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SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY

MARIE-PHILIPPE DROUIN

“In my short time here I’ve already been exposed to far more engineering that I ever covered in school.”

As a chemical engineering student at Laval University, Marie-Philippe Drouin had the chance to help make Resolute Forest Products’ thermomechanical pulping (TMP) process more efficient. She never expected that project would take her straight from the classroom into Resolute’s pulp and paper mill in Jonquière, Quebec. But that’s exactly what happened. Within her first year on the job, she was named coordinator and then superintendent of the TMP department. Marie-Philippe works in Canada’s forest products industry — the GreenestWorkforce.

This is her story.

In April 2013, the manager of Resolute’s Kénogami mill in Jonquière came to my class at Laval University and presented us with an interesting opportunity for a year-end grad project: four months of research into optimizing the mill’s TMP processes. Though I didn’t know much about the forestry industry at the time, I volunteered. That project got me really interested in the company, and when I was finished the manager told me about Resolute’s new internship program for engineers. I applied and was hired as a junior chemical engineer that summer.

Right out of school, I was on the mill floor working to make the TMP process more efficient, optimizing the length of wood fibre and improving the mill’s energy efficiency. In June 2014, I was named TMP coordinator. In October, I was promoted to superintendent of the TMP department and now I handle the planning, organization and management of the pulp transformation process.

My work with Resolute has opened my eyes to the fact that papermaking is a dynamic field that’s constantly evolving. Before I came to the mill, I thought my job would be pretty straightforward. The process of taking wood chips and turning them into paper has existed for generations, so I didn’t really think there would be much to improve. Yet every day we’re finding small improvements to make, working on the fine details that will give us a higher quality product at a better price.

When my friends first heard I was going to work here, they all told me to be careful, thinking it would be dangerous. But Resolute insists on tonnes of training before you’re even allowed on the mill floor. Safety is such an important part of the culture here.

One of the things I like most about working in a pulp and paper mill is that it’s an energetic and active workplace. Also, I like that this is a “real” job where you get to see a project all the way through to the end, from raw material to finished product. But above all, I love that I’m learning something new all the time. In my short time here, I’ve already been exposed to far more engineering than I ever covered in school. Some of my friends went to work for engineering consulting firms where they focus on just a small part of a larger process. Here, I’m working closely with mechanical and electrical engineers and learning from them every day. Not every engineer gets access to this kind of collaborative setting.

Because my work has introduced me to so many different areas of engineering, I know I am becoming a better, more well-rounded professional. And with a lot of retirements coming up, I’ll definitely have opportunities for advancement.