Chris, operations superintendent at our Beaumont plant, talked to us about how he came to a career in operations, why making an impact matters to him, and the power of being part of a supportive community.
Chris, can you start by telling us about your childhood and early career?
I sort of grew up everywhere. My Dad was a preacher, and then a missionary, so I was raised all over the US from Texas to New York, and then we moved to Africa when I was 12. We started in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and then moved to Zambia. I was homeschooled throughout our time in Africa, but then moved back to the States when I was 18 to graduate from high school in a little town called Kirbyville in Texas.
In terms of my early career, I had a few different paths before I settled into operations. My first job was as a painter, then I decided to become a police officer and went to the police academy. At 20 I was too young to be a patrol officer, so the sheriff told me to go and work for the prison, which I did for a few years before I changed path and went to construction, and then worked at a paper mill. After about eight years there I left to go back into construction and one of the welders I worked with at the time used to work at the site here – at the time it was called Beaumont Methanol. When they decided to take the site out of mothball, he called me and asked me if I would be interested, which is how I came to OCI.
What is your current role and how did it evolve?
I’m operations superintendent at our plant here in Beaumont, Texas. Between Justin, the other superintendent and myself, we have overall responsibility for the plant. In practice we split down the middle, so I look after the ammonia plant and Justin looks after the methanol side.
I first joined OCI as a field operator and since then have held several roles including as a board operator, a detail supervisor, and then I became a field supervisor three years ago and operations superintendent earlier this year.
Operations is a really interesting area. When I worked out in the field, I loved being there, looking at my equipment, listening to it and thinking about how I could get it to run better and make the plant more reliable. It’s like walking around your car for 12 hours, working out how to make it better, checking on different things.
What’s kept you at OCI for 12.5 years?
I’m here because I love it. It hasn’t always been easy, and there were challenges particularly at the start when we were bringing the old plant out of mothball after seven years but as I’ve watched it grow, I’ve just fallen in love with it and want to see how its future plays out.
More recently, OCI’s decarbonization strategy and vision is something I want to be part of. It’s better for our environment and for everyone around us. Wherever OCI is, we’re doing better for the community and creating more jobs for the area, and that’s really powerful to me.
What does having an impact mean to you?
Impact means it’s more than just about me. It’s for my kids, the kids of every employee here. Everyone in the community too. I always want to have a positive impact on somebody, because if I can make you smile, then that makes your day, and seeing you smile makes mine. That’s the way I look at life, when I’m here and when I’m outside of work too. You never know what someone’s going through, and I always want to have a positive impact in some way.
How have you seen OCI’s growth in action?
For years we were doing interviews for people to come into operations roles here, and we’d get 10-15, maybe 20 applicants. I didn’t understand why we were getting such low numbers when other companies were getting so many more applications for similar roles. Then, a year ago when we broke ground on the blue ammonia plant, we put out a hiring call for operations and suddenly we started getting hundreds of applications. I asked someone we were interviewing why they wanted to work for OCI, and they said, there were years where they would drive by our site and wouldn’t even notice it because we are a little off the main path behind a line of trees. But then we made the news announcement about the blue ammonia plant we were building, and everybody started seeing us. Everyone suddenly wanted to work for OCI because they could see how big we were getting.
In this area, there are so many opportunities to work for huge global companies, and to see people choose OCI means a lot to me. I think that’s because they can see our values and our ambitions, they know it’s a place to come and grow your career. For us to have that recognition, that says everything it needs to say.
Finally, why should people join OCI?
It’s a family – it’s not every day that you get to work for a place where they want you to succeed and will go out of their way to give you the tools to succeed. At OCI, we look at people and we look for their potential. We ask ourselves what we can do to get you where you want to go and help you achieve your goals. The support here is phenomenal. Something I tell my people is that I want you to be better than me, because I want to see you sitting where I’m sitting one day, and that’s the kind of atmosphere we have here – no one’s trying to hold you down. We want people to be better, smarter – and that is the way I train people, so I can help them grow to reach their full potential.
To find out more about how you could have an impact in a career at OCI, visit our careers site here.