Faces of Lubricants: Aaron Engel

Apr 13, 2020

Business Development Manager Aaron Engel has been with Ingevity for nearly eight years and has held a variety of roles on the oilfield and lubricants teams. His main responsibilities include feeding our innovation pipeline, managing the innovation process, identifying partners for technical/commercial collaboration, and staying apprised of technical developments throughout the lubricants and oilfield industries. His technical acumen and strong sense of curiosity makes Aaron an invaluable team member. We rely on Aaron to help shape the technology strategy for the oilfield and lubricants businesses.

Tell us about the experience you bring to your role.

After earning my graduate degree in chemistry from Rice University (go owls!), I went to work for a law firm to draft patents for a change. It wasn’t my favorite job, so when I got a call from an oilfield service company to be a mud scientist with their drilling fluid business I leaped at the opportunity! During my eight years in the oil patch, my job took me to two states (Texas, Louisiana), two countries (India, USA) and one body of water (offshore operations, Gulf of Mexico). I gained experience in troubleshooting drilling problems, managing drilling fluid operations, and responding to the time-urgent needs of oilfield customers. I also learned a thing or two about the chemistry and application of drilling fluids.

While at Ingevity, I’ve been blessed to grow my skill set to industrial chemistry, market analysis, patent analysis and general sharpening of my business acumen; all of which I leverage in my current role.

Describe your average day at Ingevity working with the OFT and Lubricants team.

I regularly interact with Ingevity business leaders, commercial teams, technical leads in oilfield and lubricants, and others from Ingevity’s various business functions. Typically, I spend a fair amount of time conducting market-based research, drawing from diverse resources such as technical literature, industry forums, and an extensive Rolodex of technical and business contacts I’ve cultivated over the years. Central to my work is the development of a market thesis around a certain chemistry, application or class of product, then utilizing industry-relevant interviews to shape and refine my thesis. In this way, it helps to make our research truly customer-focused and based on reality.

What’s your go-to productivity trick?

Motion tends to beget action. When my mind is sluggish, I pull it along with my body: walking, standing and typing until my mind is engaged on task.

What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?

My high school wrestling coach put us all through a final training exercise each day, in which one wrestler pinned the other, and the pinned wrestler had to struggle free. Coach always said, “No matter how tired, how bleak, don’t you ever stop trying! Don’t stop wrestling!” I’d say that persistence is the motto I embrace from that experience.

What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?

I was recruited as the technical services manager at Ingevity (then MWV) about eight years ago with a mandate to build, kit and staff a world-class applications lab in drilling fluids. I’m proud to say that our technical services team today creates powerful results that resonate with our customers. Their ability to provide customized offerings, value-added solutions and substantive technical discussions has been a central component to the success of the oilfield technologies group, and I’m proud to have played a small part.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Before school was cancelled due to COVID-19, my 2-year-old daughter banging on the wall at 6 a.m. and my desire to tend to her needs, was a great motivator! Providing for my family and ensuring that we’re all fed and cared for is my reason for being

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Aaron and his wife visiting London.

My former boss told me that in the throes of life and career, you must continue to nurture and cultivate a separate non-work avocation. I see now that he was setting me up to have a fall-back activity, when work years were passed and family was raised. For him, it was honoring an original love of music and playing the guitar. For me, I’d say it’s writing, as I love to wrestle with ideas in my mind and phrases on the page. He also told me not to sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.

What natural talent would you like to have?

Both my father and maternal grandfather were professional orchestra musicians, playing the bassoon and violin, respectively. I’d love to have the ability to express musical talent by playing piano, violin, or singing. I’m a big opera fan and I’ve sung some of the world’s greatest aria while driving.

What is your favorite thing about working at Ingevity?

Having worked many places, I can say that the climate, culture and people make for a supremely relaxed and collaborative work space. Also, being a smaller company, Ingevity gives its employees the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and have an impact, making work very gratifying.

What would we most likely find you doing on the weekend?

When the weather is fine and I have the time, you’ll find me cycling. Though as a newly minted father, I spend a lot of time with my daughter as we work in the shed, pump up bicycle tires, and the like. She loves to help her dad!

What’s the top destination on your must-visit list?

I really enjoy cycling through the Texas hill country when the bluebonnets are in bloom (March), and a number of charity cycling events make group rides possible. I dream of taking my family to Austin next year to enjoy cycling and the countryside. The Swiss Alps are also nearly as pretty, and I’d love to take my family there someday.

Among your friends or family, what are you famous for?

I love to cook and share food with my extended family. I make a mean grilled salmon and a respectable mesquite-smoked Texas-style BBQ brisket.

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Boundless energy.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Aaron at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

They may be surprised to learn that it took me several attempts to get through college physics.

What is special about the place you grew up?

Pittsburgh is a much-maligned town with an excellent mixture of blue-collar sensibility, ethnic diversity, robust cultural institutions and fine universities. Moreover, in recent years it’s seen a renaissance as new families and new high-tech industries flourish there. As my family remains there, I enjoy visiting when I can.

Who inspires you in your life and why?  

Working mothers are amazing, and I have tremendous respect for my dear wife, Rebecca (we just celebrated our 4 year anniversary!). She manages a lead role at her non-profit while caring for our daughter and ensuring that Edith always has engaging activities to learn about our world. As working moms know, pulling off the balancing act is quite challenging! I’ve also always been surrounded by a mother who worked while raising my sister and me. Incredibly, my sister raises four children, ranging in age from 22 to 5, mostly by herself, while working out of the home. These women are incredibly inspiring to me, just as is Senator Tammy Duckworth. Do you know her story?

Senator Duckworth is also a working mother who gave birth in her 40’s while serving in the U.S. Senate and raising a toddler. She began her political career after her Army career, which ended when the Army helicopter she piloted was hit by an Iraqi RPG. The weapon exploded at her feet, causing her to lose her legs. After the crash, the crew nearly left her for dead, but she managed to survive and live out an extremely inspirational story.