What’s it like to work for Superior Controls? Who better to tell you than Superior Engineers themselves! We’re talking to different Superior Engineers who are at different points in their careers. Abby Koczera has been an Automation Project Engineer with Superior for three years. She kicks off this series with her perspective on training, project work and her path from Chemical Engineering to Automation.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Any things you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a native of Southern Massachusetts and went to University of New Hampshire for Chemical Engineering. I loved the seacoast, and when I saw the opportunity to work for Superior and stay in the area, I went for it. I love the mountains and the ocean, and spending time outside. Although now that I have my own house, I spend a lot more time on house projects!

I also like to volunteer. Starting in school, I was really involved with a program STEMbassadors – bringing STEM opportunities to kids in underprivileged communities.

What attracted you to Superior?

It was an automation opportunity. I only had one controls class in college. It was a good chance to get training and exposure to it without having to go back to school for automation. Our controls professor knew one of the co-owners of Superior, and shared that Superior wanted to hire new controls engineers and were prepared to train. Otherwise, I don’t know that I would have considered automation as a career path. I was a bit skeptic, but it has been really rewarding.

Was it what you expected it to be?

I suppose so. I’ve had exposure to three projects, being involved in each for about a year. There have been a lot of networking opportunities – my clients are in Albany, NY, Boston and Westborough, MA. I’ve really been able to learn a lot.

The culture exceeded my expectations. Many of my coworkers are younger, and we have been able to hang out outside of work. I’ve made friendships that I’ll have forever.

What it like to work on a project with a Superior Controls Project Manager?

I feel like the manager really has complete control over the whole project, changing things as needed and communicating with the customer at their discretion without having to go up in leadership at Superior. It allows for faster decision making. I like the project structure that Superior has.

What has your experience been with onboarding and training?

I never felt like my hand was being held. I felt like I had resources available to me, but always felt like I had the time to figure it out on my own first. I worked with Terri Russell heavily and learned from her on my first billable project. The level of detail she goes into with how the code works and the structure of documentation was really effective in teaching me the basics of how a typical project is executed. It was a great learning experience.

Before that was a three-month training project, where you work on a mock project to get you experience before starting billable work. It was difficult but applied to what I would eventually be doing for clients, like getting used to the software interface. Now Superior is expanding it to different software platforms, which is really good. This training experience is much better than other companies, where you get thrown on a project right out of school and have to figure it out on your own.

Superior also offers ongoing training opportunities – with partners like Rockwell and Siemens, half-day training sessions, and encourage us to go for other training opportunities we see. They’ll reimburse us.

What sorts of projects have you been able to work on?

I started with work in Albany, on an upgrade project for a life sciences company. It didn’t have to do with any new equipment, just download a new program. It was a good first step to work within an existing system and a clean room environment.

The next project was an expansion. I was in a hardhat and steel toe boots and on site. It was complete freedom in the program we were developing. Everything was new. Getting experience with the equipment as it was being installed, working alongside the electricians, and configuring valves, sensors and VFDs was another side of the industry experienced.

Here on my current project, I’m working with a new software platform, integrating a customized code with individual skids and validating both the equipment hardware and software. I feel the projects I’ve been working on luckily have given me broad experience within the life sciences industry. I have experience with developing code, to installation from the ground up, to improvements and updates afterward. That’s the whole picture.

Any type of project you’re hoping to work on in the future?

I would like to see us support some industries that promote sustainability and protection of the environment. Something that gives back to the community outside of the pharmaceutical realm, such as biodiesel production for example.

Any advice for would-be applicants?

I want new hires to be undeterred by taking a job in automation. You need to understand how the process flows in order to design the automation for it. I’ve definitely used my chemical engineering knowledge. Some things require only basic engineering principles, but working on things like filtration skids and cleaning recipes, that is when chemical engineering certainly applies.

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