Stars of the boardroom (Day 69)

CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Beurden - Photograph: Reuters

CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Beurden – Photograph: Reuters

Chemical engineering attracts some of the best talent from around the world. And that talent has the proven ability to reach the top of their profession and head some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.

Researching CEO’s and Chairs of major companies proved to be a very interesting endeavour. There are more chemical engineers, or individuals trained as chemical engineers, at the top of their game than you would think.

And they are the ones who are making the decisions that cascade down and affect our daily lives. So, here is a list I’ve put together of chemical engineers in high places and proof that studying chemical engineering can be the gateway to a high profile and influential career:

  • CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Beurden, graduated with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering from the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • CEO of BP, Bob Dudley, graduated with a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois
  • Former CEO of Walmart, (2009 – 2013), Michael Duke, graduated in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • CEO of ConocoPhillips, Ryan M. Lance, graduated in Petroleum Engineering from the Montana Tech of the University of Montana
  • CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, Andrew Liveris, graduated in Chemical Engineering from the University of Queensland.
  • Chairman of China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec), Fu, Chengyu, graduated with a Masters degree in Petroleum Engineering from University of Southern California
  • Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, Mukesh Ambani, graduated in Chemical Engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Matunga
  • CEO of Pfizer, Ian Read, graduated in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London
  • Chair of Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Judith Hackitt, graduated in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London
  • CEO of Petrobras, Maria das Graças Silva Foster, graduated in Chemical Engineering from Fluminense Federal University and earned a Masters degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
  • CEO of Cancer Research UK, Harpal S. Kumar, graduated with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge

There must be a reason why chemical engineers are at the helm of such successful and global companies. Our technical expertise and systems thinking approach translates across into business acumen, because, ultimately, these companies exist to make a profit.

Cindy Crawford (copyright Helga Esteb Shutterstock dot com)

Cindy Crawford (copyright Helga Esteb Shutterstock dot com)

I’m reassured and encouraged to know that chemical engineers are the high flyers, and it’s only going to get better with more young people choosing to study the subject at university than ever before.

Slowly, public perception of the chemical engineering profession is changing for the better.

I will finish on a slightly unrelated note. Whilst researching successful chemical engineers, I was quite intrigued to find out that celebrities Cindy Crawford and Ashton Kutcher chose to study chemical engineering at university.

So chemical engineers don’t just reach the top in the world of business – their talent takes them in completely different directions, but still successful.

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Do you know of any ‘celebrity’ chemical engineers, or chemical engineers that has pursued a different career path? Please contact us.

One thought on “Stars of the boardroom (Day 69)

  1. Geoff, I would not say the CEO’s are THE top of the Chemical Engineering profession. They may A top of the Chemical Engineering profession or probably they are top of their profession namely business management.

    In my opinion there are four strands to the Chemical Engineering profession. Buisness Managers, Technical Managers, Technical Experts and Academics. In my opinion it is the Technical Experts that are most directly involved in the practise of Chemical Engineering and this is why I helped to set up the Consultancy SIG.

    The current approach of flip flopping between an high ranking academic and a “captain of industry” for the IChemE President is generally speaking completely missing out the Technical Experts who at A top of the Chemical Enigeering profession and in my opinion IChemE is much the poorer for this.

    Also the Technical Experts are probably getting paid less than others in Industry, which is also to the detriment of the profession. More recognition for this group would boost the professions effectiveness considerably.

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