PE: Can you tell me about your educational background and how you developed an interest in engineering?
Christa: As a child I became fascinated with technology. This was mostly due to my father’s influence as he worked as a Broadcast Engineering Technician. He would often explain the electronic components and show me how to solder. I was simply captivated at 6 years of age with what I imagined was ‘voodoo magic’. After researching various engineering disciplines in high school, I decided to pursue mechanical engineering because it encompassed so many engineering disciplines. I began my studies in mechanical engineering at the Universität Duisburg-Essen in Duisburg, Germany. I was among approximately 1 percent of females studying mechanical engineering in Germany at that time. After spending some time in Germany, I decided to return to the US to complete the remaining half of my studies at
Kansas State University, where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2015.
PE: How did you end up getting a job at Phillips 66?
Christa: My career path has really consisted of numerous internships and part-time employment opportunities. While studying in Germany, I worked as a Quality Assurance (QA) student engineer at a major German steel manufacturer, and the particular location of my employment made railroad crossings and switches. Once I learned the fundamentals in Nondestructive Examination (NDE) and welding, I decided to take an internship in the US bioprocessing industry at a site which refined food-grade oil from soybeans. Learning the processes and equipment that made up the refinery was really the catalyst to my employment at Phillips 66. I focused subsequent research opportunities at Kansas State University in fluid dynamics, heat & mass transfer and turbomachinery in order to refine my technical knowledge in a field where I had developed the most passion. I was then fortunate to be offered an internship at Phillips 66, which allowed me to apply my theoretical principles for problem-solving in practical, real-world applications.
PE: Did you find it difficult to get a job in the industry or do you think there are a lot of openings nowadays?
Christa: Personally, I did not find it difficult to get a job, mainly because of the internship program set up by Phillips 66. The company really invests in its employees, including interns, so full-time employment from high performing interns is very likely. The company finds talented students in multiple disciplines for summer internships by recruiting from target universities across the country. Interns are given one or multiple projects that site management is very interested in implementing, and they are given a mentor and supervisor to oversee the quality of work. At the end of the summer, the interns deliver a comprehensive report and presentation to the refinery leadership team. As a former intern, I definitely appreciated a challenging assignment that gave me the opportunity to utilize my engineering studies and ultimately add value to the refinery.
PE: Can you describe your typical working day and the responsibilities your role entails?
As a Rotating Equipment Engineer in the technical services group, I am responsible for supporting business units in everyday activities. Such activities can involve small modifications in order to improve unit capacity and/or plant reliability; working with an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to repair/upgrade 50+ plus year old equipment; or more modern standards in design and technology. Additionally, I support some of the small capital projects by ensuring the work scopes adhere to corporate best practices and engineering principles.
To read the full interview with Christa Hagedorn, please contact the Editor, Deirdre Morgan.