WOMEN IN ACR: Soraya Pratten of Hydratech


02 December 2021

Soraya Pratten is the services coordinator at Hydratech - glycol experts for process and hydronic systems. Having progressed through the organisation, Soraya is now responsible for coordinating the engineering team and water treatment projects as part of Hydratech's Fluid Management Services Team.

How did you get into a career in cooling and heating systems?

I joined Hydratech over six years ago as an administrator in the order processing department. As my knowledge and understanding of working fluids (glycols, process coolants, secondary refrigerants etc.) and the associated systems have developed, so my responsibilities have grown.

Hydratech has been formulating and manufacturing heat transfer fluids for over 25 years. However, following consistent demand for technical advice and engineering support, the company recognised the need to take things a step further and provide 'hands on' system filling, flushing and remediation management. The progression into engineering services gave me the opportunity to take on a new challenge as part of Hydratech's FMS (Fluid Management Services) Team. 

My previous job roles have included recruitment, accounts and administration in various sectors such as logistics, steel fabrication, public sector and automotive. I have built up considerable experience in planning, sourcing and customer relations. It's put me in an ideal position for my new role. I love working within a fast-paced environment, dealing with customers and providing solutions, and it's the type of career that suits me down to the ground!

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

I'm responsible for coordinating the engineering team and water treatment projects. I record incoming enquiries, input customer system data and help to plan, prepare and brief the engineers.

My role is diverse, to say the least! It is challenging at times, and you must adapt quickly, helping to provide solutions to whatever comes your way.

Describe a typical day's work.

We work with a diverse range of partners across many business and industry sectors, including food and drink, power stations, data centres, water and waste, construction and renewables, so no two days are the same. I usually start the day with a team briefing to ensure our projects are running as smoothly as possible. I'll then check our email inbox for any new enquiries and input relevant data as necessary.

I act as a link between our customers, our lab technicians and our FMS engineers. As our FMS engineers cover the whole of the UK, it is quite a task to keep up with all of them. So, for example, if fluid samples have been taken from customers' closed-loop systems, I'm responsible for sending the lab results and recommendations to our engineers on the road.

We may receive a customer call or email at any time of day or night to say they have a system failure or system leak and require our assistance. In these cases, I'll set up a meeting with the customer and our engineering team leader to assess the situation and establish the best course of action.

What skills are needed for this role?

Strong organisational skills are essential to coordinate an engineering team. You need to be quick thinking, be able to multitask and have strong problem-solving abilities. Having a technical mindset is important as well to understand fluid characteristics, efficiencies, and the associated systems. Customer service and communication skills are also particularly important.

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What challenges do you face in this role?

I'm a meticulous planner, but my day doesn't always go the way I expected! At times we receive a call that requires our urgent assistance, and we must react quickly. We're pretty good at working to very tight timescales. It's great to be able to provide solutions effectively and avoid costly downtime for our customers.

What are your most significant achievements?

Recently, we had an emergency call-out from one of the largest food processing plants in the world. The 24/7 operation had significant cooling fluid contamination and needed urgent attention. From the initial call for help to engineers attending the site with the appropriate equipment, the response time was less than 18 hours.

I have played a key part in promoting a proactive approach to fluid management, highlighting the importance of regular coolant analysis as a means of proactively monitoring closed-loop system conditions. As a result, we have identified many potential corrosion, biological and sediment related issues before they get out of hand - minimising system damage and unplanned maintenance for our customers.

I consider my career development to be one of my most significant achievements. Hydratech encouraged me to develop my skills and have provided the support I needed to progress in the company. From starting as an administrator, I now assist our engineers on some of the most advanced cooling systems in the world; that is something I am very proud of.

What do you like most about your job?

The team spirit makes all the difference in my job, and they are like my extended family. Everything we do in our FMS department is a group effort. I'm often surprised at how much knowledge and understanding I have of complex cooling and heating systems. Learning something new every day through 'on the job' training is also a big plus.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in your field?

I would recommend gaining as much experience as possible while in education, either through work placements or summer work.

Adopt a consultative approach. Do your background research and understand the customer's requirements. Then, provide the best service you can and deliver proven solutions.

Awareness of individual system design, thermal and pumping demands are key. Detailed publications produced by CIBSE and BSRIA provide excellent guidance on pipework systems' commissioning (and recommissioning).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I usually go to the gym before work. I find it helps me focus my mind on the day ahead. Then, after a busy day in the office, I like to be outdoors in the fresh air walking my dogs. On the weekend, I love eating out and catching up with friends.

  • For more information on Hydratech's Fluid Management Services (FMS) and Fluid Monitoring Program (FMP), contact: Soraya Pratten. Email: [email protected] Tel: 01792 586800.