessels etc
- Safety Chemist work – Testing confined spaces, giving COSHH advice
- Meetings – lots of meetings. It’s a fact of working life that never disappears. Meetings are there to align different departments and discuss actions.
- Longer term projects – writing documents, planning improvements, updating procedures etc
Best/Worst parts of the job
Best part of the job: Doing problem solving and troubleshooting. E.g diagnosing faults using multiple data trends, and using this to help repairing plant or instruments
Worst: Sometimes doing confined space testing involves getting into areas that you would rather not be, like when it’s pouring down with rain and you’re halfway up a 50 metre diesel stack.
How have you used the skills and knowledge from your degree in your job?
Most of the time the level of Chemistry knowledge I need at work is at a much lower level than anything I was doing in my degree. It’s all about having a sound understanding of the principles rather than having an incredible knowledge of one niche discipline, and being prepared to learn new stuff.
Having a good grasp of Excel and computers in general has really helped my career so it’s something I would definitely recommend brushing up on.
What extra-curricular experience (eg work experience, volunteering, societies, sports, interests etc) do you believe helped you get where you are today?
Work experience in any job is good – obviously the more similar to the job you are a applying for the better. Apply for EVERYTHING you see just to get interview experience and refine your cover letters if you can. When you get a work experience keep a diary, these moments really help in that job application questions ‘describe a time when you….”
I didn’t do loads of extra curricular stuff at university apart from being on the uni squash team, although any extra curricular could help you in your job application – particularly volunteering and team sports (think of experiences for the ‘’describe a time’’ questions).
Volunteering doesn’t have to be working at the charity shop down the road, you could get a volunteering job at Edinburgh Science Festival or another event. This also helps with RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry) Chartership further down the line.
One underrated thing that employers look for is how well you would fit in and how you come across. You could have won the Nobel peace prize and a gold medal at the Olympics, but if the prospective employer doesn’t think you are a right fit on a personal level , then you won’t get the job.
Is there anything you wish you HAD done in your past to make it easier to get where you are today?
Hard to say, as there were times during my degree where stress got the better of me, and I think having an enjoyable student life and socialising is as important as studying hard so that you keep yourself happy. You can always push harder to get work experience outside of term times, which is probably something I could have done more.
What advice would you give to students wishing to enter your field of work?
My field of work has lots of different personalities, and some people aren’t sympathetic to graduates and students as they come from completely different backgrounds, and have contrasting views on life (and politics). Having a good relationship with all types of people only makes your life easier, so don’t shy away from having a chat or asking people from outside your normal social group questions, or getting to know them.