Engineer Catherine Nyambala is among the few lady engineers in the country. In a field that is mostly dominated by the male gender, she has had to work hard enough to get to where she is and she now stands out together with other few lady engineers in the country. She is a living proof that ladies too have what it takes to make in this field of engineering. This is an up-close look at her journey and how she got here.
Have you always dreamt of being an engineer or how did you engineering?
I was passionate about math. I was not particularly crazy about Engineering but I wanted to take the most mathematically intensive course. That is how I ended up In Electrical Engineering.
What did you study?
I got a BSc. In Electrical Engineering from the University of Nairobi.
What are some of the challenges you faced after getting into engineering as a career?
I would say that some of the challenges I faced earlier as I was getting started in my career can be deemed as history now. The economy is doing relatively well (compared to the time I graduated) and there are many opportunities. One of my biggest challenges is that I lacked a mentor to guide me and steer me in certain direction or give me winning tips. Other challenges include not making great career choices early on and not seeking strategic projects that would lift my profile early on. I was also not as innovative as I have become. Innovation is a key ingredient to overcoming challenges.
As one of the few ladies in the engineering field, what are some of the challenges you face?
Networking! Not being able to successfully make as many strategic networks as I would like to. This continues to be a challenge.
What has been your path to where you are now?
After working in several industries for several years, my career picked up for a company in the manufacturing sector covering East Africa where I introduced the ISO Quality Management Systems. I then moved to the Telecoms sector where I contributed in the area of Quality, Health, Safety and Environment for another company again covering East Africa where I worked for 4 years. I am now in the Energy Sector where I run the ISO 9001:2008 QMS and the ISO 14001:2004 EMS, manage Health and Safety, Root Cause Analysis and accompanying Technical audits and generally push and support the Operations Excellence agenda. I am now also a member of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya Conference Committee a strategic position for my continuous professional development.
Projects handled in the past.
Some of my projects have included rolling out the ISO 9001: 2008 certification for a telecoms company, rolling out a the start up of Base Transceiver Stations maintenance operations in Uganda.
What are some of the problems that the engineering industry is experiencing here in the country?
Continuous professional development of Engineers, getting Engineers to stick to the profession rather than move to other careers and the challenge of Engineers getting themselves heard and getting themselves into strategic leadership positions.
A Word to those (women and men) aspiring to become engineers and to those in that field already.
They have to stand up and claim their space. Over and above their critical technical skills, they should also develop extra skills such as commercial and soft skills. For the women, things have changed and a woman who is on top of her game will soon get as much respect as the next man. Women should however know that they “generally” still have to work twice as hard as men to get respect.
Why do you think there are few Kenyan ladies taking this course?
Because as much as things are changing it is still going to take years to debunk myths surrounding math, science, technology and Engineering. They may also lack role models to show them that this can make a successful career. There may also be few women willing to take on the tough courses and profession that are/is Engineering. Finally, some women may even get dissuaded from engineering courses by people they look up-to such as their family or close friends.
What engineering bodies are you a member of here in the country?
Institution Engineers of Kenya (IEK), African Women in Science and Education (AWSE), International Network of Women Engineers (INWES).
I am keen to be a key contributor to the professional and leadership development of Engineers in this country and I have started taking steps to do so. Engineers let us stand up and be counted!
(By Njakwe Njuguna)