Emerson’s Ana Gonzalez Hernandez joins our continuing podcast series, 5 questions for an Emerson Expert. Ana received her PhD from the University of Cambridge and is a resource efficiency consultant within the Operational Certainty consulting team.
We’ll have an in-depth podcast in the coming weeks on how the Operational Certainty consultants are applying Ana’s research to work with manufacturers on data-driven analytical approaches to materials usage and energy consumption to drive sustainability and efficiency performance improvements.
Jim: Hi, everybody. This is Jim Cahill, with another edition of “Five Questions for an Emerson Expert” podcast. And today I’m joined by Ana Gonzalez Hernandez. Ana is a resource efficiency consultant based over in the United Kingdom. Welcome, Ana.
Ana: Hi, Jim.
Jim: It’s great to have you. I always like to start out and understand a little bit about how folks get to where they are. So, what made you decide to pursue a STEM-based career?
Ana: For all of us, for all the engineers, it’s a bit the same… we’re interested in physics and maths and we’re actually good at it. We’re good with numbers and, that combined with the fact that we’re curious about the environment that we live in. In general, that’s what got me interested in studying science.
And originally, I actually wanted to study physics. And my mum is a physicist. So, when I told her I wanted to study physics, the first thing she said was, “No, just don’t do that to yourself.” She helped me try and figure out whether engineering was a better route for using my physics and maths skills, and I’m really grateful for that.
Once we started getting into those discussions, I started visiting universities and learning more about engineering. Because in my school…so I studied in Spain, in the Canary Islands and I went to a British school, but the knowledge that you learn in school about engineering at least for me was minimal.
I had to actively go and inform myself about what engineering meant when I was 16 and 17. I guess it was thanks to my mum and by going out and talking to universities about engineering that I ended up studying mechanical engineering.
Jim: Well, that’s a fascinating path and very interesting that your mum steered you away from what she was doing. Kind of with that background, what led you to a career in the field of process automation?
Ana: To be honest with you, I started off doing my PhD in the field of sustainability and resource efficiency. And that was my prime interest, four years ago. Emerson was committed at that point to fund research on resource efficiency, and through that then I realized that a company like Emerson who has expertise in control, flow metering, etc… they are the essential building blocks to improve resource efficiency.
We’re in a world where, process automation is undergoing digital transformation and data analytics, and all our decisions are data-driven now. I think being in a process automation company is the best way to get to improve the resource efficiency of process industries.
Jim: Well, that’s interesting what you were studying and then that sounded like a good fit…I guess working with Emerson to do it because they had the technologies and some of the resources so that you could see advancements happen. Tell us about a recent challenge that you’ve been working on to solve?
Ana: The biggest challenge is transforming the research I did in my PhD into an actual engineering solution with Emerson. That’s probably the big challenge that I’ll be working on for the next few years. Transferring conceptual theoretical knowledge into a practical engineering solution through these data analytic skills and through all the digital transformation capabilities that Emerson is developing, we’re able to hopefully turn the concepts into reality.
Jim: Based on the time that you’ve been with Emerson in here, are you seeing a path to be able to do that from the research into practical applications that our consultants can improve customers’ resource efficiency?
Ana: Certainly, I think it’s receiving a lot of attention. People are really interested in leveraging the value of data specifically to improve a company’s sustainability. Companies themselves have started to realize that they need to be thinking about their resources and how they can manage these better. And so, I certainly see a bright future within Emerson.
Jim: That’s great. Enough about process automation and resource efficiency. Outside of what you do on your work time, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Ana: I love graphic design. I think that was something that I developed as well during my undergraduate degree. In mechanical engineering, we do a lot of product design and through the product design, I had lectures on graphic design as well. And so, then I started developing those skills outside of university as well. I’ve been doing graphic design work for about five years now developing logos and brochures and presentations, all kinds of things. And it’s very useful for my job as well.
Jim: Yeah. So much of conveying ideas through a visual medium. That’s fascinating that you’ve developed those skills and be able to apply it. We have a lot of new people joining the world of manufacturing and process automation and everything. What advice would you have for someone new coming into the field?
Ana: I think now more and more we’re undergoing a digital transformation, so I think being an expert on data analytics, being able to program and do software development is probably a big part of what a lot of engineers in Emerson will be doing in the coming decades.
My advice is to get some training on that and to not be scared of coming into the process automation industry, especially for women. There are some of us in here and there’ll be more and more of us, so just don’t be scared of coming in.
Jim: Well, I think that’s some great advice for everyone and I really appreciate you joining us today. Thanks a lot.
Ana: Thanks for having me, Jim.
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