Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

John McCracken, '08 ChE


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John and his wife, Julie, on a recent vacation.

 

1. Why did you choose Auburn, and select chemical engineering as your major?

I have loved Auburn ever since I was a kid. My dad is an Auburn alum and he would take me to football games growing up.  Our house was an Auburn house through and through. I always wanted attend Auburn and never saw myself anywhere else.  It was the only school I applied for so I’m glad I got in!

I always enjoyed math and science growing up. I was fortunate to get a small scholarship as a freshman in chemical engineering. During my sophomore year, I started to hit the core chemical engineering courses which were extremely tough. I had to adjust to homework that took longer than 30 minutes to complete! I started to question whether or not chemical engineering was really for me. I was always interested in computers and thought long and hard about switching to electrical and computer engineering. Ultimately, I decided to stay with chemical because of the career opportunities, friends, scholarships and at the time it was the highest paying degree within the college.

2. Since graduating, what have you done professionally (before ExxonMobil?) Why did you choose to work for your current employer ExxonMobil?  

I was hired by ExxonMobil directly out of school. Prior to graduating I co-op’d with a paper mill in my home town. One of the biggest things I learned from my co-op is that I did not want to live in a small town working at a paper mill after I graduated.  During the interview process, ExxonMobil gave me a great offer to work in their Upstream Development company on huge capital projects around the world. Moving to a big city (Houston), the promise of world travel, and working for the biggest company in the U.S. was too good to pass up. I’ve been working for ExxonMobil ever since.

3. What is your job role at ExxonMobil? What major projects are you currently working on?

I’ve had multiple roles at ExxonMobil over the last seven years.  I started my career in execution planning and contracting, and then worked as the construction lead. My current role is the commissioning lead for the Kearl Oil Sands Expansion project.  The project is a multi-billion dollar oil sands mining, extraction and production facility located in northern Alberta, Canada. My role is to lead a team to commission and start-up the mining side of the plant.

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John, and his fellow chemical engineering graduates in 2008.

4. How did earning an Auburn Engineering degree prepare you for your job and future?

First, I would have never gotten the job without an engineering degree. For that, I’m very thankful. Second, I haven’t used my degree from a design perspective as much as I thought I would have.   I haven’t completed a material and energy balance for work. I’ve never used differential equations to solve a problem.  What Auburn taught me is much more valuable than technical specifics. Auburn taught me how to break down a problem and think, how to communicate technical issues and solutions, and how to work in a team to accomplish a goal.  I’m a believer that the degree teaches us how to solve problems and gives a certain skill set for design, but most of what you need for the job you will learn on the job. An engineering degree gives you the basis to learn anything.

5. What advice would you offer engineering students?

1. Manage your time – Engineering is hard, but I believe anyone can complete the course work. The key is managing your time by prioritizing school work ahead of play. There is still plenty of    time to enjoy the college experience without sacrificing the education.

2.  Be open to different careers – Engineering opens doors to almost every industry and business. Don’t think that getting an engineering degree means you will be designing bridges for a living.  That is far from the truth.  Engineering teaches you critical thinking and problem solving, Skills that all employers like to see in their employees.

3. Work together – One of the things that made engineering fun for me was the group of friends I made. We studied, went to football games and celebrated together.  I would not have been       as successful on my own. Find a group of people and work together. This will prepare you for the workplace. It is very difficult to do anything on your own, and as a leader, your accomplishments will be made through other people.

4. Find leadership opportunities – Success is often driven by your ability to influence other people. Expand this skillset in yourself by taking on leadership roles around campus. It could be a club sport, a fraternity or sorority, an honor society, SGA or anything else. Take the opportunity in school to learn some effective leadership traits that will truly help you in the workplace. The experiences you gain from your leadership roles will be essential to landing a job after graduation. Last but not least, have fun!

6. How do you give back to Auburn Engineering? And why is it important for young alumni to give back or engage with the college?

I primarily give back through annual donations to the college. Auburn’s reputation as a school is my reputation; therefore, I have a vested interest in the improvement of Auburn’s academic program. I also want today’s and tomorrow’s students to get as much as possible from the program and I’m proud to help make that possible. 

7. What is your favorite Auburn memory or War Eagle moment?

My favorite memories are with my friends. Football games are easy choices, but my favorite was graduation.  As a team, we worked through the course material for four years together. Making it to the finish line with your best friends by your side was the best feeling. 

 

Last Updated: 5/17/17 10:42 AM