7 August 2023

Solving a different problem every day as a plant director

Zach, plant director at OCI Methanol North America talks to us about how a childhood interest in science led him to a career in engineering, and how OCI’s innovative, problem solving spirit means no two days are ever the same.

Zach, can you introduce yourself?  

I’m an engineer – born and raised in Utah, I spent seven years in Iowa, and now I’m based here in Texas. I came to Texas because of the opportunity with OCI to take up my current role as plant director at OCI Methanol North America. I’m married and a father to two daughters, who are 12 and eight, and they are really happy here, after all the relocations I’ve put them through.   

What was your childhood like? 

I was always really interested in science, even at a young age. I loved the shows about the science behind space and enjoyed learning new things. I’d teach myself about anything I had questions about, I even rewired my parents’ house and their electrical box trying to learn more about how residential systems operate. Even as a child I never liked taking anything for granted or assuming anything, I wanted to know how things worked and why they worked the way they did. That’s an attitude I continue to push myself to have today. 

What has your journey through OCI been so far?

I started at what was IFCo, and is now known as OCI Nitrogen North America, in 2014. I joined right after OCI broke ground on the site, when there was nothing more than a few pilings in the ground. Being there from the beginning and helping it grow into what it is now has been a real career highlight. As I tell everyone that was associated with it, no one can take that achievement away from us, it’s an amazing feat a lot of us can be very proud of.  

I was then asked to come to OCI Methanol North America in November 2021. Now, I’m the plant director so my day-to-day role is about making sure we are maintaining the plant’s functionality and alignment, and actively working to improve it so we’re operating in the best way possible.  

What do OCI’s sustainability ambitions and strategy mean to you? 

Our sustainability ambition is part of what makes us innovative. I appreciate that we’re trying to be more sustainable, solving decarbonization challenges by pioneering green fuels for example. I think OCI has positioned itself very well, but there are going to be some rough times ahead too. We’re in a commodities market, so when there’s a downturn, we feel it. The good thing about our sustainability push is we’re not only helping hard-to-abate industries to decarbonize, we’re broadening our portfolio and that means we’re not exposed purely to the commodities market. This strategic, purposeful mindset is one of the main reasons I’ve remained at OCI for long as I have. I’m still young in my career, I have another 20 years ahead of me,

I don’t just want a job, I want a good career that makes a difference. OCI has given me that.   

What motivates you? 

It comes back to the way my parents raised me, with a strong work ethic and appetite for challenge. The one thing I’ve never wanted is monotony, I couldn’t handle doing the same thing every day, I’d go crazy. Right from the start I asked myself, what career path gives me that variety? Chemical engineering provides that, the chance of solving a different problem every day. But OCI, it takes that to the next level. There are so many different initiatives, you never know what the day will bring you.  

What career advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

There are two main pieces of advice I’d give myself. First, be intentional. Act with a purpose and don’t just do what you think you’re expected to.  Second, keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone: That includes making the time to have conversations face to face, you get so much more out of people. It can be uncomfortable but it creates more honest conversations and opens up all kinds of opportunities.

Finally, describe OCI in three words? 

Innovative, fast-paced, strategic.   

Find out more about careers at OCI here.

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