Interview with a Chemical Engineer

May 14, 2009
By Andrew Rusnak BRONZE, Aurora, Illinois
Andrew Rusnak BRONZE, Aurora, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

John Rusnak is a chemical engineer. He works for the Clorox Services Company in the division that makes GLAD food storage and trash products. John worked in the trash bag business for 15 years and recently switched to the food storage group.. His official title is Associate Research Fellow. John has worked with GLAD for 18 years. He went to Augustana College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. He then attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering.

What kind of schooling do you need to become a chemical engineer?
To become a chemical engineer you need a four year chemical engineering bachelors degree. Other engineers that do similar work at my company are mechanical engineers, and material scientists.

What is the hardest part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is communicating and working with people from other parts of the company, such as Marketing and Sales. It is hard because the way we think about and approach problems are very different. We often have different goals or priorities when working on a project. Another challenging part of my job is learning to delegate work to others. It often seems easier to do something myself than to spend the time to teach someone else how to do it.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The best part is solving the problems. I really like to solve technical problems such as figuring out how to fix a process or how to improve a product. It is often like a giant jig-saw puzzle, you just have to figure out how to put all the pieces together. It is also rewarding when I get to see a project I worked on from the start make it to the store shelves.

What is the range of salaries for chemical engineers?
Starting guys make around 60,000 dollars a year. Very successful engineers make 180,000 to 200,000 dollars a year. Salaries are dependant on your experience, the industry you are in, and what company you work for.

What made you want to become a chemical engineer?
I have always liked to take things apart and figure out how they work. In high school I really enjoyed chemistry and physics. Chemical engineering lets me put all these things I like into one career. I also have a brother in law that is several years older than I am that went through the same program I did and is very successful. I followed in his footsteps.

Would you ever consider changing careers? Why or why not?
Maybe. Right now I really enjoy my job and find it both challenging and satisfying. I also really like most of the people I work with. If that situation ever changes I would first look for similar work at a different company and if that did not pan out then I would consider a different career choice all together. I might go to a trade school and learn how to be an electrician or carpenter. It would be great if I could turn one of my current hobbies into a career.

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