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Kelsey McNeely

Profession/Title: Biofuels Program Leader

Business/Company Name: Exxon Mobil

Date of Interview: 11/23/20


        This interview was conducted with Kelsey McNeely, a biofuels program leader at ExxonMobil. Ms. McNeely oversees a team that works on the development of alternative fuels that will allow the world to be more sustainable and rely more on renewable energy. While I am not particularly interested in biology or biochemistry, this interview gave me a broader view on different specializations within and around the chemical engineering field.

        The first question that I asked Ms. McNeely was what kind of degree she had and what she chose to major in and why. She explained that she majored in biology/ biochemistry and has obtained several higher level degrees from various universities. Ms. McNeely added that she wished that the college she chose had offered a degree in an engineering field because the kind of work and research that she does now is more related to the engineering field. It was very interesting to hear this as I have toyed with the idea of possibly focusing more on a pure science instead of engineering but with this piece of information, I know that I am heading down the right track of pursuing an engineering degree. She also explained that she has obtained degrees beyond her bachelor’s and I asked her why she chose to do that. Ms. McNeely explained that she wanted to continue learning more about her subject before entering the professional world and was really interested in research of a particular graduate program. This research, coincidentally was regarding biofuels, which she was able to turn into a profession. This gave me more insight into not only what would be involved in a graduate program but also the benefits of obtaining this higher level of education. 

        We then discussed more about her job and the things that she looks for not only in coworkers but also in herself. In previous interviews I have heard several professionals explain that they value communication in their team and that is by far the most important trait to have in someone they work with but when I posed this question to Ms.McNeely I got a completely different answer. She explained that she looks for a person who is ready and willing to learn in a new environment and is willing to be wrong in a situation. Ms. McNeely said that part of being a professional in the engineering field especially chemical engineering is being able to recognize and accept when your ideas will not work and she values people on her team being able to get along in this capacity. While I think that this is something that I can do, I am like most people and struggle with being wrong. I think this particular piece of advice gave me a different perspective on my chosen career and has allowed me to see the importance of admitting and accepting when I may be wrong. 

        Additionally, we discussed Ms. McNeely’s career path and how she went from being a young professional just out of college to where she is now. Ms. McNeely started out working in a lab, doing important research but with little management opportunities and somewhat repetitive work. As her career progressed she began to move into more management positions and is now the leader for the biofuels program, a job that she very much enjoys. While I applaud Ms. McNeely for her progress in her career I am unsure if that is the path that I want to take. I really enjoy the research, knitty gritty part of things and I do not know if I would enjoy being in that more bureaucratic position. This is definitely something that I will need to think about and possibly pursue more information regarding how the career of a chemical engineer develops over time. 

        Overall, this was a very successful interview that gave me insight into a completely different specialization of chemical engineering. While I do not think it is a route that I am planning to take I was glad for the opportunity to learn more about the career of a successful professional in and around my chosen field.

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