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August/September 2012

Diversity/Careers August/September 2012




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Diversity In Action

BASF creates chemistry for a sustainable future

This leading chemical company wants to bring in talented engineers who demonstrate leadership, teamwork and customer focus. Diversity is an important value


Global chemical company BASF looks for a broad range of skills. There's a need for MEs, EEs and CEs as well as ChEs, says Bernadette Palumbo, director of talent acquisition and university recruitment. "We like candidates who demonstrate competencies we feel are valuable, like leadership, teamwork, entrepreneurial drive and strong customer focus," she says.

BASF's mission is "to create chemistry for a sustainable future." The company has long been recognized for its highly integrated approach to manufacturing. Palumbo explains that BASF capitalizes on a concept called "Verbund:" a German word that translates as "linked" or "integrated to the maximum degree."

At BASF, the concept leads to maximum integration of infrastructure, process energy and waste management. Globally, BASF has six Verbund sites around the world, including two in the U.S., in Geismar, LA and Freeport, TX. BASF has 111,000 employees worldwide, and 370 total production sites, and is generally recognized as the world's largest global chemical company.

BASF currently has jobs available in most locations, Palumbo says. Engineering will continue to be a strong area of recruiting this year. BASF employs some 1,000 engineers and IT professionals in North America.

The company looks for early-career engineers to join its professional development program (PDP). The eighteen-month rotational program introduces participants to a variety of company sites and projects, including opportunities to work internationally. "About fifty recent engineering graduates participated in 2011," Palumbo reports.

This year the company started a new rotational program for IT professionals, filling needs in BASF's business solutions group. "We need strong technical backgrounds in SAP and other areas of software expertise, and we also need people who combine strong business and technical skills," Palumbo says.

"We intend to expand our university recruiting efforts and partner with our sites to recruit college grads for entry-level job opportunities outside the PDPs," Palumbo adds.

Core schools for the engineering PDP include Michigan Tech, Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin, LSU, the University of Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. "For us, it's important to both recruit diverse talent and focus on top-ranked schools," Palumbo says.

Patricia Rossman is chief diversity officer for BASF, and also has responsibility for HR communications. She and Palumbo collaborate to broaden recruiting outreach at the universities. They also engage with professional networking associations like the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers. Members of employee resource groups (ERGs) as well as representatives of businesses and functions at BASF accompany recruiters to events.

The company is "expanding and extending a welcome" to new employees with an orientation program that provides ongoing support for eighteen months, with special focus on the value of diversity. As a company slogan notes, the company wants to "create chemistry with people," Rossman says. For example, "Insights Discovery," a new program, looks at the thought processes of different team members, and how that can help to create the best teams for BASF.

The company has a network of global diversity councils. The U.S. regional council's eleven members represent the leadership of major businesses and functions, plus the presidents of the African American and LGBT ERGs.

There are currently five active ERGs, at work for ten years or more. There's a Women in Business group, which has twelve chapters around the region, and groups for African Americans and Latin Americans. Emerging Professionals and Friends is aimed at early-career employees, and ALLchemie has an LGBT focus. The company is currently establishing a sixth ERG for Asian Americans.

To support employees' careers, BASF offers a combination of formal and informal mentoring programs. In 2011, a pilot mentoring initiative at four key sites paired mentors with mentees outside their direct work areas. "We want to encourage sharing knowledge even more broadly across the company. People will learn how to build a successful BASF career and develop strong cross-business and cross-functional expertise," Rossman explains. The pilot program was so successful that it will be rolled out throughout the region.

BASF won an Alfred P. Sloan award for excellence in workplace effectiveness and flexibility for its "Designed to Fit" program. "This program allows for working with your manager to determine mutually agreeable, flexible scheduling that meets business and personal needs," Rossman says.

A notable outreach initiative to "help create the scientists of the future" is the Kids' Lab, a global science literacy program in which BASF collaborates with local schools, helping children explore science concepts and understand the role chemistry plays.

Community involvement takes many forms at BASF. Participants in the eighteen-month rotational programs are encouraged to get involved in local service projects. "It's our way to demonstrate the kind of company that we are committed to being, for our employees, our customers, and the communities where we live, work and do business," Palumbo says.

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BASF
www.basf.com

Global Headquarters: Ludwigshafen, Germany
North American Headquarters: Florham Park, NJ
Employees: 111,000 global;
16,000 North America
Revenues: 73.5 billion ($96.4 billion) in 2011
Business: Chemicals, plastics, performance products; functional and agricultural solutions; oil and gas

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