10 For 10: Chelsea Boudreau

Ten questions for Goodnight Scholars alumni as part of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s 10th anniversary celebration. This month we catch-up with Chelsea Boudreau ’13, process engineer for GlaxoSmithKline and inaugural mentor for the Goodnight Fellows program.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Talk about your current professional role. 

Chelsea Boudreau ’13: I am currently a process engineer with GlaxoSmithKline.

Of the work you’re doing, what excites you the most?

I get a chance to take a process that may be new or may have been in place for years, and improve upon it. In order to improve the processes, I really have to get onto the shop floor and learn the process inside and out, to be able to examine it at a detailed level and, at the simplistic level, to understand how to best implement change.

Back when you were an undergraduate at NC State, did you ever think you would be where you are in your life now as a STEM professional?

Although I pictured myself as a process engineer, I had no real idea of what I was getting into while I was an undergrad! Much of my time at NC State in chemical engineering was spent studying the design of chemical processes and why they were designed the way that they were, so I had a picture in my mind that a manufacturing process is a set-it-and-forget-it process. Once the design was in place, it’ll run until parts wear down and get replaced. In undergrad, I didn’t know that a job like the one I have now existed, where there is a team of people dedicated to continuously improve the quality and throughput of the process, as well as troubleshoot unexpected deviations to the process. I enjoy the challenge that working with an existing process offers.

How did your education at NC State prepare you for your current professional role?

My education at NC State prepared me for my current professional role through all of the work that required critical thinking and logic. I’ve found that in most of the difficult work that I’ve done since working as an engineer, critical thinking and logic have been the two most critical skills needed to solve a problem. Knowing the relationships and equations has been helpful, but in the age of technology and Google, anyone can look up a formula in a reference book, but tying those pieces together to solve a problem has been the most advantageous application of my education at NC State. I am also extremely grateful for the amount of emphasis that the chemical engineering department at NC State places on teamwork because in my professional role, collaboration is key to get the entire view of a project and requires a great deal of accountability and trust across the team.

What do you remember most about your time as an NC State student?

I remember going to the sporting events the most from my time at NC State! I can remember all of the things that I would do with my friends to get tickets my first-year when they were hard to come by, like waking up before the sun to get or not get tickets through the Wolfpack Club, or attending as many other games to build up loyalty points. I remember the effort it took to put together an awesome tailgate and the feeling when we would find out that someone found a grill to borrow for the day! My most memorable thing while I was a student was a feeling; that carefree feeling of standing in the student section at Carter Finley while the rain pours down, knowing that soon I’d be able to work my way into the front rows to witness the Wolfpack beat Florida State!

In undergrad there was a pride in doing things on your own, but if you work in silos you can miss out on some great ideas or insight that your colleagues may have.

You recently served as a Goodnight Fellow. Talk about that experience and what you learned about yourself in the process.

When I was on my way to my first event as a Goodnight Fellow, I was thinking hard about all of the bits of wisdom I wanted to impart on the current Goodnight Scholars, all of the “real” things I wish I had known before I started working and what questions I may get asked.

What was it like mentoring two Goodnight Scholars?

The two Goodnight Scholars that I had the pleasure of speaking with were two of the most optimistic, inquisitive and motivated people I’ve ever met! I know it is a cliche, but I got so much more out of the experience than I could’ve ever expected! One particular conversation at the famous Cup A Joe made me think really hard about my own career path when I was asked “How do you make sure you never get too comfortable to keep pushing for updates and change?” It was a question that I hadn’t heard in a long time, but it’s such an important concept to hold on to. When I started as a Fellow, I thought that the questions would only come my way, but now I know how important it is to reach out to the future leaders in STEM industries like the Goodnight Scholars who have fresh eyes on engineering issues and a confident motivation.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working?

In addition to work, I am also working on fulfilling the requirements for a Master of Material Science at NC State, one course at a time. I like to get out and explore Raleigh and all it has to offer since I’ve graduated because I only really got to see a small fraction of the city while I was a student. I love to go to all of the festivals and events more than anything because of how unique they all can be. I especially enjoyed this year’s Art in Bloom at the NCMA. That’s what I do the most is to go explore what the weekend has to offer, whether it be taking a walk by the Neuse River Trail sunflowers, attending a food truck rodeo, or playing adult-rec kickball.

What does the future hold for Chelsea Boudreau?

I would love to stay in the Raleigh-Durham area in the future because I feel like I have so many options here when it comes to pharmaceutical manufacturing and research and development. I would love to learn more about the pharmaceutical products that I work with and those that may work with in the future.

Is there any advice you think is important for current NC State students and Goodnight Scholars to hear?

Seek out a mentor. Some companies automatically pair you with someone at on-boarding, but many do not. It doesn’t have to be anything rigid or formal, but find someone who knows the ways of working or that you can discuss comfortably what you’re thinking and feeling or what your goals are. Everyone was a new employee at some point in their lives and it’s helpful to speak with someone who made it through, can give advice. Starting a career is intimidating, and speaking with a mentor helped me to realize that everyone is intimidated and that making the best engineering decisions requires working with a team and knowing when to ask for help. In undergrad there was a pride in doing things on your own, but if you work in silos you can miss out on some great ideas or insight that your colleagues may have.

Photography credit: Jason Perry