“The scientist discovers a new type of material or energy and the engineer discovers a new use for it.” — Engr. Gordon Lindsay Glegg
I was given a rare opportunity to speak in my alma mater’s Inhinyera Celebration. It’s about women empowerment and the experiences of women engineers from college to our careers.
It was very enthralling being in front of more than 200 students from senior high to college and imparting my accumulated knowledge over the years I’ve been with the industry. If anyone wanted to take time to listen to my 15 minutes speech, yes guys, it was 15 minutes when I rehearsed it. *hahahaha* You can go through it below:
#IAMInhinyera: Muse of the World, Warrior of Life
Let me start this by asking everyone to close their eyes. C’mon close your eyes. Picture what you have in mind when I tell you a magic word. Imagine what an “engineer” is to you. Got it? Okay, you guys may open your eyes now.
What did you see?
Raise your hands if you picture a guy sitting in front of his computer?
Raise your hands if you picture a bunch of people wearing a construction hat?
Now raise your hands if you picture an engineer to be someone like me.
Alright. For those who didn’t raise their hands for me, please get up and leave the room now. No, kidding.
If you didn’t raise your hand for me it’s alright I get that a lot of times. When people ask me what I do and I say I’m an engineer; I get two reactions. 1. A condescending tone of “Really?” or 2. You must be very good at Math. I wish.
Truth is, I am a female computer engineer and I am part of the few women who are in this field. In fact, only two out of seven engineering students in the Philippines are women (2018 study of evident.ph). So why does this matter? Why don’t we just leave all the engineering stuff to men? For those of you who don’t know, engineers are making some of the biggest innovations and advances in the world. We’re solving a lot of problems and the technologies that we have right now would not be possible without engineers. Every day, engineers make an impact on the betterment of the society — and it deserves the female perspective which is very unique and unbeknownst to men.
However, I have observed that at this moment, engineering is still a boys club, isn’t it? Despite all of that, let me share with you my discovered passion in engineering and how we, women engineers, are the muse of the world and warrior of life.
So I grew up in a normal Filipino family like most of you are. I have four brothers and our eldest is actually a computer engineer from TIP too. Let me just ask, is everyone’s first choice here to be an engineer? Did you grow up telling your parents you want to be an engineer? Pretty sure that’s not everyone’s first choice. Let me share you a little secret — it wasn’t mine too.
When I was a little girl, I am like any normal girl — I like to draw, to play with my dolls and teddy bears, to pretend that I am good at cooking where in fact it was just the leaves from the backyard. At that age, I knew I like English more than Math and Science. I knew I wanted to take journalism or mass communications but my family at that time could not afford it.
So I went to TIP where my eldest brother is an alumnus of and I took the exam for the scholarship of accountancy and it was my dad’s idea. Oh boy, do I not belong. Good thing TIP is very generous to give one semester for free if you have a GWA of 85 and up (AFAIR). Who else here got to TIP because of that? It’s a trap guys. It’s a trap. *kidding*
On the enrollment day, I was with my dad, with a paper in my hand, and I need to write what program I will take. My dad was expecting I’d go with Electronics and Communications Engineering. Why? Communications! I thought it was related. Silly me, right? But a wind rushed over me and I wrote Computer Engineering. When asked why my answer was: “Kasi walang board exam.” And on top of my head, my brother also took CpE, he would be able to help me.
My first day in this program, my first subject was Engineering Drawing. I couldn’t be more scared. I always suck at drawing. I never had a failing grade in my entire life and there I was, sitting in a room full of students that seems passionate in engineering. Have you noticed that with some of your classmates? Those bunch of cool kids who seems like they have it all figured out? So unfair, right?
You can imagine the ordeals I went through with that 3D perspective. I was able to finish my first sem without failing marks though and I stuck to my program too. It was in that first semester that our department head Engr. Jennifer Bodbod-Enriquez and other faculty shed some light about the program we are in and it made me understand engineering at a deeper level. We’re thinkers and tinkers — we think about the current problem in the society we live in and tinker using our tools to alleviate the problem. Pretty cool, right? I found new respect with the program I am in and I pushed through.
Now you see, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. I had my first “singko” in Differential Calculus — it was heartbreaking. Those were just the first of many hurdles we had to endure in our college life. But going back to the cool guys in the engineering drawing who seemed like they had it all figured out, turns out, they put in a lot of hard work to get to their level of knowledge. And so my batch mates and I, women and men, all exerted efforts to pass every subject we are in. And did I mention engineering students doesn’t get enough sleep? Lower years, savor your sleep nights. Kidding, it will all be for a greater purpose and it will all be worth it. I promise.
For years, one of the classic comments we had to endure from different people is that we are instant engineers and we are not legitimate engineers because we don’t have a licensure examination. If you’re still hearing those comments up until now and you’re on the brink of shifting because of it, please talk to your department heads. You can also talk to me after my time here on the stage — I will happily share my realizations with you.
