Surapat reaps the benefits of the programme’s strong yet flexible curriculum in chemical engineering
Surapat Somsri graduated from the master’s programme in Chemical Engineering for Energy and the Environment in 2018. He is now working as a Utilities Engineer as a part of his graduate programme at Heineken.
At what company and with what are you working at the moment?
I’m part of the Heineken Asia Pacific Graduate Program (APGP) in Supply Chain and am based at the Thai Asia Pacific Brewery (TAPB) in Thailand. For my first rotation in the programme, I am working as a Utilities Engineer where I will oversee the brewery’s utility needs and switch the brewery’s energy sources to renewables. In the upcoming two years, I will be assigned to Operating Companies (OpCo) in two other countries in the Asia Pacific region to delve further into Heineken’s supply chain. Lastly, I will complete the APGP in a cross-functional department in my home OpCo.
What can a regular day look like at your job?
As a Utilities Engineer at the brewery, I must also understand the work processes of other departments that require resources from the Utilities Department. Therefore, I am currently stationed at the Utilities Department’s number 1 “customer” – the Brewhouse – where beer is produced. My task here is calculating the energy usage of the entire process and for each stage. As part of the task, I monitor the machinery and process from the control room, and collect data from the operation computers, machines, logbooks, etc.
Why did you choose this programme at KTH?
I took the Master’s programme in Chemical Engineering for Energy and the Environment. The course had three main advantages from my initial point of view. The first was that it provided a strong yet flexible curriculum in chemical engineering which is required in the industry and is geared toward renewable energy. The second was that KTH is a high-ranking institution with international acclaim and advanced facilities. The third was that it was in Sweden, a country well-known for its waste-to-energy technology.
Are there any insights you acquired during your studies that have been particularly useful for you in your career?
The fundamental chemical engineering courses that I took are definitely being used in my job. But what I found surprisingly useful is the work culture and mentality that I adopted during my studies. Since my classmates and I were studying multiple courses at different times, it was quite difficult to arrange meeting times to work on our projects. Therefore, meetings were very precious and exact. With those conditions, we also had to gauge if we could commit to a time before agreeing to it.
At least for me, studies and projects were quite intense. But that was not an excuse to not have fika. During my master’s thesis project at the department, I was encouraged by my supervisor to set aside time for the weekly department fika even if I had a lot of work. Aside from being a good opportunity to meet new people, fika served as a small break in the week to take a breath and enjoy the moment. For anyone who doesn’t know what fika is, it is a Swedish word that means any time in the day where you set aside what you are doing and just enjoy life (preferably with a cup of coffee and a kanelbulla, or cinnamon roll).
The skills and attitude I gained during my master’s studies – understanding one’s capabilities, respect for time, and remembering to enjoy the moment – are helping me to balance different aspects of my life in this intense period where so many things are ongoing.
What are some of your best experiences during your studies at KTH?
As an international student, some of my lasting memories are related to my friends at KTH and Lappis (the student dormitories), and of hardships. During the pre-sessional course in my first year at KTH, the student association organized several activities for KTH students to join and have fun. There were hiking trips at the national park and kayaking as well as visits to different museums. It was through those activities that I met the friends whom I would be hanging out with throughout the year.
I cannot say this for everyone but my time at the dormitories were also some of the best moments. I lived in a corridor room, which meant that I had my own room and shared a common kitchen with eleven other corridor mates. It was difficult adjusting to a communal area where there were different people with different habits. Several times, our kitchen was in a very bad state due to neglect and we had to find ways to handle the situation together. However, as time went by, I found some corridor mates who became my closest friends.
This last experience isn’t as rosy as the rest. I have to admit that I had to re-take some course exams several times before finally passing. But these re-exams have helped me to appreciate the system in my master’s programme. It’s always a good thing if you can pass an exam on your first go. However, taking these exams gave me more time to reflect on my understanding of the course and connect more with my professors and peers. It was also a reminder that not everything is easy in life and that not everyone understands something on their first try; and it’s fine. You just need to improve and try again. On a side note, some of my friends even skipped the first exam because the person wasn’t ready, was sick or wanted to attend a friend’s wedding. When I asked the person who skipped the exam to attend a friend’s wedding about this, the person simply said that in Sweden, studies were just one part of life, and the other parts were needed to be balanced.
What would you say to a student thinking of applying for this programme?
Once you are in the programme, always remind yourself why you have pursued a higher education when the situation gets tough. But don’t forget to explore the opportunities around you whether they are at events, the university or around town. And re-strategize your life to what’s most suitable for you.