John, you volunteer as IChemE Ambassador in Thailand. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Project Manager at Wood, Thailand. I studied BEng Chemical Engineering, Loughborough University of Technology, UK and MBA, Manchester Business School, UK.
Why did you chose to study these topics?
I did chem eng since it seemed a good match with two of my favourite subjects at school – maths and chemistry – and following some work experience at a Du Pont plant in my hometown. Being fairly sporty, Loughborough seemed a good fit. Once I started working in project management the time was right to do an MBA and I undertook the distance learning course offered by Manchester. This also gave me the opportunity to attend module workshops at its Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai centres.
Can you give us a potted history of your career so far?
I joined Foster Wheeler in Reading as a Process Engineer and in 25 years with the company, now Wood, have worked as a Project Engineer, Commissioning Engineer, Engineering Manager, Proposal Manager, and Project Manager for clients including ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Indorama, PTT and ThaiOil. Most of my career has been spent in Asia, including 18 years in Thailand.
How long have you been volunteering for IChemE as a regional ambassador, and why do you do it?
I’ve been volunteering for four years. Engineering is a very well respected profession in Thailand. With the exponential growth in the domestic energy and processing sectors here over the past 20 years, Thai universities are producing a large number of chemical engineers. It’s fulfilling to mentor and advise colleagues as they develop their careers, and being the IChemE Ambassador in Thailand has allowed me to connect with engineers outside the company and share learnings and best practices. I have also developed good relationships with the local institutes – including the Engineering Institute of Thailand and the Thai Institute of Chemical Engineers and Applied Chemistry – and we work together in promoting chemical engineering.
What skills or qualities are required for your volunteering role?
Obviously, volunteering requires time commitments in organising events and liaising with local members of IChemE, the local Thai engineering bodies, universities and non-affiliated engineers; an ability to connect and develop networks is important in order to build support and interest; and being able to understand the needs and interests of local engineers is critical to ensure we attract people to our events.
What has been the most rewarding part of your volunteering experience?
We aim to host three networking events per year, with presentations on subjects of interest. Topics to-date have included biogas; protecting your plant against cyber attack; modularisation; value improvement practices; fire protection; and design safety. We rotate between the three main centres of chemical engineers in Sriracha, Maptaphut and Bangkok. In 2016 Hazards Asia Pacific was held in Thailand and we worked closely with IChemE in Malaysia and the Thai Institute of Chemical Engineers and Applied Chemistry in organising and supporting. I was also on the Technical Review Committee for Hazards Asia Pacific 2017.
What is your proudest achievement in your professional life?
Working in developing regions of the world has allowed me to be involved in some major projects which make a real tangible impact on local communities. Among these was Shell’s Malampaya Gas Plant. I followed this project from the home office engineering phase through to site for construction, commissioning, startup and initial operations, spending over a year-and-a-half in the Philippines and, as a young engineer at the time, it was an ideal learning and development opportunity. The gas fed into three downstream power stations and returning to the same location 12 years later there had been significant growth and development in the local town, which I have no doubt was supported and stimulated by the plant.
What is your proudest achievement to date in your personal life?
Apart from my kids, and completing my MBA while holding down a full-time job, I founded the Thailand Gaelic Football Club in 2007. With men’s and women’s teams and players from many nationalities, the club has become one of the most vibrant sports and social clubs in Bangkok, with more than 100 members. Organising the Asian Gaelic Games in 2009, 2017 and 2018, with up to 800 players from all over Asia taking part was a major achievement.
What would we find you doing outside of work on the weekend?
Weekends are normally spent with my kids, on the golf course, or running around a gaelic football pitch! I am also Director of the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce, so have a fairly busy calendar outside working hours 7 days a week!
What is your advice for others who might be considering volunteering for IChemE?
It is important to engage with the local engineering bodies to understand their roles and aims and to ensure you are not stepping on toes, because Thailand has its own individual professional engineering licensing requirements and regulations. IChemE is well recognised and highly regarded so emphasising the knowledge aspects that it offers is a good selling point. It is also important to reach out to IChemE’s regional centres for support with promotional materials etc and for help in developing a longer-term strategy.
This the seventh article in a series that highlights the variety of work done by IChemE member volunteers. To read more, visit the series hub at
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