IC Insight: engineers in a clean-tech startup

Alexa, Christina and Emna studied chemical engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and had their first contact with INERATEC through their internships.
After graduating, they decided to start their career as engineers at INERATEC.
In our IC-Insight #4 they talk more about what motivated them to do so and how they have grown together with INERATEC.


Can you still remember your first day at INERATEC?

Alexa: Yes, of course! That was in 2016, still in the office at the Rhine harbour. At that time, the team consisted of three of the founders, Benjamin and me. We all worked together in one office, and I was always working on new tasks: I started with risk analyses, which are still a part of my job today.

Christina: Honestly, I can still remember my first day very clearly. That was in 2016 as well, but even before the GmbH was founded – a jump into the deep end. On my first day, I participated in a conference call with the Finnish research institute VTT. The topic was the joint realization of the first (power-to-liquid) demonstration plant in the project “SOLETAIR“. For this purpose, the piping and instrumentation diagram (PID) of the laboratory plant had to be created. So, I was already working in one of the plants on my first day – that was really exciting.

Emna: I joined in a little later, in 2018, when INERATEC was already located in the Karlspark and the team had grown significantly. Accordingly, things were a bit different for me: I had a personal mentor, and I spent my initial time getting to know and understand the processes and INERATEC in general.

Could you take away a lot from your internship for you personally?

Christina: The internship was a challenge that I grew with. I gained my first practical experience here, which complemented my previous knowledge from my bachelor’s degree well and helped me in my master’s degree. The practical knowledge was a good basis for new experiences.

Emna: For me, it was the other way around. I took the course ‘process and plant engineering’ in my studies first and was able to apply the knowledge in the internship at INERATEC. With the theoretical basis, it was easier for me to understand the practical side later – and to get enthusiastic about it.

Why did you decide to start your career as engineers in the INERATEC-team?

Emna: Right after my internship, I could imagine continuing to work in plant operation. I just found it incredibly interesting.

I also wrote my master’s thesis here and then joined the Operations team. After I was able to work on the production of synthetic fuels at the test stand, I was excited to get to know larger plants. It is just fun to work in our team, everyone is motivated, and we all support each other.

Alexa: I really liked the atmosphere here right from the start, especially the fact that we grew together as a team. After my internship, it made sense to continue working during my studies. Although my previous focus was on plant safety, I did a lot of work on the test stand for my master’s thesis, which was a new experience for me. That is also a very cool aspect of working at INERATEC: you always have the opportunity to see and learn something new within the company.

Christina, what made you decide to return to INERATEC after your studies and your time abroad?

Christina: For me it was a “now or never” moment: the chance to be part of a growing start-up. In 2016, we were a small team of 5 employees. When I started full-time in 2020, the team grew by about 20 employees and I wanted to be part of it, too. Today we are a team of 70, with our own production and open-plan office, it amazes me to see this development.
In addition to this it is of course the work itself, as Emna already said: our work here is so interesting, and I completely stand behind the goals of INERATEC.

How has the permanent employment changed your work?

Christina: You are more involved in the projects and your areas of responsibility. Although you also work on tasks independently during the internship, as a permanent employee you take on responsibility for your own area.

Emna: I can only agree with that. During the internship there were always mentors who provided support. Now you are responsible for your own work, you can contribute your own solutions and make decisions more independently.

How do you look back on your personal development?

Christina: As I already said, I have grown together with the company. In the beginning, I did a lot of different things and had a broad range of tasks. And as INERATEC’s expertise grew, so did my own expertise. You are given more responsibility and become increasingly specialized over time.

Emna: I see my development primarily in organizational aspects, i.e., a growing understanding of project processes and the operation of larger plants. My tasks are currently very varied, but I can imagine specializing within the company over time.

What do you particularly like about working at INERATEC?

Alexa: The fact that you can get to know many different areas: from the initial planning, through construction, to the commissioning of the plant. But also, the team and the atmosphere. It is so pleasant to work here. It is simply fun.

Christina: On the one hand, it is the exciting topic of sustainable fuels. On the other hand, it is the flexibility that I really appreciate. Everyone has the chance to find the area that suits him or her. The more you want to get involved, the more responsibility you can take on. You learn, develop, and move things forward together.

Emna: For me it is the aspect, that I totally stand behind our work and goals. When I talk about my work at INERATEC, it is always met with interest and enthusiasm. In many other countries, including Qatar, where I come from, far too little attention is paid to alternative solutions to fossil fuels. I am very proud to be part of such a company and to work together on a solution for the energy transition.