How a Chemical Engineer became a Data Engineer

by Mohammed Rahman

08 Dec '21

In this blog Rockborne consultant Mohammed Rahman explores what drew him to the Data & Analytics industry after studying to become a chemical engineer.


Five years and 6 months; the amount of time I dedicated to becoming a chemical engineer. From the opener, perhaps you’re thinking “Why and how on Earth did he move into the data analytics industry?!”.  I’m hoping that this blog post will answer this question and provide insight for undergraduates interested in moving away from their discipline’s traditional industry trajectory, and towards data and analytics.


Four years of my life were spent as a starry-eyed student at the University of Surrey, learning about key engineering ideas that I was confident I’d apply in my future job. I spent a further year within the water industry as an engineering innovation scout, and another six months within the oil and gas industry securing business for a simulation software company.


Even though I had spent a large amount of time applying the concepts I had studied during my degree, I was dissatisfied with the work I was doing. Rather than shackle myself to a job I didn’t enjoy, I began exploring for new employment prospects and spent the majority of my lunches and weekends applying for jobs.


A Life Changing Call

I was sitting in my home office during lunch, eating a mediocre tuna sandwich when I received a call from Amy Foster, one of Rockborne’s founding partners and the most amiable recruiter I’ve ever met. I had only applied to Rockbourne’s Data Engineering programme a week before and was pleasantly surprised to receive a response so quickly. I progressed through the interview stages and eventually had my second interview, after which I got an offer. An offer I accepted without hesitation. It’s fair to say – it was one of the smoothest recruitment processes I have ever been through

My Perspective

I spent a significant portion of time reflecting on the decision I had made after the adrenaline rush of being offered a job had worn off. I took a long, hard look in the mirror and posed several unpleasant questions to myself which I’ve included below. I’ve also taken the liberty of including my internal monologue on the queries I posed to myself.

Is moving to the data industry really the smart move?

The data and analytics business is predicted to develop at an unprecedented rate, reaching $103 billion by 2023 in the US alone. I also asked Amy, who has worked in a plethora of industries, if she thought the data market would become saturated. Her remark, which I have paraphrased in the following statement, was brief but meaningful, and it helped me to make up my mind about the situation. “The industry will not get saturated. Data and analytics is one of the few topics that spans all industries, thus there are opportunities everywhere”.

Isn’t all that time you spent at University wasted?

No, certainly not, is the quick response. Yes, I spent numerous evenings pondering intriguing (sarcasm) things like the laws of thermodynamics and mass/heat balances, but it would be naive to believe that was all I learnt. My degree, like any other STEM degree, equips students with an analytical mentality and the capacity to quickly learn about complicated topics. The degree is a figurative key that can be used to open any door you’d like. I just happened to pick the data door, which led to a rewarding career, unlimited opportunities, and a large sum of money.

Isn’t data engineering hard, I don’t think I’m good enough?

If you’ve graduated from University, you’re more than capable of becoming a data engineer.  Yes, you’ll have to learn new skills, but you’ve been doing this throughout your degree. Consider how far you’ve come since you were a first-year student and how much you’ve learnt. Chances are, you’re a lot better at learning now and so picking up tools such as Python, SQL and Power BI; if you haven’t come across them before, you will enjoy learning them and picking them up.


The number of graduates leaving universities is increasing exponentially and the number of jobs available in certain industries is dwindling equally as fast. As a result of this unavoidable trend, fresh graduates must extend their employment horizons and consider non-traditional paths.


The goal of this blog article was to give graduates a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like moving away from their degree’s typical industries and provide them with a sense of hope, hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it


If you would like to know more about why Rockborne is a great route into the Data & Analytics industry click HERE.


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