Five minutes Karmele Sagarzazu-Achurra

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and where you’re from.

A: I am from Venezuela. I was born in the capital of Caracas as the sandwich child to a brother and sister. I grew up, studied and obtained my chemical engineering degree during the Venezuelan oil strike. I initiated my professional career working as a chemistry teacher for three high schools in Caracas and after that I managed to move into  consultancy/design where I met some of the best friends in life and started my career in process engineering.

I moved to Manchester in 2010 in order to obtain an MSc in Refinery Design and Operations from the University of Manchester, and from there I have worked in different consultancy companies in the UK. I’m very passionate in what I do. My day starts at 6am when I head to the gym before coming into work.

I love cooking, a bit of a food evangelist, bringing Venezuelan food to the people of the UK! I recently took on parental duties to a mini Dachshund called Naia. I am learning to play golf.

Q: How did you get into the industry?

A: Really, chemical engineering was my second choice at school. I wanted to be a surgeon but getting into medicine school was a bit difficult as they only open 60 placements in the main medicine school in Caracas. But since I started this journey I have been enjoying it too much, I can’t say I regret it.

Q: What are the biggest challenges your clients face at the moment?

A: Financial constraints, political uncertainty, global competition, lack of skills and finding an experienced workforce.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Receiving feedback from colleagues and clients about the good job I have done!

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

A: Having my own Venezuelan restaurant, oh yes I love cooking!!

Q: Marmite – love it or hate it?

A: I’m Venezuelan I have never tried it, the smell is mmm let’s say not pleasant for my nose…. So therefore, I would say I hate it.

Q: What do you think we can do to get more women into engineering?

A: First of all, trying to change that vision people have that engineering is a male job.

More talks in schools to show students that females are capable to do the same as men. Engineering is overlooked as a male environment and sometimes you can find a hostile environment for us.

Q: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry during your career?

A: Improvements in environmental, health and safety, improved technology, innovative processes, energy, waste etc.