Caroline Nørgreen is Process Engineer at Novozymes A/S. Focusing on biological solutions, Novozymes improves industrial performance while preserving the planet’s resources and helping to build better lives.
Caroline Nørgreen’s Story
When did your interest in science or engineering begin?
I have always been fascinated by biology. During high school I got exposed to the solutions being created to solve world problems, like clean drinking water, through the use of biology. In this I have found my own motivation for becoming a chemical and biochemical engineer (masters) as well as biotechnological engineer (bachelors) and now working within enzyme production that does have a significant product portfolio that can help clean water in areas of the world that are still less developed.
What was it like to be a woman studying in your field?
For the most part it was fine and I generally did not feel that my gender affected my studies. As I made a shift from studying a biotechnological engineering bachelor degree to studying chemical and biochemical engineering master degree, I noticed that I started generally having more male friends, but that never bothered me. I found that the main challenge I faced during my studies due my gender was because of my chosen speciality in Production engineering. I was occassionally met with stereotypes and assumptions about my knowledge within, for example, how processing equipment works and how the transport processes within pipes can be calculated. The assumption being that I surely wouldn’t find these classes and conversations interesting nor did I know anything about it. A challenge for me was when to pick my battles and when to let things go.
Share with us some of your career highlights.
After graduating with a masters from the Technical University of Denmark, I started as a process engineer in the Granulation department (solid finished products) of Novozymes A/S, where I within the first couple of months became completely responsible for ensuring 2 out of the 3 productions lines ran smoothly and produced enzymes products at adequate quality. I also became responsible for the handling of any customer complaints that should be recieved. During my time in that department, I optimized the processes which resulted in significant saving in the amount of raw materials used as well as reductions in time spent having to reprocess products that did not meet quality specifications.
After 1.5 years, I transferred to the Liquid Formuation (liquid finished products) department where I have been working for 2 years. I am currently responsible for handling customer and supplier complaints, together with being responsible for GMP, Audits, Product Quality and supporting production when issues arise. Furthermore, I am growing my skills within project management and currently responsible for a series of large investment projects that aim to remove production related challenges. I am also growing my people management skills as I am responsible for 2 engineering interns per school semester.
To date, what project is your greatest innovation success? What is the story behind it?
In Novozymes we run “Rapid Improvement Events” (RIE) which involves bring a group of engineers, technicians and operators together to improve a production issue. While it is normally management who runs these events, I was given the trust to run my own RIE. This RIE was targeted at implementing Control Charts in productions that allows operators to see quality issues in real time and proactively tackle upcoming issues instead of reacting to product sample analysis results after the product had already been produced. Through many hours of careful preparation and one long hard week of running the RIE, my team and I produced many Control Charts that were implemented in production in the following week. Not only did we as a result see a drop in the percentage of products produced outside the specification limits but we also increased operator involvement in ensuring adequate product quality. Consequently, investment projects have now been initiated by operators as the Control Charts have given them a deeper understanding of how quality can be influenced and are now looking to improve processes that are seen to be the root cause of poor product quality.
Tell us about something that made you grow the most as a leader in your field.
In December 2020, I was in a team of 5 engineers and by January 2021 we were reduced to a team of 2 engineers as a result of sickness, paternity leave and a new job. Additionally, we had a new line manager. We carried on only being 2 engineers for 3 months without a reductions in tasks that needed to be completed. I dug deep and in this time also became a sparring partner for my new line manager as this was her first management position, while also trying to juggle my own work and a new set of interns that had also started at the same time. I learned that with effective and efficient time management a lot more work could be accomplished but also that when proper synergy is reached in a team and proper training in given (in this case to the engineering interns) that the time wasn’t as challenging as we initially feared. While it didn’t always feel like my time was well spent when I was training and coaching the interns, instead of completing my own tasks, I don’t know how the team would have gotten through the first months of 2021 without them. This experience has truly made me appreciate how important team syngery is and how crutial the initial time investment spent in aiding others in my field can be for long term success.
How are you and/or your company bringing innovation to the forefront?
One of the products I am currently involved in the development of is the integration of enzymes into plastics to create fully biodegradable single use plastics. This is a product I am currently very proud of being involved in and am excited about the long term affects it will have on the global market as well as the environmental benefits of it.
What advice do you have for future female engineers?
Find a mentor! I have had one from the beginning of my studies as well as after entering the job market and they have helped guide me on when to pick my battles and feel strong even when the journey can at times be a little lonely. If there is not one in your local community, try to reach out to the female engineering networks globally – It is likely you can find someone who can relate to what you are going through. Personally, I am always willing to offer my time to guide a fellow female engineer in what at times can feel like a very male dominated field.