After undertaking valuable work experience in the industry, Andrea Pearson knew that chemical engineering was the career for her.
Where do you call home?
I was brought up in Solihull, near Birmingham. I moved to Teesside after university and have lived in Yarm/Eaglescliffe ever since.
Tell us about your role?
I am a technical operations manager at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies in Billingham.
How did you get to where you are today?
I decided to study chemical engineering as I had no real clue what I wanted to do after university, and I read that it kept the options open. Whilst studying I completed a placement year working on Chevron’s Oil Refinery in Pembroke. The year cemented my enjoyment of the subject and I decided I wanted to work on a manufacturing site.
After graduation I moved to Teesside and started work as a graduate process engineer for SABIC UK Petrochemicals on their Ethylene Cracker on the Wilton Site. I enjoyed the variety of the work and the large-scale operations and over the years moved to be plant support engineer, technical plant manager and then operations manager. In that role I was responsible for the reliable and safe operation of SABIC’s logistics site on North Tees – including 4 jetties on the River Tees, a number of liquefaction plants and multiple high hazard storage tanks. In 2021 I decided to make an industry change and moved to be technical operations manager at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies. In this role I manage a team of scientists and engineers who bring in new products to the Mammalian Cell Culture Biologics manufacturing assets on their Billingham site.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
The biggest challenge in my career has been juggling having two young children whilst still ensuring career progression. Both SABIC and FUJIFILM have allowed me to work part time (4 days a week) whilst balancing jobs in management, which allows me the work/life balance I currently need as a parent. Life is very busy, and it can often be difficult to balance everything, but I love my job and am proud to tell my children what I do.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
When I became operations manager at SABIC, I was the youngest and least experienced manager in that role and one of very few women on site. I was line managing over 50 operations staff on the logistics site as well as ensuring safe plant operations 24/7. I was really proud to be considered able to do that role, and it was a big jump in responsibility and exposure to customers and the wider business.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
Don’t be afraid to aim for a job or role that interests you even if you can’t see someone like you doing that kind of role. I have spent most of my career in a male dominated industry and it has never been detrimental to my development or progress. Also don’t be scared about the impact having children can have on your career – you can find a new balance that works for you and still enjoy your family and career at the same time.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take the opportunities that feel scary. It has been those challenges that have led to me learning and developing the most (both at work and at home!)
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
This girl can.
Here you can find other stories that you might find interesting