Looking for a positive, team-oriented community that aims to inspire both professional and personal growth? Well, Albemarle Corporation — a global specialty chemicals company — may be the place for you.
“I feel that Albemarle leadership leads by example by placing emphasis, both publicly and internally, on the company’s priority to draw and retain women in technical careers,” says Eran del Castillo, Lithium Data Scientist. “I think the company’s values of care and collaboration come together in a shared company culture of treating women in engineering with trust and respect,” she elaborates. “This culture, in my experience, comes through by women being entrusted with strategic projects and encouraged to apply for open positions that would provide them with upward growth.”
And this culture of support is encouraged with official programs. For example, “Albemarle has set up a fantastic and engaging program that encourages women to grow to their full potential and prepares them for leadership roles (and is also incredibly valuable for individual contributors),” says Hirsa Torres Galvis, New Product and Process Development Manager (Hydroprocessing catalysts).
Albemarle also has a supportive mentorship and internship programs. Keleshia Tinker, Corporate Instrumentation & Controls Engineer, says that “I’ve also been given a mentor who helps me with my future ambitions. I’ve even participated in a couple of interviews to help add more talented members to the Albemarle team.” As for interns looking to join the company, Sarah Palazzi, Environmental Professional V, states that, “Female interns are paired with female mentors to help guide them.” Albemarle also participates in the “Magnolia’s Foundation, which helps with Girl Scouts (little engineers in the making),” Palazzi continues.
To learn more about how Albemarle helps women pursue their engineering dreams and these four leader’s best suggestions on how to succeed in a technical career yourself, check out our discussion with them below.
Describe what you do, what programs you are currently working on, and what about this type of work most excites you.
Castillo: I answer hard questions about the future of lithium using data. I’m currently working on modeling scenarios for future lithium demand, specifically how lithium-ion battery technology will evolve over the next decade. My work is closely integrated with the commercial and R&D teams. Being at the onset of an industry about to take off is a hugely exciting and rewarding experience.
Galvis: I lead the team whose main task is to transform new ideas into commercial products: from lab scale to industrial production. My team members are involved in different product development projects, which are always complex, exciting and challenging. Additionally, my team provides support to our manufacturing plants to solve urgent questions in a short time. At this moment, we are also starting to explore new applications and how to make our production processes more sustainable.
Tinker: For capital projects, I implement and help execute the I&C designs, standards, procedures, programming and construction packages in order to achieve the required scope, safety, budget and schedule targets. I’m working on expansion projects in the Bromine business and safety/sustainability projects in the Lithium business. I’m also working on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion regional sub-committee.
Palazzi: I help the site maintain environmental compliance. Currently, I’m working on annual reporting to State and Federal agencies (which is boring but informative). I am also working on several water projects related to our artificial marshes at the South and West plants. I love anything hands-on.
How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?
Castillo: I was compelled to join Albemarle’s Women Connect development program because of the emphasis on mentorship. The program has been an amazing opportunity to listen to the experiences of other women at the company and grow alongside them. Luckily, the time invested into the Connect program is backed by your manager and endorsed by leadership. I think that the best way to integrate bringing up other women into your schedule is to be deliberate in your day-to-day about empowering the women you work with and trusting them with high-impact projects and decisions.
Galvis: I do my best to help out my female colleagues. I have received good coaching tips for women in the workplace, and I do pass that knowledge to female colleagues in and outside my team. I am also starting to get more involved in Dutch initiatives for Women in Chemistry.
Tinker: I’ve helped other women who have questions related to my field, and I collaborate often with women in my day-to-day roles on projects. I typically utilize the chat feature on Microsoft teams to stay connected with other women in the company. Also, I sometimes have other women that will reach out to me in chats, and we get creative in solving both easy and complex problems for the company.
Palazzi: A lot of girls lose interest in math and science in high school. I try to speak to these groups about how they can use those skills in any industry. If I can, I incorporate any of it into the group activities that we have for students at the plant, such as Today’s Youth Tomorrow’s Leaders. Other times, it just means moving around my schedule for things that I can do in the early or late hours when there are fewer distractions.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Castillo: I was surprised to learn that developing a reputation as an excellent executor can actually hold you back, particularly if your career goals involve leadership. It wasn’t obvious to me before that your time available for work is finite and that focusing on the tactical prevents you from having time to devote to strategy. This career advice was a departure from my belief that being very good and efficient with tasks was enough to grow and has led me to refocus my work to the right strategic level.
Galvis: If you want to advance in your career, you need to be intentional and invest time and effort in it. Nobody else will do it for you.
Tinker: It’s not just technical competency that separates the norm from the elite: it’s social skills, self-awareness and the ability to fill in the gaps that need filling.
Palazzi: You never know when you will need a favor or help, so always try to be open to helping others. One day that person might be your next boss.
What advice do you have for women in engineering who want to take their career path to the next level?
Castillo: When I was a component design engineer, my technical understanding of the system didn’t improve until I learned from stakeholders outside of my organization — the commercial teams, the servicing teams and the testing teams. Having a better understanding of the context behind the system requirements and why they matter to the customer made me a better engineer who could navigate when those lines between engineering and commercial blurred. I would always encourage other women to build partnerships with individuals outside their organization to help them make decisions more strategically.
Galvis: Reflect on who you are, what you want and what is important to you. If you have that clear, it is easier to plan the next steps that you want to take.
Tinker: Be assertive and brave enough to make the tough decisions. Don’t downplay your talent to make others feel comfortable. No matter what, your core values may not always be popular, but they will always be the right thing to do.
Palazzi: If you want a change, go get it. It will not come to you. Toot your own horn when you do great things.
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