Technical Services Representative, BASF
Employment ContextAmy graduated from Georgia Southern University. She now works for BASF, The Chemical Company. BASF manufactures all kinds of chemicals that are formulated into products that contain some mineral components: paint, rubber, plastics, and many, many more. Amy's responsibilities to her customers include optimizing the use of minerals in the end use formulations. For example, what particle size fraction will best serve their needs? Would a different mix of mineral and other components have better properties for the customer's intended use? Where should customers purchase each of their mineral components?
Desirable Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Geoscience knowledgeAs an industrial minerals application specialist, Amy applies her geoscience knowledge and skills to real-world questions all the time. First, of course, she has to know the properties of minerals. More specifically, she needs to know how those properties change with particle size. She also needs to know about what accessory minerals are likely to be present in different kinds of deposits. If you're mining a limestone deposit for calcite, clay minerals are contaminants. Thus, mineral separation techniques, such as floatation, floculation, and magnetic separation) are essential skills. On a related note, Amy sometimes has to defend her company's product in the marketplace, to people who don't understand the details of mineralogy.
Technical skillsStatistical analysis is one of the most important aspects of Amy's job. BASF uses the Six Sigma process (originally developed by Motorola to build efficiency and manage quality). BASF processes and manufactures their products within 3 Sigma, where sigma refers to a statistical measurement of deviation from perfection. That means that every product BASF manufactures has to be tested, in a statistically meaningful way.
Since product testing needs to be statistically meaningful, experimental design is also an essential skill for Amy. She tests the properties of chemical compounds with mineral components. For example, she tests the rheology (including viscosity) of various mixtures of minerals suspended in fluids, the strength of various plastic films, and so on. To come up with statistically meaningful data, she must perform well-designed experimental tests of these properties.
Other skills and abilities
Beyond the technical aspects of her job, there are many other skills Amy uses on a day to day basis. People skills, she points out, are essential for success in most jobs. Office politics are almost unavoidable; Amy advises staying out of them. Other kinds of communication, however, are quite important. Amy notes that your boss may not know what you are doing unless you make a point of keeping him or her informed. Another key skill Amy has learned on the job is project management -- setting goals, making assignments, and following through on assigned tasks.
There are also several other skills that Amy has learned on the job, that could be taught in undergraduate geoscience programs. These include the use of various kinds of software technology (spreadsheets, presentations, statistical software). Also, presentation skills, including how to show graphics/data well -- how to showcase your main point for busy people.
Advice to Job Applicants
- Diversify your background: participate in extracurricular activities; participate in professional organizations; look like a leader.
- Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
- Manage your own career. Always let your supervisor know your career ambitions.
- Continue training opportunities as they become available while you are working.
Advice to Advisors
- Be aware of industries around you; not all students are going to graduate school.
- Global businesses need geoscientists! Many industries are not "green;" geoscientists can help us figure out how to make them more sustainable.