Suniti Bidikar

Suniti Bidikar

Title
Engineering Consultant
Location
Pune, (International), India
Suniti Bidikar
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Biography

I have headed the process engineering department of Aker Solutions an engineering consulting company. Have practiced my profession close to 35 years in various capacities and various aspects of chemical engineering and feel truly satisfied and contented  to have established a place in the so-called male dominated field.

Now I am a freelance consultant to industries who need advice in some niche areas and thoroughly enjoy the trust they show in me.

 

Answers by Suniti Bidikar

Everyone is confused at such cross roads in life but don't worry I will try to give you picture about chemical engineering.

Firstly chemistry is science and chemical engineering is how to engineer that science, which means how to make these chemicals behave in a way you want , to get useful materials.

One studies chemistry , all three,  in initial years but later on once chemical engineering subjects start they are mathematical . Also you need to be good in Maths and have aptitude for mathematical derivations. You do not engineer the molecules but engineer their behavior .

A career in chemical engineering has many avenues namely work in 1)R& D, 2)pilot plants which are small scale replicas of big plants where in all the necessary engineering data is derived for scaling up. Simulation studies are also conducted as and when required.3) Design -- this is a purely desk job in an engineering consultancy organization where it is termed as process  engineering . This work also involves lot of simulation work using latest softwares  4) shop floor but here again chemical engineers do not do routine production jobs but mostly trouble shooting and modifications required in the actual plant based on engineering calculations. 

An other off shoot is safety engineering.

I have worked in all these 4 main areas and being a lady I had no problem what so ever. At times I had taken permission to stay back in second shift too as I wanted to see the completion of certain reaction procedures. If you ask for concessions you miss on many important technical aspects. I had even climbed monkey ladders to go to the top along with my male colleagues . This is not to give an account of my achievements but to impress on you that gender doesn't matter.

What matters is your willingness to put in hard work , not asking for any concessions being a girl, commitment to the work and responsibility coming with it and lastly a passion for profession 

I hope I have clarified your doubts. Please feel free to post any other query if you have.

Good luck,

Suniti

I feel you first have to get clarity about process side and product side as mentioned by you 

I would like to know what you have in mind  when you mention these two aspects before I answer your question

Also I want you to find out the difference between engineering and technology as applicable to chemical engineering Once you are clear, you would get your answer automatically or else I will be glad to explain to you the difference and what these two have in store

Hope you will research and come back

Till then so long----

Suniti

The first and the foremost thing is do away with the notion that in India girls are known for their fair skin and beauty. If you have this notion or someone has impressed this on you then first you need to get out of this if you want to opt for a career in engineering.

Secondly, one also has to decide the personal priorities and value system -- is your aim in life marriage or something higher than that? Do you want to get satisfaction of having achieved something on your own merit or for being known as someone's better half? So once this is clear then other mundane issues do not arise. I have worked in industry for almost 35 years now and had assignments even on shop floor. Those days it was tough to establish in a male dominated field but with grit and determination I could overcome even difficult obstacles. Things have changed so much now, and a lady engineer is very well-accepted in India and China and elsewhere. I have done many assignments abroad too.

Civil engineering is not as tough as chemical or mechanical. In my last company, which was an engineering consulting company, the max number of girls were in the civil department.

You can do some research yourself with the help of the Institution of Engineers where in they have a lady engineers wing also. And lastly, on a lighter note, I and my few engineer friends haven't lost our fair skin or other external attributes by opting for engineering as a career - but one has to be good in maths and physics - there is no short cut there. You could also opt for architecture where the maths/physics component is minimal.

 

Chemical engineering has many aspects where in one can work and make a career which I will state below, but first and the foremost thing which I wish to say is - it's not dangerous and no one gets burned for no reason.

Chemical engineering is not chemistry based though one deals with chemicals. Technology and engineering are two different aspects. Technology gives know-how and engineering makes that know-how work. So the engineering principles are all based on high level of maths specially in chemical engineering as unlike other branches of engineering there is a constant change every moment. So mostly one deals with partial differential based model equations. So if you are good at maths go ahead. In the field of chem engg one can work in R&D, Pilot plants, design(purely desk job), shop floor, teaching etc. A lady engineer can do well in any field as I have worked in all except teaching. If you are surrounded by oil & gas companies you can opt for plant design. There is always a shortage of Process(chemical) engineers . Secondly some companies pay process engineers more than others as it's a highly specialised branch.

If there are any more questions I will be glad to answer.

Regards, 
suniti

I am currently studying diploma in Chemical engineering. However, I’m constantly worried that as a skinny, underweight and short girl, I would not be able to cope with the physically demanding work of chemical engineering. Also, I may not even get through job interviews as the employers may feel that I am too weak for such work. In Singapore, even if one has a bachelor degree in chemical engineering, one usually has to begin as a chemical technician and do manual work in plants quite often. I am healthy and I can’t change my weight or size so I’m wondering whether a career in chemical engineering is suitable for me. I have heard advices of going into research or teaching but I want to work in the plants first before making the switch.Secondly, how can I get interested in chemical engineering subjects? I have looked for information on the career of engineering and I like the job scope but I find it difficult to gain interest in what I am studying now like rotating equipments and thermodynamics. I can handle these subjects but I want to develop a passion for them so I can excel.Lastly, it is not easy to get into chemical engineering degree course in Singapore university so if I can’t get in yet I’m still interested in chemical engineering related jobs, should I study environmental engineering ? or should I study applied chemistry? I am quite interested in dealing with environmental problems too but many say that chemical engineers can do the job of environmental engineers so there are very few jobs for environmental engineers. I am not very interested in the job of a chemist but I will be able to move abound the chemical industry better with diploma in chem Eng and degree in chemistry.

Being skinny and short does not restrict one from working in the plants. When I started almost 33 years ago I was also skinny and may be weak physically(which I am still) but that did not hamper my chances. If one is fit one can undertake any job. Research and teaching also demands physical fitness. In chemical plants one doesnt have to lift weights which really needs manual strength. The job in plants is mostly to monitor processes, and with latest instrumentation this is almost like working in an office. Also I would suggest to join a organic chemical industry rather than inorganic, something like specialty chemicals. To get hired the first thing required is clear chem engg concepts, the basics. There is a myth about chem engg that it is based on chemistry. I would say the basis is physical chemistry, but it is highly mathematical. Secondly to develop passion one needs to go a little deep in any subject. For diploma the real chem engg subjects like mass transfer, transport phenomenon, reaction engg are not taught in depth. Unless one learns these subjects in depth one cannot get the real feel. My advice is try to get into degree . It is easier in India if you can afford to come and stay . Environmental engg has very little of hard core chem engg and it really doesn't need a specialist like chemical engineer. Chemical engineering has many facets like R@D, PILOT PLANT SCALE UP, PROCESS DESIGN, PROCESS ENGINEERING DESIGN etc and one should choose depending on the aptitude. Applied chemistry is not chem engg. Try to get into a degree course. Regards, suniti

These are some myths about chemical engineering. No it is not unsafe to work as a chemical engineer. There are many avenues of chemical engineering. It is the base for many new streams like bio engineering. As a woman you can opt for R &D , plant design, pilot plant development work, or any other process of engineering work. These jobs do not expose you to any harmful chemicals. Also, these days plants are so well designed that the fugitive emissions are minimum and human exposure is well taken care.
I have worked in plants, pilot plants for almost 25 years now. But chemistry and chemical engineering are two different fields. Chemical engineering is highly mathematical and unless you have aptitude for maths and are good with calculus etc you should not opt.
But safety is no issue.
suniti