Amanda Tatem ’20, a chemical engineer at Eastern Research Group, Inc. in Washington D.C.

First jobs: Amanda Tatem ’20

In her first job out of college, this alumna combines her engineering know-how with her passion for the environment

Amanda Tatem poses for a photo outdoors in her cap and gown

NEW JOB, NEW CITY: Two and a half years into her first post-college job, Tatem, a Greater Philadelphia native, has launched her career as a chemical engineer at Eastern Research Group, Inc. in Washington, D.C.

What does your job involve?

I work on Eastern Research Group, Inc.’s (ERG) facilities and process engineering team as a chemical engineer. ERG is a consultancy that serves federal clients such as the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency. My job is to analyze operations, systems, and equipment used in our clients’ manufacturing facilities and prepare process safety and quality documentation. This includes analyzing data, performing hazard analyses, writing and editing operating procedures, and producing technical reports.

How did your education prepare you?

As a chemical engineering major with a minor in environmental engineering, Rochester taught me to fine-tune my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Rochester also honed my attention to detail. These are all especially important skills to tap into when documenting operating procedures and identifying potential safety issues (all those lab reports I wrote in college turned out to be really great training exercises).

Rochester helped me sharpen my soft skills, too. Group projects helped me practice how to work effectively and collaboratively within interdisciplinary teams. I learned leadership and presentation skills on the executive board of the Society of Women Engineers and as part of a student club associated with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Was there a pivotal Rochester experience that helped point you in your current direction?

I can think of two. I was part of a research project with Professor David Foster. In his lab, I learned about computational fluid dynamics and how to use simulation software to model fuel cells, which I really enjoyed. That experience showed me how much I enjoy engineering and wanted to continue pursuing technical work. The second happened during the summer after my junior year. That’s when I interned with Booz Allen Hamilton, a consultancy in D.C. Both experiences pointed me in this career direction, toward a job where I can practically apply engineering skills while working with a range of clients, projects, and people.

How did you find the job?

I saw this job posted on LinkedIn, applied, did a phone screening interview, and then was invited to interview via Zoom. I relocated from the Philadelphia suburbs to northern Virginia for the job and I now spend about half the week onsite at client facilities. I love it.

What would surprise people to know?

I’ve played the flute since I was about 9 years old. During college, I was a part of the wind symphony, which gave me a creative outlet and taught me how to work with a large group and understand my role within it.

What do you like most about your job?

I get to work on a wide variety of projects, interact with different clients and coworkers, and hone different types of skills, such as those related to process safety and technical writing. I love that every project is different. This job has also shown me that I am never done learning and I really like that.

What’s most challenging?

Starting my career has given me a new perspective on what it means to do my best. It definitely adds some pressure. It’s clear to me that the potential consequences are far greater than when I was in college and my work “just” affected me. Now, my work affects my colleagues, company, and clients. And, there’s money involved along with safety implications. At the same time, excelling at work is really fulfilling.

What do you do when you aren’t at work?

Washington, D.C. is full of museums, restaurants, and culture. And, just outside the city, there are so many parks and places to hike. I’ve also tapped into my Rochester network. I’m a member of the Young Alumni Council and the D.C. regional network, both of which have helped me meet, network, and make friends. Being alumni gives us a built-in bond with each other.

What was your first job out of college?

What was your first job after earning your Rochester degree? We’d like to hear from you, whether you are in that first job now, or would like to share recollections in hindsight. How did your education prepare you, whether directly or in the most unexpected ways? Fill out this form and let us know. We may even feature you in an upcoming story or on social media.

Stay connected

Attend a local event, join one of our networks, or participate in a group such as the University’s Young Alumni Council. Also, consider becoming part of The Meliora Collective. Designed for alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students, this unique online platform helps foster personal and professional exploration.

—Kristine Kappel Thompson, January 2023