Women Field Engineers share their tips and experience – Part 1

Field engineering still tends to have a higher proportion of men than women. This is changing more in some sectors than others.
What is it like to be a woman field engineer? In the first of a series, three women engineers share their tips.

A Woman Marine Engineer working in the field on board a ship

Michelle Oduro-Amoateng from Ghana studied Marine Engineering. She now works as a Marine Engineer for Mercy Ships.

Michelle Oduro-Amoateng a woman field engineer working at sea

Mentors

Who were your mentors/who encouraged you?
My number one mentor has always been my sister, Portia Oduro. She is a Petroleum Engineer and works for Modec. Portia has been my support system for as long as I can remember. She encourages me and always reminds me I can do anything as long as I am willing to put in the efforts.

Portia Oduro, Michelle's sister at work

Safety

What advice would you give to women field engineers in terms of safety/being on board ship?
Safety while working in machinery spaces is very vital and should always be priority number one.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry”
Always wear the appropriate PPE while working. As well, always use the correct tool or equipment for its designated task/use.

Confidence in the workplace

What are your tips for feeling confident and not out of place?
Confidence has to do with how expressive you are.
In my opinion, having a healthy sense of curiosity and being able to express yourself well is important.
Always be curious enough to ask questions.

Increasing the number of women in engineering

The number of women in field engineering is increasing. How can this be helped?
I am very happy about the increasing number of women in the engineering industry.
That means that we are on the right track.
I believe that the more mentorship we give to the future generation of female field engineers now, the more their interest and passion for this industry will grow.
I saw somewhere on the internet, this definition:
“Female engineer- someone who solves the world’s problems and looks pretty doing it”.
And I completely agree!!?

A Service Delivery Manager from the UK

Tamsin Minton has worked as a Support Engineer and is now a Service Delivery Manager for NetApp. She also leads the NetApp WIT (Women in Tech) UK group.

Tamsin Minton

Mentors

Who were your mentors/who encouraged you?
I began my career at Digital Equipment (DEC) in 1997. At that time, there was a shortage of females in the industry who were not in administration roles.
I started in admin myself, but thanks to an extremely supportive boss whose wife also worked there, I was encouraged to take some in-house training to become a Support Engineer.
I then progressed into a Field Engineer role which I did for 10 years and really enjoyed. During my time as a field engineer, I had no other role models, or mentors. I was the only female Field Engineer in my company (which by then was Sun Microsystems). This has led me to become a mentor and advocate myself and I try hard to encourage and support more females into the industry.

Safety advice

What advice would you give to women field engineers in terms of safety/security/being out in the field?
I was a Computer Engineer, so it wasn’t so unsafe. However, I did work in unmanned data centres as well as in the middle of the night on call. I would say, always take the safety briefings seriously, and really pay attention to the manual lifting guidelines. It’s so easy to consider cutting corners for speed but things are there for your protection.
If something feels wrong then report it, better to be safe than sorry.

Creating confidence

What are your tips for feeling confident and not out of place?
Female engineers are still in the minority, in all the industries.
There is a certain amount of feeling “out of place” that is to be expected when you’re underrepresented. I would suggest spending some time researching imposter syndrome and some coping techniques which might work for you when you feel this way.

In my case, I like to use a few techniques but the one I find most effective when I’m overwhelmed, is that of projection. I try to project confidence even if it is forced, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone which I find helps by making each subsequent time a little easier. Also, remember to call out biased behaviours, even if you’re not the one receiving the treatment. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and often the person who has made you feel out of place hasn’t even realised they’re doing it. A little word quietly to explain how you felt can often be enough to change people’s behaviour in the future. Just remember you have the right to be doing this job as much as anyone else.

Increasing the number of women in engineering

The number of women in field engineering is increasing. How can this be helped further?
It starts with children, at home and in schools.
We all have a responsibility to encourage all genders to consider a career in STEM based roles. To do this, we need to be responsible for removing the bias historically associated with gender specific roles. We need to teach our children, and our friends and family’s children, that girls can do any role that boys can do. That is what will help the next generation of female talent into engineering.
Then within organisations, we need to:
stand up and speak out
call out bias and gender inequality
challenge why there are not enough females in certain roles at your company
volunteer to be that change advocate to make changes.
Everyone doing something can really make a difference, no matter how small.

A Biomedical Engineer from Ghana

Lina Agyekumwaa Asante is a Biomedical Engineer by profession.

She was a part of UGMC’s COVID-19 management team for severe and critically ill patients during the outbreak of the pandemic in Ghana. She is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Ghana (IET-GH), where she serves as a member of the Standing Committee on Programmes and Conferences.

As a healthcare technology enthusiast, Lina researches current trends in healthcare technology and looks forward to contributing meaningfully to the healthcare industry. She is a passionate STEM advocate who believes in helping others and engages with voluntary schemes in her spare time.

Lina A Asante at work as a medical woman field engineer

Mentors

Who encouraged you?
A lot of people have fueled me up with their guidance and encouragement. It’s a bit tough to single out a name now because, all showed up just at certain cross-roads in my life’s journey. So here, I would like to acknowledge my family especially, my parents and then my friends and the kind people, who continuously steer me towards the right path.

Advice

What advice would you give to women field engineers in terms of safety?
I have three pieces of advice.
Firstly, recognize potential hazards in your immediate environment by understanding what constitutes a risk and how your actions affect those around you.
Secondly, cooperate with your team members.
Thirdly, always follow safety instructions and don’t be distracted. While it is the responsibility of any employer to establish health and safety policies and see to it that employees are trained; you should always follow the safety instructions, making sure to ask for assistance if there are any areas or topics you don’t understand. You might receive personal protection equipment (PPE), or other safety equipment. This is offered for a reason, so use or wear it exactly as directed at all times. You will be protected from environmental risks and exposed to fewer hazards if used properly.

Building confidence

What are your tips for feeling confident and not out of place?
I have five pieces of advice for women engineers, based on my experience.
I believe that developing relationships is crucial particularly in my sector which is largely relationship-based.
Being a motivated team player.
Being open to taking on new responsibilities and duties, even if (or perhaps especially if) they fall outside of your normal scope of work. In my case, this has:
Helped me to grow my network;
Gained me new insight and understanding of how others contribute to the success of the organisation.
I’ve learnt a lot from people with different skill sets in completely unrelated fields.
Never stop learning
Along the road, seek out strong mentors, learn from them, and eventually become one yourself. I’ve formed wonderful mentorships by carefully disclosing my ignorance about a subject and by politely requesting questions. I communicate my knowledge gaps and fortunately, my requests are granted.

Ways to increase the number of women in engineering

The number of women in field engineering is increasing. How can this be helped further?
Many factors contribute to the trend of a growing female population in the engineering field. I feel that there are three key ways.
Reach out to the young
To improve the representation of women in the varied engineering fields we should continue reaching out to young women during the formative middle and high school years. By encouraging participation in STEM programs, extracurricular clubs, and technical hobbies we could expose the next generation of women to the fun and exciting field of engineering.
Organisational strategies
Organisations can develop strategies to create awareness on equity perspectives on STEM professions and provide clear communication for sexual harassment and disciplinary structures to handle such cases.
Shatter stereotypes by showing up
When deciding on a career in STEM, especially engineering, young women must keep in mind that it is possible to do. The fact that there will be more males than women is not a myth, but they may be confident that by simply showing up, they will be shattering stereotypes. While going through the process, every woman will have their back, and these support networks will only continue to expand.
I wish all the current and up and coming women engineers well; I look forward to working with you one day in the near future!

Further Reading about women field engineers

Women Field Engineers share their tips and experience – Part 2

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