Lydia Komen is a Civil and Structural Engineer graduate with 8 years’ experience working in different organizations. She is currently a Power Substations Engineer at Kenya Power. She is passionate about self-care, learning new skills, leadership and gardening. She is married and blessed with two kids.
Q: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
A: My typical day involves fulfilling Contract management tasks of design, detailing and reviewing drawings to ensure contract specifications are meet, Tracking contractor’s progress verses the planned progress, Inspection and Supervision of construction works at site to ensure good quality works, Report writing and documentation, Tracking emerging issues during construction and ensuring timely and cost effective solutions are meet, ensuring the contract is executed within the set budget, Preparing bill of quantities and any other tasks related to my field, just to mention but a few. Throughout the day I also perform administrative duties as well, including drafting documents and emails and filing Project related paperwork.
Q: Did you always know that working in engineering was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into Civil and Structural engineering? What inspired you?
A: I got Inspired by my Dad. He always made me believe that as an Engineer, I will be in a position to change the world around me and achieve greater fulfillment in my life.
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: As a woman Engineer, some people feel like I am Insufficient. They don’t tell it directly on my face, but some of the doubts that I have come across are in form of questions like “You mean you went for Engineering course for five years?” “How did you get into this position?” and such like questions.
In my first Job, the director of the company in the consultancy firm gave me an assignment of designing and detailing a 12 storey commercial building. My male supervisor, wanted to take over the job without my consent. I managed the situation by giving him the details he wanted about the project, but still proceeded with the project and got the Job done. In my current position, I also encountered a contractor who would not take any of my instructions and sometimes wanted things to be done his way. This affected smooth flow of the project. I managed this by seeking support from my superiors. The contractor therefore learnt to respect my authority.
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: From my experience, we are few. During my studies, we were only 7 ladies in a class of 45. In my current position, for every distribution of projects, you will find at least 2 women Engineers in a team of 10 engineers. In my opinion, the field is perceived to be only “fit” for men and the women who are in the field are perceived to have lost their feminism and are not beautiful. That is not true. I get to wear my beautiful dress whenever I am not in the field, I can choose to wear a pink helmet and a nicely fit trouser with classic safety boots when on field work. Above all, I am beautiful with my mannerism and feminism improving each and every moment as I appreciate being the woman I am. Engineering has not negatively changed me as a woman, instead, it has shaped me to be a better person, able to cope with tough experience in life than I was and I strive to be better than each passing day in my life.
When I got my admission to join Campus after High School, one of my Primary school friends advised me to change the course to Arts because I might end up not being married if I choose to be an engineer. That is not true, because I am now married with two wonderful children. My life has not been affected negatively because I choose to be an engineer, instead I am an achiever and there are many great things that await me as a Woman Engineer. My mother, sadly, was also worried that I might not make it. This is not her fault; neither is it my Primary school friend. It is because of what the society has made them believe. The only way to change this perception is to share our stories to encourage the girl child to take up other roles in the society that they can do best, other than taking roles that the society deems fit for them.
Q: How would you explain your Engineering field to young girls?
A: Civil engineering is broad with a wide range of structures and infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports, bridges, harbors, dams, irrigation projects, power plants, and water and sewerage systems. So, you get to specialize in working with what you are passionate in. It is an exciting field.
Q: What message would you give to young girls to inspire them to pursue Engineering?
A: Go for it, put your heart into it and do the very best you can as you strive to change the world around you. Engineering is possible to every girl out there.