11/06/2020 - Careers[Women in [email protected]]
Hello Karina, what is your role at Vallourec?I work as a process engineer within the operations technology team. Our mission is to improve quality, costs and project efficiency. In theory, we can provide technical support wherever it’s needed: in practice I’m fully dedicated to the Vallourec Star melt shop in Youngstown, Ohio. I feel like part of their team.
What does a typical day look like?Every day starts with a morning meeting with production – around 20 managers, supervisors, operators and melters – in which I present KPIs, and we discuss any issues from the previous day and plan projects. The rest of the day varies depending on the project. I often spend a couple of hours in the pulpit, observing processes: other days are data-intense and involve a lot of computer work. I have a real mix of projects, with some common objectives. Working with the team, I examine processes to see how we can improve, and constantly try to find ways to save money without compromising on quality.
How did you get where you are today?At school, I always liked science subjects. Then one day, we visited a steel mill, and something clicked. You could see mathematical equations taking on physical forms before your eyes. People were working hard. It was big, bright and impressive, and I thought I’d fit in.
What do you you like about your job… and what do you find the most challenging?I’ve worked in both research and on the front line, and I definitely prefer the latter. In research, you don’t see the final product. Life at the mill is more dynamic and solutions aren’t black and white. In production, time is of the essence. You have to juggle priorities. You’re not trying to find the most theoretically perfect solution, you’re trying to find a compromise: how to deliver the right quality in the right timeframe.
In production, time is of the essence. You have to juggle priorities. You’re not trying to find the most theoretically perfect solution, you’re trying to find a compromise: how to deliver the right quality in the right timeframe.Karina Assis Process Engineer, Vallourec Star
You’ve worked in both France and the United States: what differences did you see?I worked for a year in France and was struck by a couple of major differences. One was how decisions are made. My experience in France was that people take an analytical approach to risk, and decisions tend to be the result of meetings and discussions in which different options are explored. What I’ve seen in the United States is more along the lines of “we’ll try this plan and if it doesn’t work, we’ll do something else”. And in terms of leisure, there’s a stark difference: French people love travel and eating out, while Americans like to make the most of their home and local community. It’s been great to have experience of living in both cultures!
What do you enjoy about working at Vallourec, and how do you see your career developing?I like the people: the different personalities of my colleagues are what makes life interesting! We work very well together: they’re always open to my ideas, and have the confidence to try them to see if they work. And on my side, I learn something new every day. On a wider level, Vallourec provides excellent support. I’ve been doing Lean Six Sigma training and am now working towards black belt level. I see myself continuing in a frontline role: in the future, I’d like to expand my role to cover more steps of the process.
What advice would you give to women considering your career?I was lucky to be born into the first generation of women in Brazil for whom working in science and engineering carried no major stigma. But I still have to deal with negative comments from people who think that working in a steel mill is dirty. A lot of these comments come from women. I think we need to challenge preconceptions. Sure, working in a steel mill 100 years ago might have been horrible, but that’s definitely not the case today.