Naomi Jabbari, Professional Engineer for S&B ENGINEERS & CONSTRUCTORS

The multisectoral skills of a heat transfer engineer

Naomi Jabbari is a heat transfer engineer for S&B ENGINEERS AND CONSTRUCTORS, based in Houston, Texas, USA. Naomi’s role is vast and varied, ranging from equipment selection to thermal and mechanical design, and purchase ordering. Naomi is also the Chairperson for our Heat Exchanger World Americas Conference & Expo which will take place in Houston, Texas on 1st and 2nd December.
 
^ Naomi Jabbari, Professional Engineer for S&B ENGINEERS & CONSTRUCTORS

Article by Ellie Pritchard
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Naomi Jabbari draws from a background in mechanical engineering and a Master’s degree in energy studies to fulfil an extensive and varied role. “When I was taking my Bachelor’s degree, I realized I had a real interest in heat transfer, thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. I finally settled on heat transfer and joined the oil and gas sector”, Naomi says. She has been working as a heat transfer engineer for 13 years and currently works for S&B ENGINEERS AND CONSTRUCTORS as a professional engineer. The company offers in-house engineering, procurement, direct-hire construction, and fabrication services to multiple industries across the US and beyond.

A connecting link

Naomi explains that there are many aspects to her role as heat transfer engineer. “I select the appropriate type of heat exchanger required for certain applications. There are more conventional types such as shell and tube exchangers, air coolers, hairpin and electric heaters - I do both thermal design and mechanical design for those exchangers. This means also composing mechanical documents and data sheets.” As well as this, Naomi also selects technical parts directly from suppliers as a requisition engineer, meaning that she is also responsible for sourcing appropriate producers and assessing their quality.

“I would describe my role as a connection between end users and manufacturers. I am connecting these two stages together by designing the exchangers, and then selecting specific equipment purchased from suppliers and manufacturers. I then provide the equipment to the end user, which is a refinery or petrochemical plant, for example.”

Unique design every time

Much of Naomi’s work is conducted through oil and gas or petrochemical projects in the down- and mid-stream sectors. The company can handle responsibilities from process engineering, mechanical engineering, piping, and inspection. It is this variety of projects that Naomi enjoys most.

“Working as a heat transfer engineer means that I am not limited to just one sector”, she explains. “Depending on the project requirements, I can apply my design and engineering skills to oil fractionation, or natural gas facilities, or petrochemical process units and biofuels.” But this range of work is also challenging, especially when switching between projects from different industries. “Different clients need different types of equipment for different processes, so we have to be familiar with all of these requirements and know the exact specifications,” Naomi says. “So it is challenging, but also it is very interesting. It is not a boring job; every part of the process is very unique. Each time I design an exchanger, it is different from the one before, I really enjoy that.”

A hybrid skillset

A heat exchanger can appear in many forms and in many industries. For this reason, a heat transfer engineer is something of a multi-disciplinary role. Naomi goes on to explain how this position stands out from the rest of the engineering sector. “In this industry, most engineers are either pure thermal designer or pure mechanical designer, but for us, it is important to have knowledge from process engineering, thermal and mechanical engineering.”

In order to keep knowledge up to date in both areas, Naomi explains that she is always learning and finds good team connections to be complementary to doing the job well. “A heat transfer engineer has to have a good relationship with process, inspection, and piping teams and be able to coordinate all of them.”

Good culture builds strong teams


It is not always easy for newly qualified engineers to break into their chosen industry. Although Naomi Jabbari has been working in the heat transfer industry for 13 years, she attributes her strong start in the sector to a good team of people who supported her both then and now in her current role. “S&B is a really good company with a very good culture,” she says. “People help each other a lot, and everybody tries to solve the problem. There is a good combination of very experienced people and a younger generation of engineers, who work together to build a strong working relationship”.

More support for women in engineering

Naomi Jabbari is a well-qualified and professional asset to the world of heat transfer; her ability to navigate multiple sectors and apply her knowledge to bring projects to a successful end means that she is making strides. But it must be acknowledged that Naomi is part of a female minority in a largely male-dominated industry. “As a woman, you do often have to work a bit harder,” she says. “As a mother of two children, I sometimes face some difficulties in managing my work life and my personal life.” 

Naomi explains that after her second child was born, she needed to take some time away from work, which was a very difficult decision to make. “It wasn’t easy for me to choose between two things that I love, my job and my children, but my family needed me at that time.” Naomi returned to her job one year later, but she acknowledges that this is not a decision that a male counterpart in her position would necessarily need to make. “I do feel that more support should be provided for women and especially for mothers”, she concludes.
 

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