30 Under 30: Lauren Welch
Dow Chemical Co.
Seoul, Republic of Korea
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Lauren Welch had a strong math and science background in high school, but it wasn’t until she was a first year student at Mississippi State when an engineering professor described the difference between a scientist and an engineer that her career path was sealed. “My professor described the difference between a scientist and an engineer this way: the scientist wonders fundamentally how something works; an engineer wonders how it can be used to solve practical, everyday problems. I quickly saw that I was an engineer,” Lauren said.
Chemical engineering (Lauren earned a BS ChemE from MSU) has opened many doors to her and she has responded enthusiastically and successfully to every opportunity. She joined Dow in July 2007 as a new college graduate and worked in process engineering roles on a number of site projects in Freeport, Texas, gaining experience in the Turnaround in the Freeport TDI plant to complement and build on her process design knowledge.
In 2009, Lauren began work as a core process engineer on the development of the technology licensing package for the $500MM TDI/TDA Project that Dow supplied to the $20B Dow/Aramco Joint Venture Megaproject, known as Sadara. Now under construction in Saudi Arabia and scheduled to begin operations in 2015, this massive complex is the largest single petrochemical complex ever to be constructed at one time. She took on the Lead Process Engineering role for the TDI/TDA Project on the Sadara Team in Houston and later relocated to Seoul to support the engineering process work.
In the words of her Level 2 Supervisor, Jeff Patterson, “Lauren continued to use her technical knowledge, drive to perform, and outstanding people skills to oversee the completion of the process engineering work and support the detailed design work. To further challenge herself and broaden her skills, she has taken on the role of Process Automation engineer for the phosgenation trains and all equipment inside the secondary containment domes, some of the more technically complex areas of the plant.”
Lauren’s experience of working in a foreign country has been life changing, both professionally and culturally. “The Korean engineering workplace is a much more formal, business professional environment than in the US. There is an age hierarchy in Korea that can be challenging for young professionals. Success requires understanding of how and when to raise issues while respecting the culture. Weekly after work activities with colleagues play an important role in doing business in Korea. The team really loosens up and issues that aren’t discussed in the office tend to come out freely. Participating in team building is a must,” Lauren said.
The next international posting challenge may be even more formidable than Korea. Lauren, her husband who is also on the Sadara project and her 5-month old son, Porter, are moving to Saudi Arabia during the fourth quarter to commission and start up the worldscale grassroots chemical plant. “My goal is to successfully navigate through the challenges of being a female professional in a country where female professionals in the workplace are still a minority. I enjoy being part of next generation technology. Innovation is exciting to me. I have set a work/life balance goal with my highest priority being to raise my son. It’s easy to become consumed by your job when you enjoy it.” ME