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Deborah Lee, BEng. '09

(Chemical Engineering) | Asking the Right Questions

While her official title is Base Chemicals Technologist with Shell Global Solutions, you could describe Deborah Lee as a multi-tasking troubleshooter who provides technical support to Ethylene crackers and aromatics extraction units in chemical plants throughout Canada and the US.

But the 2009 Chemical Engineering grad offers a different job description.

“I would liken my job to a ‘doctor’ of the units, where I look at data of symptoms to diagnose the root cause of issues,” she says.

“I work hand-in-hand with the local Operations Support Engineer to solve problems in the plant by looking at data and trends.  We use problem-solving skills and analytical skills to ensure we are asking the right question to solve the issues.  

“I also help during unit turnarounds, when everything is shut down and we go inside the equipment to check for damage that might affect the unit performance.”

After graduation, Lee headed to Singapore to work as a process engineer in a petrochemical facility before returning to the United States. Now based in Texas, she says a significant part of her job is to understand the plant processes so she can find opportunities to optimize and improve unit performance, and develop products that add value.

“I wanted a career where I could use my people and analytical skills to solve problems,” says Lee. “In a multinational company, it’s imperative that we have the same understanding of a problem to enable us to find the best solution.

“Courses like Chem 2G03 and Chem 2D04 taught me to ask the right question, see when the answer doesn’t look ‘quite right’ and be able to determine what the expected solution should be based on process fundamentals.”

Recognize the importance of being able to work effectively with people to solve problems, she advises today’s students.

“You don’t need to have all the answers but knowing how to approach a problem and tackle it effectively will make you successful in any job,” she says.