Shining a light on the valuable work of IChemE volunteers
Johan, you were the inaugural Malaysia representative for, and a founding member of, the IChemE Energy Centre (2015–2018); tell us a little about yourself.
I studied BSc in Chemical Engineering at North East London Polytechnic (now UEL) in 1986, followed by an MSc in Chemical Process Engineering, at University College London, in 1990.
I chose chemical engineering as I was always interested in chemistry and engineering from a young age. I was also probably influenced by the environment in early school years, having grown up in the oilfields of Seria, in Brunei, with constant exposure to oil processing facilities. I was also attracted to the “sell” of chemical engineering being a versatile degree, with a wide range of career prospects, and the high demand for chemical engineers.
I’ve been fortunate to have a fulfilling and enriching career in engineering design of oil & gas, power and renewable energy facilities, that has brought me to work locations in many parts of the world – South East Asia, India, the Middle East and North America.
How long have you been volunteering for IChemE and why do you do it?
I spent just over three years volunteering for the Energy Centre but have volunteered for IChemE in other roles for more than 20 years.
I volunteer because I feel I have something to contribute towards building a strong and respectable Institution, and for the sake of coaching and developing young engineers, as well as being of service to industry and the community at large. Volunteering allows me to share my knowledge with the hope that it benefits others, and it is rewarding in the sense that I get to meet with so many people across the spectrum of the industry we support, and in return learn so much more and expand my network.
What skills or qualities are required for your volunteering role?
As the Malaysia representative for the Energy Centre, there were various expectations: an awareness of the energy landscape in the region (power generation, sources and consumption); liaison between the Energy Centre and members in Malaysia; and liaison between the Energy Centre and the Malaysian Board to develop and deliver aligned regional activity.
You need a positive attitude and willingness to organise events, network with industry peers, and be the voice for the local community.
What has been the most rewarding part of your volunteering experience?
To be able to witness the interest of members at events and bring their issues to a larger forum, and to have helped establish the Energy Centre, and sustaining its operation for the longer term, representing one of the largest IChemE membership groups worldwide. The Energy Centre network worldwide has volunteers from all the important affiliated sectors that support the energy needs of our planet and comprise many individuals with considerable influence within their areas of interest. It was an honour to serve with them.
What is your proudest achievement to date in your professional life?
There are so many – achieving Chartered Engineer, becoming a Fellow of IChemE, founding the IChemE Malaysia branch and seeing its membership grow to one of the largest country groups worldwide, inaugurating the first HAZARDS Asia Pacific (now a series), and turning over leadership to a new cadre of capable professionals.
What is your proudest achievement to date in your personal life?
Being father to three wonderful children and having a lovely supportive wife, especially since I steal precious time from family life when volunteering. Home life is as challenging as work life and I’m grateful looking back on how we’ve fared through the challenges and witness the achievements of our children.
What would we find you doing on the weekend?
Probably having a good rest, chilling without having to think of the pressures of daily work life. Work can be stressful, and project work is always about meeting a deadline. It’s important to strike a healthy work-life balance and focus your attention on your loved ones as much as possible.
What is your advice for others who might be considering volunteering for IChemE?
Just do it. Meet like-minded people. Explore your abilities. Make a name for yourself. The benefits of volunteering can really surprise you. It has really helped me develop my skills as a leader and provided me closer access to a large base of membership that in turn has helped my career. Consider it a worthwhile investment.
This is the eleventh article in a series that highlights the variety of work done by IChemE member volunteers. To read more, visit the series hub at https://www.thechemicalengineer.com/tags/volunteer-spotlight
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