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Joining as a 25 year old graduate with an already impressive CV, Francois Wolmarans was quickly immersed into working life at Linde. Currently in the final stage of the LEaD graduate rotational programme in the US, he is not only embracing the opportunities he gets but excelling in them too. In this interview, he reveals more about his path so far.
Francois, could you tell us about your early background – where you are from and where you grew up?
I am actually a citizen of both South Africa and Germany (on my mother’s side). I grew up in Johannesburg but we moved to Orlando, Florida in 2003. I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee where I studied industrial and manufacturing engineering and Chinese language and culture. A strange mix you might say but I just find the Chinese language so interesting!
Where were you working before joining Linde?
Before coming to Linde I was working for Florida State University at the High Performance Materials Institute doing research on nanotechnology – specifically carbon nanotubes and graphene. Our team won an award at the 2013 Nano-technology for Defense conference, and I got invited to speak about our project as primary author at the 2014 National Innovation Summit in Washington DC. A great but pretty nerve-racking experience!
And how did you end up at Linde? Did you find it or did it find you?
I was at the Shell Eco Marathon with the Florida State team. It’s an engineering competition for which Linde is the official global partner. While there, I met a Linde employee who told me all about the LEaD (Learn, Excel, and Develop) rotational development programme where you have three cross-functional engineering and commercial rotations. I gave her my resume and after a successful recruitment process I got offered the job!
“I have a much clearer idea of where I want my career to go after completing the LEaD program.”
“I was very quickly given the autonomy to go out and sell solutions myself.”
You mentioned the LEaD program. Can you tell us more about that?
So you have three rotations over two years. My first was in an Application Sales Engineering position with Food and Beverage. I got to travel the country visiting existing and potential client factories doing R&D and resolving issues. I was very quickly given the autonomy to go out and sell solutions myself. My second rotation was as a Project Manager for the Bulk Applications group in the South-Eastern US. I was responsible for installing new equipment which entailed calculating flows, sizing process piping and ducting, managing contractors, and such.
And what is your current role in Linde?
Currently I’m working as a project engineer for our Electronics & Premium Products (EPP) group in my third rotation located in the Pacific Northwest US. Our team is responsible for planning, building, and expanding specialty chemical production processes that are used in high tech manufacturing.
What is the best thing about the graduate programme?
I don’t think that I can emphasize enough how lucky I am to have been able to participate in production, project management, and technical sales during my rotations. I have a much clearer idea of where I want my career to go after completing the LEaD program.
Any career highlights at Linde so far?
It’s more a series of highlights. The first has to me my first sale after only six months. The second was when I successfully identified and resolved a potentially dangerous gas leak during a customer site visit and the third was seeing some of the ideas I submitted as part of a technological team project being picked up and put into practice!
So what is next for you? Where do you see yourself in the future?
My third rotation is coming to an end, and I have accepted a new role with the company as a Premium Products Sales Specialist for the Electronics and Premium Products group! I think it is going to be a great challenge and can’t wait to get started in the new role and grow my skill set!