Karen Kendi Gitonga is a graduate mechanical engineer from The Technical University of Kenya. Her jovial and sarcastic nature, coupled with her love for poetry, visual arts, and a good story led her to join a book club.
Q: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
A: I am a production shift engineer at Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd. My day begins with the identification of the production schedule, which includes the inputs and outputs. Preparation of the reports on the stock levels pertaining to my department is also part of my daily tasks.
Q: Did you always know that working in engineering was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into mechanical engineering? What inspired you?
A: My inspiration was cars, I am fascinated by the idea of designing a bunch of items in such an intricate way that you end up with a product that can easily travel at 240 km/hr while maintaining stability and control.
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: Gender bias is always something a woman has to face in their daily life, in and out of the workplace. Owning your space is the way to go. I always remind myself that I have gotten this far because I am qualified and worthy of my achievements. I have always found that the only constant is change and every generation has a responsibility to create a better world.
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?
Women are slowly realizing they deserve a place at the table and it is our prerogative to grab opportunities and run with them. I love that the new generation (Generation Alpha) is not scared to go after what they want; gender does not play into their dreams. I pray that they maintain that resilience and build a society that is more open and accepting of change.
Q: How would you explain your Engineering field to young girls?
Mechanical engineering checks, designs, and studies motion. It is our job to ensure safe, efficient, and effective solutions to human problems.
Q: What message would you give to young girls to inspire them to pursue Engineering?
A: Believe in yourself, build the knowledge within yourself, and be confident. Remember you are human and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Ask questions because that is how you learn.