Hello People. Happy Women’s Day. I got inspired to do this series because of International Women’s Day. The Theme for this year is #MakeITHappen. Is anyone like me tired of being the only Black/African girl in the room? I am in very male dominated profession and industry and it gets works the more years of experience you have. To start reversing this trend, more girls need to be encouraged to join STEM fields and programs. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.
Girl Day. “Bring It Out” Campaign…
Celebrating CAMER Ladies in STEM. Be #Inspired.
Judith Atem is an Electrical Engineer with National Oilwell Varco in Houston, TX, a position she has held
for the past year. Prior to moving to Texas, she spent 6 years at Baldor ElectricCompany (A member of the ABB Group) in Flowery Branch, GA, starting off as a
Manufacturing Engineer (3yrs) and later as an Electrical Engineer specializing in the design of AC electric motors.
Judith grew up in Cameroon and attended Seat of Wisdom College, Fontem. In 1999, just after completing form 3
at the tender age of 14, moved to the US where she completed her high school education at Gainesville High School in 2002. As a young high school student I had a great interest in physics and math. With no idea what type of career would best suit me, I fortunately had an uncle, a Civil Engineer who took
interest in me and encouraged me to do some research about engineering as a career choice. With the advancements in technology at the time my interest was quickly drawn to Computer Engineering. However, I later discovered Electrical Engineering was for the most part Computer Engineering with a couple of semesters of Electrical courses. With that in mind I wanted to keep my options
open so went for Electrical Engineering.
My college career started in 2002 at Gainesville College (2yr school) where I did
my perquisites. In 2004 I transferred to Southern Polytechnic State University
(SPSU) in Marietta, GA to complete my degree. While at SPSU, I became a member
of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) in hopes to make new friends and
it sounded befitting. That year, NSBE encouraged its members to partake in the
Black history month’s events that spring for a chance to attend the National
convention in Boston, MA for FREE. Well with my love for travelling and being a
college student you do what you have to especially when it’s FREE ;). Attending
the NSBE conference completely changed my college experience for the best. To
see thousands of minorities excelling academically, professionals succeeding in
corporate America and beyond, I was hooked. I took NSBE’s mission; “To increase
the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically,
succeed professionally and positively impact the community” as my personal
mission statement. I was elected chapter president in 2005 and led my chapter
to the prestigious honor of Regional chapter of the year Award. I have been privileged to serve students not just through my leadership in different organizations, but also as a Resident Assistant. This role gave me the opportunity to coordinate and supervise activities and events to meet
the needs of students living on campus, all for FREE housing on campus. I was VERY involved in college; however these experiences helped in making my college experience one I will not trade for the world.
In 2007, I obtained a Bachelor of Science
degree in Electrical Engineering Technology. Since graduating, Ms Atem has remained
actively involved in her local community through church, serving as Youth
Coordinator (Cameroon Catholic Community Atlanta), sorority, professional
organizations, and other Cameroon cultural organizations. In her spare time she enjoys spending time
with family and friends, travelling, sporting activities and being outdoors.
Bih Janet Shufor Fofang is a High School
Electrical Engineering teacher in Yaounde. She is dedicated to teaching
technical subjects – mechanical, electrical engineering and a jungle gym of
technical topics while ensuring there is more female presence in STEM.She is
extremely passionate about the outcome of her students and is challenged to
have more students graduate from school with necessary skills to pick up jobs.
Mrs. Fofang encourages girls at an early age to
learn and be excited about the opportunities and applications of technology,
and the special spice and expression that females provide in this field. Her
Interest is heightened by the recent Power Africa initiative of President Barack
Obama for clean, renewable energy and will be building and teaching solar
photo voltaics so that children can study and learn more effectively.
Mrs. Fofang participates and leads a number of
talks and panels and is a member of several women’s groups
including the Techwomen Alumni, emphasizing the ground work needed to get women and girls involved in STEM.
From her participation at the Women in
Technology ( WIT ) awards 2014 in Dubai,she was inspired to
start a girls in tech chapter for Cameroon.Her most recent project is called
STEM your school (SYS). a concept that basically trains an ecosystem of female
STEM teachers to create and run girl STEM clubs as after school programs in
their respective schools.These clubs will fall in same category as other after
school clubs. We are currently running the model in ten schools, twenty STEM
teachers and Mentors reaching out to 120 girls aged 8 to 17 interested in STEM
activities.Respective schools run different projects depending on their
resources. We organize awards and inter school challenges at the end of
each Academic year.
“You build trust with others each time you
choose integrity over image, truth over convenience or honor over personal
gain.” – John C. Maxwell
Dr Nkem Khumbah on the state of STEM in Africa
Minella is currently a Geology MS student at the University of Arkansas. I obtained my Bachelors at Texas A&M University. I had a passion for science while in
high school (St Bede’s College Ashing-Kom and St. Augustine’s College Banso).
