Margot, how did your story begin at Evonik?
In my last year in high school I had to work on a thesis about chromatography and complete a three-week internship. Since a friend of mine had already been working at Evonik for several years, I asked him if it would be possible to complete my internship at the main lab of Evonik. And so it happened. I had a great time there. But working in a laboratory was not my big dream. I was more fascinated by the processes. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies at Evonik after my graduation, but Evonik never got out of my head. Almost four years ago, there was a job offer by Evonik Antwerp, I applied and was selected! This is how my story at Evonik started.
What is your current job?
Now I work on the OXENO-plant as a process operator, both in the function as a process operator outside on the field and in operating the process computer in the control room. I started in the field, to learn the installation and control and monitor the process. When there is something wrong with for instance pumps or filters, we have to find a solution to solve the problem. A year ago I started to learn the task of observing the process from the control room and making adjustments in the process where necessary. The people in the control room steer the colleagues who work in the field. And the people outside are ‘the eyes and ears’. It is therefore necessary to know both tasks and to switch the tasks regularly.
Which qualities are particularly important for your position?
An eye for safety is the number one competence you need. It is important to always use the LMRA (Last Minute Risk Analyses) before doing a job and you always have to be prepared to see changes. Teamwork is the number two quality. The people in the field and the ones in the control room need each other. You always have to ask yourself: What if…?
You are the only women in a team of sixty people, what are positive aspects and what was the biggest change or challenge for you?
I went to a school which was dominated by men and I am a volunteer firefighter in my spare time, so I didn’t really need to assert myself. Of course there are always some men wondering when they see me: ‘What is that little girl doing here?!’ But then they see me working and proving them wrong. I also think that the gap between ‘the world of men’ and ‘the world full of women’ is closing. I think women still have a harder time when it comes to pursuing a career in this field of work. They will always need to be prepared better and work that bit harder just to convince men they are worth working in the same environment. My advice is not to be satisfied with how it is now, keep evolving the way you work and keep the will to learn and keep learning in future. By the way – being a volunteer firefighter has many advantages, working on a chemical plant, such as the experience of how to behave in dangerous situations.
What is your advice for women in a similar position?
Don’t let the few people who aren’t convinced that men and women can both work in a ‘men-dominated industry’ turn your dreams down. Know there are people who believe in you. And do the job YOU want to and do it with pride!