Bubblin’ crude… oil, that is


Mechanical engineer Madison Whitt spoke about her job at ExxonMobil.
Mechanical engineer Madison Whitt spoke about her job at ExxonMobil.
Illinois alumna Madison Whitt recently returned to campus to speak about her job at ExxonMobil. Whitt graduated in 2013 with a BS in mechanical engineering and now works as a mechanical engineer at Exxon’s Joliet, Illinois, refinery. 

ExxonMobil has a presence on six continents with close to 80,000 employees. The company and its contemporaries can be divided into three sectors: upstream, downstream, and chemical.  Upstream is the management sector, with focuses such as development, production, research, and gas marketing.  Chemical has to do with manufacturing and related marketing, while downstream, aka the field, contains refining, supply, lubes & specialties, and fuels marketing. It’s helpful to know what sector you want to be in, because once you’re in it can be hard to cross over. Whitt works in downstream, exactly where she wanted to be. 

“Even if you’ve got an offer, unless you’re one hundred percent sure, you should still check out career fairs and know your options,” Whitt said. “I had other job offers, but they were for upstream and I knew I wanted to work in the field.”

At Exxon, jobs within the tech track move around every two years or so. It could be a small change, like being put in a different group, or a more significant one such as a physical move to another plant, if you’re open to it.  “It gives you more experience,” Whitt said. She works in fixed equipment, which consists mainly of piping, heat exchangers, and pressure vessels. 

On a typical day, Whitt starts out with a team meeting, where she reviews the status of different units in the plant and figures out her work priorities for the day. She’ll spend around sixty percent of her day at her desk working on engineering packages. These packages are often for daily operations and maintenance such as repair, implementing new piping, and rerating vessels per ASME code. She also works with other groups on design packages, communicates with vendors about purchased equipment, and checks equipment in the plant.

Whitt advises that you use your classes and resources to build skillsets. “Your skillset can really come through in your career,” she said. She minored in the Hoeft Technology & Management program, and used this experience to build business skills. “You have a toolbox and you want to fill it with tools. That’s different from just having a minor on your resume,” she said.  TAM 210 and 251, and ME 330, 371, and 431 all were also helpful in Whitt’s job. 

“You should pursue what you’re passionate about,” Whitt said. “I’m not passionate about oil, but I am passionate about working with people, and my job allows me to do that.”