Life as a young Female Electric Engineer

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DSC_5169 esVera’s amazing journey started when she left her small home town in Lira District and relocated to Kampala after completing her Primary Leaving Examinations. With the help of a paternal Aunt, she enrolled into one of the top schools in the country and with the heavy struggles of daily survival forgotten, she focused on making the most of this opportunity. “While at school, I realized that I had a good handle on maths and physics and particularly solving problems. Discovering how things worked was both fascinating and enjoyable so when I learnt that as an engineer I could find some of those answers, it seemed like the right choice to make…” Vera re-counts.

Life wasn’t always this flawless, born into a family of 9 siblings to an upcountry doctor and a stay home mother, financial struggles were a daily reality. Her eldest brother who had started working at the time also supplemented their Father’s revenue but the resources were never enough. The family was always financially strained.

A turning point was the opportunity to relocate to the city with her paternal Aunt who was very outgoing and took her along everywhere she went. A lot of her friends were well established and this strong admiration of their accomplishments encouraged Vera to aspire for a better life for herself and her family. Her Aunt’s belief in Vera’s potential and abilities also eventually percolated through to her family who strongly rooted for her to excel.

During her final year in O’Levels, Vera’s father unfortunately passed on and with the mounting financial constraints, she opted to enroll into a Tertiary Institution to study a three-year Advanced Certificate in Electrical Engineering. Since she had been excelling in Maths and Sciences, she was easily admitted.

“…The following years were tougher for me because during my final year in college, I had to juggle both school and a part time job. I knew that it was worth making these sacrifices if it meant landing a good job in the end. I made a conscience decision from the start that my gender wouldn’t be the reason for failing and that if I was to compete in an industry with just a 2.5 per cent female workforce while meeting the minimal requirements for recruiters, I needed to stand out… I needed to be unique. So I immersed myself in studying, took a second part time job after I completed so as to increase my field of experience…” Vera recalls.

Finding a job as a young engineer fresh out of Collage was close to impossible because all companies were hiring candidates with only Bachelors and Masters Degrees. Vera applied to almost 20 jobs a day for weeks but only got booked for one interview at Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UETCL). Armed with her good grades and confidence, she walked into that interview and was hired”.

While at the UETCL which is right across from the Kampala Serena Hotel, Vera always had a longing to work here one day. Finally in 2015, she mustered all her strength and walked across the road straight into the Hotel.

“I knew that if I told the guard at the gate that I wanted to see the Human Resources Manager, chances of my application reaching the Department head were so slim so I confidently told the gentleman at the staff gate that I wanted to see the Technical Services Manager. The gamble paid off and I was cleared through security and escorted to his office.” Vera narrates.

Whilst in the Technical Services Manager’s Office, a smartly dressed gentleman walked in unannounced and from my current boss’s demeanor, I sensed that he must be someone important. After exchanging pleasantries, the Technical Services Manager – Mr. Kigozi introduced me to the General Manager – Mr. Chege who suddenly took a keen interest in my professional life. It was the most pleasantly surprising coincidence that I cannot explain to this day.

“… After a brief conversation, he immediately requested Mr. Kigozi to consider training me for a period of six months to assess my performance” Vera recounts.

“… I think we miss out a lot because women bring a different viewpoint to hotel engineering…” Mr. Chege stated and like they say, the rest is history.

With her drive and the support she has received from her 24 male colleagues, Vera feels relevant and is certain that her skill and efforts have added great value to the Technical Services Department.

“… There were just nine of us out of about 90 students working towards the same goal in my collage class and so as an electrical engineer – and a female one at that – I am accustomed to being outnumbered. I have spent a lot of my studying and working life surrounded by men so I have learnt over the years that to earn the respect of your males team mates, you have to work hard and show them that you are interested in learning and respect the profession, they eventually learn to respect you as well.

Vera plans on returning to University to work towards attaining a Bachelor’s Degree because she has bigger dreams for herself and nothing can stop her.

“…I have made amazing friends; both staff and guests, learnt so much so I have no doubt that indeed as a female engineer, I am destined to excel” Vera confidently states.

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