Women in Engineering Inspiring Positive Change – June Wangeci
June is a Civil Engineer graduate in waiting. She has completed her studies at The University of Nairobi and is set to graduate in December 2020. She is currently working as an intern at KeNHA, working on the James Gichuru-Rironi Road rehabilitation and capacity enhancement project.
When she is not working, June volunteers her time helping the less fortunate and as such she is a member of Rotaract club of Nairobi Parklands and served as president of the club for the year 2018/19. Currently June is serving as RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) chairperson for the year 2020/21. (RYLA is a Rotary country event that involves training young people on Leadership skills that are useful in their professional and personal life. The workshops and seminars bring together professionals from various fields to empower young people aged 18-30 years)
June says she is a lady striving to live a quality life, get spectacularly good at her profession and leave a legacy for posterity.
Q: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
A: A typical day involves getting to the site office by 8am, and on site by 8:30am. I work under the supervision team which inspects works carried out by the contractor, giving recommendations and advising them where appropriate. We are also tasked with inspecting casting works at the yard and ensuring the material being employed meets the specifications set in the design. Works on site proceed until 5pm on weekdays and 1pm on weekends.
Q: Did you always know that working in engineering was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into civil engineering? What inspired you?
A: At first, I wanted to be an Orthopedic doctor. Ha! In hindsight, it would never have worked out.
Ultimately, I can say civil engineering chose me because that’s what I got called to study at The University of Nairobi. If given another shot, I would still end up in this field. It grew on me. Our relationship is a flourishing one. My love for science and math fueled my interest. It still does. There is so much to learn…so many interesting things to see. If your interest is in understanding how things work beyond face value, engineering is for you.
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: Oh my!
How can I put this kindly……?
I am constantly reminded that I am a woman when I go to work! From snarky comments to uncomfortable banter. Be ready for it. I’ve learned to maintain a steady look when these remarks are directed at me. This involves being polite yet firm.
As a woman, you will probably have to work twice as hard to prove your worth in this male-dominated field. Master your craft such that you can demonstrate your knowledge when questioned. Learn software. Research. It would be better not to expect any free passes because of your femininity. Instead use it to your advantage to gain experience in the field.
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: The number is encouraging. Women in the field of engineering can advance in their career not only as a result of the gender laws, but also due to sheer diligence. In my opinion, Women in engineering, through organizations and even as individuals, should be more visible to young ladies so that they can motivate them to take up courses in STEM. You will be pressed on all sides, but if you have a passion for STEM, aggressively pursue it with all you’ve got.
Q: How would you explain your Engineering field to young girls?
A: Civil Engineering is the practice of design and construction of civil works such as roads, highways, water, public health systems and structural works.
Q: What message would you give to young girls to inspire them to pursue Engineering?
A: Miracles and luck do not make good engineers. Constant curiosity and a love for the craft does. You need to have strategy.
You must study hard and get good grades.
You must do research on your field of interest.
You must network with those in the field, get meaningful mentors.
You must be willing to take constant criticism.
It is a lot. I won’t lie. But the benefits double up on the investment every time.