There's nowhere else I would want to go
One is a chemical engineer, the other has studied human biology and sociology, but they both chose a career at Kanthal, a company they had never heard of. Meet process engineers Bryony Harper (image at top of page) and Helena Lockie, who enjoy the team spirit and problem solving in their everyday work.
How did you end up at Kanthal?
Helena: I saw an ad for Kanthal seeking a process engineer, and I wanted to use what I learned at university where I studied chemical engineering. I didn’t get to do a lot of that at my last job.
Bryony: I found the job on LinkedIn. It was a bit of career change for me because I had studied human biology, sociology and psychology at university, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When I saw the opening for a quality technician trainee, I thought, why not? I’ll apply and see where it goes. That was six years ago. Since I started here I’ve done an engineering degree, and I’ve been a process engineer for the past three years.
Did you know about Kanthal before you came here?
Helena: No, not at all. But before I went to the interview I did some research, and then at the interview everyone was so lovely and it just made everything sound so interesting and exciting.
Bryony: I had never heard of Kanthal, but I just looked at the job. As a quality technician you need to have attention to detail, you need to communicate with people and be organized, and I just thought those were traits I would be good at. Also, as it was a trainee position, it suggested that there would be room for growth in the company.
What do you like most about the job. Is it the problem solving?
Helena: Yes, the problem solving and trying to break things down. Speaking to the operators and trying to find the root cause of the problem. There’s a lot of detective work because there are so many things that can happen, depending on our product and on what the customer wants. It can go through so many avenues.
Bryony: I like the variety it brings. No two days are the same, and there are always new problems to tackle and improvements to make.
What about your colleagues?
Helena: That’s what I love about this place – the innovative spirit. No matter who you speak to about an issue, it’s not just your issue – everybody helps out. This happens on a lot of the projects we do. We invite somebody from each department to the conference room and we sit and talk everything through. That helps a lot. There’s really good team spirit here.
Bryony: Yes, we’re a good team. There are five of us in our office in the technology department, and you always have someone to talk through your problems with and bring up new ideas. Everyone’s really supportive.
Tell me about some of your learnings since you started at Kanthal?
Helena: Not to overcomplicate things. Trying not to overthink it and just take it step by step, not try to fix it right then and there. Sometimes it’s best to sit back and have a think about it before you try to fix it. So that’s the main learning – it’s okay to spend time to figure out a problem, and you don’t have to rush and solve it.
Bryony: For me this is my first real job coming out of university, so that was a big learning curve – everything from communicating in meetings and knowing how to speak up and state your views. That has been a big thing for me.
The manufacturing industry is still male dominated. What were your thoughts before joining Kanthal and now?
Helena: In my previous job there weren’t many females either, so it’s not something that’s ever bothered me. Sometimes it’s quite nice being the only female. But there are a lot more females coming through as engineers and into more of these roles. Everything here is teamwork, and there is definitely not a difference.
Bryony: When I got the job here a few people asked if I was sure about going into that role, since it’s male dominated. And I was like, why not? It doesn’t mean I can’t be here. It has always been really inclusive here, so it’s never an issue.
What do you think of the future of Kanthal?
Helena: It’s always interesting, because we’ve always got new markets that we’re trying. There are new products we can use in these markets, such as electrifying the petrochemical industry. Or in the lithium-ion battery industry, where there are a lot of things for Kanthal to go forward with.
Bryony: A lot of new things are happening, such as the gas-to-electric conversion that requires bigger elements. These are more challenging for us, as they are at the limits of our capability. I think it’s exciting.
Helena: There are always changes and different things going on. There’s nowhere else I would want to go at the moment.
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