Engineering Women Inspiring Positive Change – Cecilia Oguta
Cecilia is a Field Applications Engineer. Her work mainly focuses on compressed air systems installation, energy audit, quality audit and marketing of compressed air optimization products. Cecilia is passionate about energy efficiency and environmental conservation which is in line with her current role that involves compressed air systems optimization to reduce the amount of air used by manufacturers which in turn reduces energy consumption.
Q: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
A: When working on a project, I get to site at 7 or 8am, we have a toolbox meeting where we discuss safety issues, acknowledge the achievements of the previous day and plan on the work for the day (we do have a general plan but daily we review and set new targets where necessary).
Supervision of technicians which entails ensuring that installations are done as per the working drawings and necessary consultations done before adjustments. Daily project progress and safety reports preparation together with the coordination of work between the client and our company.
Q: Did you always know that working in engineering was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into chemical engineering? What inspired you?
A: I have always been a strategic and critical thinker. Throughout my childhood I was fascinated and interested in knowing how products were developed and thus my passion for Engineering was born. I settled for Chemical and Process Engineering as this is where my passion for developing and understanding how things are made could be cultivated and natured into a career.
I drew inspirations from my cousin who is in a similar field and has been my mentor in ensuring that I grow as a person.
Q: I don’t think it’s any secret that many women in STEM have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived and/or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
A: Of course one thing that cuts across is that you always have to prove that you are capable, even if it’s obvious. Working in the field involves interacting with many male technicians, engineers and consultants who at times don’t take your ideas seriously especially the technicians because some believe female engineers are just favored to be in those posts and they have no technical knowhow.
In such situations, I try to be firm on the ideas I give and also listen to other people’s views in order to come to a final agreement before the given work starts/continues (we have to disagree to agree at times). But am glad most male Engineers understand us and actually like working with women because we do projects on time, less on-site issues and material losses and the fact that we are patient enough to handle different teams with little or no conflicts arising.
Q: What is your take on the number of women in engineering? Why do you think that’s the case? What do you think can be done to change that?
A: There are few women in Engineering and out of the few that graduate, most opt to do other things, mostly sales which is less stressful compared to doing actual engineering design and implementation projects.
Engineering is perceived by the society to be a tedious, dirty and a manly career hence many women who develop an interest are not encouraged by their families and thus shy away from it. In my own opinion, there should be more awareness programs encouraging women to venture into this prestigious career. This should target girls, especially at the High School Level.
Q: How would you explain your Engineering field to young girls?
A: Chemical and Process Engineering is a field of study involving development and application of industrial processes, mechanics, basic electronics and analytics of chemical reactions (chemical research). This field of study exposes you to relevant knowledge to work in any manufacturing plant, oil and gas industry, energy management, research institutions and engineering equipment sales.
Q: What message would you give to young girls to inspire them to pursue Engineering?
A: They say necessity is the mother of invention and with the insatiable nature of human wants, engineering inventions and improvements have proven to be the key to making life easier. Basically everything we use in our day to day life is as a result of engineering. Maintaining these systems also creates the constant need for engineers and that is why I believe an engineer can never lack a space to fit in. Creating something from scratch and watching it grow to completion and be in use by the society is the most fulfilling experience anyone can ever have.
I therefore encourage young girls to pursue engineering to boost their thinking (we do think a lot) and experience working with different and diverse teams that helps in developing various soft skills.