Now on the bright side, my years in TIP were one of the most memorable in my lifetime. You see, when I was in the first-year college, I was tagged as the very first Lakambini Pilipinas — that was during the Buwan ng Wika celebration. The year after that, I was Ms. Computer Engineering and Ms. Engineering. Pretty surreal, right? At 2011, on foundation week, I was crowned the TIP Model. *throws confetti* I also got to represent my department in ICPeP Ambassador with different representatives from other schools as well. But apart from that; we bagged some awards in Quiz Bees, Cisco Net-Rider and lastly, on our final year, second place in the foundation week’s design project presentation. There, the fruit of our hard work paid off and I got a rare opportunity to present our design project to none other than the president of TIP, Ms. Elizabeth Q. Lahoz.
I just wanted to have a quick run-through of what our project was to give you a picture of how amazing innovations are. You probably have seen this technology available in the market now but guys, 2014 — we made it. That was our idea. If you have been using a projector up until this point, you know it doesn’t function without a laptop or a desktop right? Five years ago, we innovated a standalone multimedia projector — no need for a laptop or desktop (they’re optional); you can use the built-in tablet in it, or a flash drive, or Bluetooth, or WiFi. And apart from that, it was in high resolution — feels like you’re in your mini-cinema. That was our culmination project. The endgame. And six years in engineering — worth it.
Let’s go fast forward to my career life but I don’t want to bore you with it. It’s long and arduous and I will never sugar coat that. You see gals, we are outnumbered by men in this industry — no doubt about that. Most of the time, women in our field are told to just stick with doing documentations and leaving the “tough jobs” to men. I say, don’t settle with that. During my OJT, I was carrying printers, doing cabling — while wearing pretty dresses. Cool, right? Employees were telling me, “You shouldn’t do that, you’re a girl.” But my rebuttal was, “I like doing this, let me.” You do you gals — don’t let other’s opinions define who you are.
While everyone will have their own path in their career and there’s no one secret to being successful, I say always be hungry to learn and to not let your mind be stagnant.
My second job after graduation, I was very junior compared to my teammates. They were all experienced and have a lot of certifications already and their salaries were way higher than mine for sure. But a manager from Canada was the last to interview me and he took a leap of faith in hiring me. Out of the team of seven, I was the last woman standing (There were only 3 of us). They all have set out on their different paths. I got promoted after roughly two years and I was sent to Boston, Massachusetts for training.
I have also excelled and was awarded a couple of times in the companies I work for because of the hard work and dedication I put in. There were tribulations and some anxieties that came with stress but as early as now guys, I want you all to know that stress is part of our everyday life.
After being in the industry for six years now, I’d like to think I’m still unripe and there’s still a ton to learn. But despite all the other hurdles I’ve faced with the past companies I work with, I am proud to say I found where I belong. People who share the same values and people that I look up to. Whatever you set your mind, heart, and soul into guys, nothing is impossible. After three months of being employed in the company, I was offered a bigger role — I couldn’t be happier. We are eight in the team and there were only two women there.
While I clamor inside my head rumbling about what can I really impart women engineers or engineers in general, (and this speech was actually done through a couple of hours and endless overhauls), I will not take away from you the genuine learning you can get from experience. Instead, I will just enumerate some points that you can use in your career as an engineer and hopefully will set you out there in the real world as a better professional.
So before I end my speech, I will leave you guys these five points I hope you can use in your career and in life:
- Never be afraid to speak up, but do so in a respectful way. The best ideas came from challenging a simple idea and expounding it from there.
- Do not let your mind be stagnant. Engineering is a good career and you can grow deeper there through studying and/or certifications. It isn’t a box though that will restrict you to pursue other things in life — life is vast and beautiful. Learn how to surf, to dance, to play a musical instrument — only you can set your limit.
- Success comes in different forms for different people. Do not compare your journey to other people because you are unique and they are too. Appreciate what you have at the moment but if you feel like you still know you can go further, do so. Always aim to be a better version of yourself.
- Never settle. If you feel like you are unhappy at your current state and it doesn’t contribute any more to your growth, leave.
- Time is the most expensive commodity you can offer to anyone — do not waste it.
An extra tip, btw, nobody has it all figured out. You may be encountering this right now or you will be at some point in your life; it’s called quarter-life crisis — I’d say, don’t fret. Life is supposed to be enjoyed and you can only do so much in the little time that we have every day. Smile more and make someone smile.
Future women engineers, you are the muse of the world not just because of your beauty but because of the heart and soul you put into contributing to the Earth. And you are a warrior of life because even though the majority of the universe is echoing that you do not belong in this industry, you still chose to press on and proved them wrong.
And so we, alumni, are part of yesterday’s frontier. But you, future engineers, are tomorrow’s horizons.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below 🙂Let's Connect!