It all started with the Buea Mountain eruption. I wanted to know what the cause
of such activities, but did not know that Geology had any links petroleum back
then. There were lots of challenges, starting with limited resources,
expertise and knowledge about Geology. Moving to the US for the “American
Dream” I have been able to bring my passion for Geology to life. Nonetheless,
most often being the only African Female Geologist, sometimes I have this weird
feeling that I might be in the wrong field, but my passion and vision
will not let me quit. I will be interning with Chesapeake Energy Corporation
this summer and looking forward to an amazing, promising and fulfilling career
in Petroleum Geology upon graduation in December!
I am Minella Majenu (Patcha) and I am a Cameroonian Geologist!!!
Yefon thank you for the providing us the platform and the
opportunity to tell our story during this International Women’s Day.
Many potential students coming from outside the U.S. have little
or no mentorship. We leave countries where opportunities are meager and find
ourselves in one where it’s the total opposite. This can be overwhelming. So
when trying to figure out what you love versus is what is marketable a.k.a
fast-money, it is easy to wander very far away from your strengths/talents.
My undergraduate degree was in Computer Science years ago at
University of DC. I had no idea what Computer Science curriculum consisted of. Luckily
for me I fell in love with programming. I had wonderful professors who were
also female role models like; Dr Myrtle Jonas (RIP), Prof. Lavonne Manning
& Prof. Lesa Horton. They truly believed in my ability and inspired me to
work hard. After obtaining my bachelors, I worked for a year and then decided
to do a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics & Actuarial Science. I was
accepted in George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia. It helped to have a
father who lived and breathe mathematics throughout my childhood. To make it
even better, most of my pre-requisites for computer science were math related
and I tutored mathematics for 4yrs while studying for my undergraduate degree.
The journey may be tedious for all but the road blocks as a woman plus
being an African Woman are very debilitating. After struggling and finally
graduating from GMU I was done. I had no desire to further study. Needless to
say the challenges of a career woman do not end when studies are done. The
corporate world has its own surprises and I was completely baffled. I got
subtle remarks from colleagues questioning my ability to deliver. I came across
colleagues who would do a double take when they realized I was not only a
woman, I was black!! I felt reduced to a body and not a brain. I once had an
internship with IBM and I was working with two mentors. One of them would not
talk to me. He never even tried. I tried blocking the glaring racial issues
that were kicking my behind but they would not just go away. This mentor once invited
all of us to his house for a bbq (I guess he could not dis invite me since we
were in the same group). I realized then it was a bigger issue than I could
deal with. Upon showing up at the bbq and meeting my fellow intern colleague
who was a female from Morocco, I watch him interacting very well with her. His
entire family will not even shake my hand. Lol. Well the other mentor I had was
there. He was a warm guy. We even kept in touch way after that. I later worked with another organization
(which I would not mention) where moving up meant giving up assets. Yeah personal
assets. Again this was my introduction to corporate America. I began to second
guess my choice to be a career woman. Today I work virtually for Bank of
America big as a Consumer Strategic Analyst. Even though there are challenges
to continuously make yourself valuable by increasingly challenging the status
quo. Results are evident, and the measurable performance is what helps every
associate move up. I do lots of root cause analysis in SQL Server (programming
back ground helps here), build report for pilot programs within the Bank and I am
currently focusing this year on quantitative analysis; frequency distributions,
trends and forecasting around the given data. I am excited about using more of
the mathematical background to challenge myself in order to grow further in my career.
It is worth noting that even virtually, there are challenges as a woman. May be
fewer and less evident but still there. I find that in order to qualify for a
leadership role, women have to give up family values and completely submit
themselves to their job in order to gain respect and recognition. Men however
just have to learn to talk to the talk and they climb the corporate ladder.
Where do I want to be in 5yrs? I have no idea. I am one of those
career women who just enjoys working and I don’t think too far ahead. I am open
to whatever the future plans. That said, I am learning more about the corporate
world so that I can make educated decisions on my next lateral or vertical move
that would impact my career positively. Today, family is everything to me. So I
am not in a rush but I also make sure I am not walking blindly. Building a
career map is not intuitive for everyone. If it is not for you, like me, don’t
panic, just take your time. Network/talk to others. Keep an open mind and keep
building the blocks until you are where you want to be. Whatever you do, never
let anyone deter you from who you want to be. You are a product of your
upbringing/values, your environment is better because you are there.
Thumbs to & thank you to Judith, Janet, Minella & Ayang for sharing their stories!!
“Be the kind of girl who wants to make a difference. Dare to change the world”. Reach other to who you think can make it happen for you. Encourage girls to join STEM fields and programs. There are many ladies like those featured here that are ready to be mentors.
Stay tuned for the next episode of Camer Stem Ladies….