"Take advantage of everything university has to offer"

Fatima, a chemical engineer undergraduate at NCUB members Aston University, gives us an insight into her roles as a process engineer trainee in Malaysia, how she has made the most of her university experience so far and what she thinks are vital skills to have and actions to take in order to get a job.

"[Aston] university has provided me with amazing opportunities which I have taken advantage of."
Tell us about your course and give a brief overview of your work experience to date ending with details of your current role.

My name is Fatima Afzal and I am studying Chemical Engineering at Aston University. My university has provided me with amazing opportunities which I have taken advantage of.

During my first year at University, I was nominated as the Student representative. My role consisted of representing the peers' opinions and addressing issues regarding the quality of educational experience at Aston University by attending staff-student meetings.

I was later offered the role of 'student coordinator' in my second year, where I worked alongside the Learner Enhancement Team. My job consisted of introductory lecture talks advertising and promoting the 'Peer Mentoring' scheme to all years in the Engineering and Science department (EAS).

I also participated in Aim Higher Mentoring where I was trained and sent to a college as a professional mentor. My job was to deliver high-quality tuition and enrichment sessions to a group of 5 young people over the course of 15 weeks, encouraging them to reach their academic potential.

"Extra activities and five part time jobs simultaneously, over the years at university has equipped me with excellent time management skills."

I was nominated as a Vice-Chair for the Chemical Engineering and Applied Science Committee where I worked with CEAC staff, providing student involvement in developing and planning of programmes, liaising with different Course Directors and Tutors on a monthly basis. Extra activities and five part time jobs simultaneously, over the years at university has equipped me with excellent time management skills. It has helped me tremendously when applying for placements.

I am currently working for Synthomer Sdn Bhd in Malaysia as a Process Engineer Trainee, for my placement year. My work involves detecting inefficiencies experienced in the production plant; by undertaking engineering calculations and learning to think 'sky line' I am able to find alternative solutions to the problems. My ideas are then presented to a team of engineers for their judgment and approval. I assist in a number of projects to develop and hone my engineering knowledge before returning to university to finish my course.

The best thing about your current placement role is...

There are too many to write down! But here are my top three:

  • The ability to work alongside professional and respectable engineers in a completely unknown and new environment. In a country where every person speaks up to four languages, there are endless cultures with a variety of people in the work place. Adapting and interacting in a multicultural hotspot has been an amazing experience for me that I would not get in the UK. Plus the weather here is always 30℃ !
  • Throughout this placement I have already experienced many 'penny dropping' moments regarding my academic knowledge taught in Aston and the essential practical skills I am learning during my placement. My work, when approved, is considered and used towards a project, which feels very rewarding and encourages me to work harder.
  • I have been very lucky to experience all this with another fellow Aston student, . Having another companion who is going through the same experiences as I am, has been the cherry on the cake. We both live, work and travel together; working on week days and travelling to the country on weekends. Synthomer are very supportive and look after everything I may need, from accommodation and transport to flights and my mobile allowance.
"Take advantage of everything university has to offer. It is given to you on a golden platter; only a fool would refuse."
What do you think are the most important skills and strengths you need to make a success of what you do?

By definition an engineer is a problem solver, thinking outside the box is a vital component and skill to obtain. Also being able to express the engineering knowledge to non-engineering departments in the company is quite important, as you need to communicate and participate in oral presentations frequently. In summary the most important skills required for what I do is communication; through presentations, problem solving, analying, good leadership; team work and time management.

What advice would you share with students considering choosing the same career, or is there one invaluable thing you have learned, gained or experienced to give your career a boost?
"During my placement I have grasped the true meaning of a chemical engineer. Rather than being told what an engineer does, it has been amazing to watch first-hand what is required of one "

During the period of my placement I have grasped the true meaning of a chemical engineer. Rather than being told what an engineer does, it has been amazing to watch first-hand what is required of one. I have learnt more than I could possibly imagine in such a short amount of time already, it is an educational experience in a whole new refreshing style.

My advice will always be not to choose a course for its title but for the job role that will come out of the degree. Find out what job you really want to do and work backwards, research what qualifications are required for the job role and only then apply for the course.

Many students are deceived by what they think the job role will be after graduation due to lack of knowledge and preparation, so make sure you are not amongst them and do your research!

Employers value a person who has passion rather than one who is just intelligent. So try to find something your passionate about!

Impart your words of wisdom with fellow students and graduates. Provide us with an inspirational quotation that we can share with others.

"Your biggest enemy can sometimes be yourself without you realising it. Do not let your lack of courage be the cause for your failure! Don't be scared to apply yourself and take advantage of everything university has to offer. It is given to you on a golden platter; only a fool would refuse."

 NCUB have joined forces with our business and university members to help provide students with the resources, advice and information they need find the right career for them. For more information visitwww.ncub.co.uk/students and follow us on twitter @NCUBstudents.

Expand for more