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Interview with Wang Dandan, female process engineer at Tianda

23/07/2020 - Careers

[Women in [email protected]]

The inner workings of furnaces are no secret for Wang Dandan: in only a few short years, she has transitioned from a materials engineering graduate to a go-to expert on preventative furnace maintenance. Today, Wang is one of two woman engineers at Vallourec China’s Tianda plant—and is proudly paving the way for the next generation of female engineering talent.

How did your career path lead you to Vallourec?

I graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and started my career as a high school chemistry teacher. After only a few months, I realized I just wasn’t passionate about teaching schoolchildren. So I returned to university to obtain my Master’s degree in materials engineering. Upon graduation, I joined Vallourec. 

I wanted to work for Vallourec because I needed a new challenge. Vallourec really focuses on candidates’ ability and potential in the hiring process, and I’m very pleased the company gave me the opportunity! 

You’re a process engineer. What does a typical day look like for you?

I work at the Tianda plant in Chuzhou, China. Like all Vallourec plants, we have several furnaces in operation. My job is to make sure each one is working well. On a typical day, my work is divided into two parts. First, I have to check each furnace’s temperature and gas flow meter with the Electronic department to ensure everything is functioning normally. Second, I have to conduct a variety of tests for each furnace: thermal cycle tests, thermocouple verification, and atmosphere analyses for the combustion system. When operation of the furnace is temporarily paused, I can go inside to check other aspects like the burner and working beam. My role is crucial to plant safety.

How has your career evolved while at Vallourec?

When I first started at Vallourec in 2017, I spent a month in each department to get to know the people and job better. Initially, I thought I would work in the Quality department, but my manager felt I was a better fit for the Maintenance department. Now, I’m responsible for furnaces. 

What are the benefits of working for an international company like Vallourec?

Vallourec has given me the opportunity to gain new skills and learn new ways of working. I’ve also really benefited from the fact it’s an international company. For example, I was able to benefit from a five-month exchange program at the Vallourec Research Center in France. There, I discovered new technologies and developed problem-solving skills. As I result, I came back to the Tianda plant with an excellent framework on how to prepare for the unexpected in my day-to-day work.
Wang Dandan and her team
I also had the chance to visit the Energy department in Dusseldorf, Germany to better understand their work. In addition, I have a mentor with whom I meet face to face on a monthly basis to discuss any on-the-job challenges, as well as my professional development. Moving forward, I’m focused on developing skills to open up even more opportunities at Vallourec and on building this department, whose mission is to improve the plant and make it better. 

How would you describe your experience as a woman engineer?

In the past, I’ve sometimes come across the view—whether at school, the workplace or in everyday life—that women are better-suited to “office work” like sales or finance, while men are better at technical, on-site work. It begins at high school, with the stereotype that girls study literature and boys study science, and it goes right through to the workplace where many employers hold the view that men are more physically capable of performing demanding jobs.

At Vallourec, this is not the case: I was hired as an engineer to work in the Tianda plant because my manager believes I have the ability. 


I’d obviously like to see more woman engineers in the field, particularly in China. Every year, the number of female engineering graduates is increasing, so I’m optimistic we’re moving in the right direction. 
Optimism
Wang Dandan

Every year, the number of female engineering graduates is increasing, so I’m optimistic we’re moving in the right direction. 

Wang Dandan Process engineer at Tianda

What advice would you give to another woman considering a career in engineering?

Be confident! And by focusing on your higher education, you’ll be well-qualified to get a job in engineering. 

Vallourec

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