Building your blocks: What does it take to be an engineer?
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
According to the Youth in STEM report, 59% of females are inclined to taking STEM in university, with engineering being the top course uptake (16%). There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but showcasing role models in engineering is a great start, especially for our young girls. We must continue to celebrate those making great strides towards creating a more diverse and gender equal industry. This International Day of Women in Engineering, it is important for girls to be given the opportunity to explore the field as well as expose them to role models that inspire them to pursue STEM. Let’s hear it for our Pinays in Engineering!
Maria Kathrine Co, Supply Chain Commercial Lead
Maria is currently the Supply Chain Commercial Lead in Shell Business Operations, Manila where she supports the Manufacturing site in Singapore. She is responsible for overseeing the operational and tactical contracts for the Engineering, Maintenance, Services, and Disposal Categories. Prior to this, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and eventually passed the certification exam last 2013 commissioned by the Philippine Institute of Industrial Engineers (PIIE).
My STEM spark
Maria: I was fortunate enough to study in a Chinese school, Hope Christian High School, when I was growing up – I am half Chinese, by the way. As you know, Chinese schools are very well known in terms of their focus in Mathematics since we have more learning time – one in English, the other in Chinese, compared to regular schools. The concept is the same; it’s just that we are also taught to calculate it using the Chinese method and language.
Having this educational background, I looked for a course where math will be more dominant and will represent a good balance in the supply chain. That led me to take up Industrial Engineering. Truth be told, the phrase “be careful what you wish for” was really true! I remember we had one semester where we need to take up four (4) different math subjects. That was one of the most challenging moments of my college life because I had to memorize all the formulas and methods all at the same time. Going through this course was not an easy journey for me, but definitely one will achieve its goal if you have the will and positive outlook. Every course has its challenges and difficulties; you just have to choose what path you want to pursue… mine was Engineering.
“Apart from the continuous learnings, what keeps me going with this line of work are the people I interact with. Not once in my career that I have felt that I was incapable because of my gender. I work with different fields of engineers- mostly men, and I never felt intimated. What is important is the value that I bring to the company. I’ve been with Shell for seven (7) years, and I must say that I am blessed to be part of an organization where diversity and inclusion are highly encouraged.”
It starts with you
Maria: I am not the first engineer in the family, but I am the first female. Many doubted my choice when I was starting to create my path in Engineering – even myself. I wasn’t one of those top students nor a studious one. My General Weighted Average (GWA) was just good enough to get me my college diploma. Yes, your academic grades will increase your probability of getting accepted into a prestigious company. Nonetheless, the concepts that you learn in class will need to reflect in your performance. What I want to say is that your grades will not define your future. Engineering is not an easy path. There will be stumbling blocks along the way but as long as you pick up the pieces and learn from it, you should be in a very good space.
Engineering is a male-dominated field, but this should not stop you from pursuing this line of career. The moment you think that you can’t do it, you are starting to limit yourself from your great potential.
Cleo Credo, Software Engineer
My STEM spark
Cleo: My journey to tech is very unconventional. I took Computer Science in college out of scholarship reasons and had no idea what programming is. As years passed, I still can’t seem to love it, not until my third year where I joined Startup Weekend. That’s the time I saw the meaning of my craft.
Over the weekend, our team came up with an idea and turned it into a minimum viable product (MVP), in our case, a web application. We also provided the business model canvas, market validation and marketing strategies. This experience opened my eyes to the possibilities of tech in improving people’s lives and ultimately, solving some of the world’s biggest problems. It gave me a purpose.
Having an idea, building that idea into something, seeing it take form with the work of your hands and having it used by many people made me excited. I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the software engineering field. I chose to pursue it as a career and here I am now.
“Having an idea, building that idea into something, seeing it take form with the work of your hands and having it used by many people made me excited. I was able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the software engineering field. I chose to pursue it as a career and here I am now.”
A role model for yourself and for future generations
Cleo: Even though the Philippines ranked first overall in gender diversity in the workforce among 10 Asian countries based on the 2019 Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia, the gender gap is still obvious between male and female workers especially in STEM related industries. Few women are getting into engineering careers because they don’t see many women in it. The lack of visible female role models in engineering and STEM causes the disparities.
Being well represented in an industry means breaking stereotypes. It promotes equal opportunities and career growth for everyone, safer working environments, well-thought products and services as it takes the perspective, ideas, points of view of everyone, all types of users/consumers are considered and ultimately make the world a better place.
Women should be represented in all industries even more in the technology field. Because technology is something that will shape our future and women should be a part of it. There’s a place for us in the engineering field. It’s important to tell our story and that’s how we would inspire younger generations to be involved in technology building.
Claire Pascua, Structural and Earthquake Engineering
Claire is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), where she specializes in structural and earthquake engineering. Her PhD thesis is focused on the seismic performance of buildings with combined concrete walls and steel frames. Her research involves numerical modelling of such buildings and experimental tests on connection details to understand how they will perform during earthquakes.
My STEM spark
Claire: I have always liked math and science as a kid. When I was choosing what to do for my Bachelors, I thought I wanted to do something tangible—something that would have more direct impacts to society. Hence, I chose engineering. Toward the end of my Bachelor studies, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake occurred. Watching the impacts of those earthquakes on society made me want to focus on earthquake engineering and earthquake resilience.
“I think that if we engineers could learn how to communicate our work in a way that is exciting and easy to understand, and if we could show them in simple terms the importance of our work in creating resilient infrastructures for a resilient society, we could foster people’s interest in engineering.”
Reimagining the way we look at engineering
Claire: I noticed that some young people are discouraged from studying engineering because they think it is too difficult. To be fair, engineering is not easy. There are many concepts we need to learn before we can practice engineering. Moreover, engineering mistakes can cost people’s lives (and they have in the past). However, I think it is precisely the challenge that makes it interesting and fulfilling. That said, I think that if we engineers could learn how to communicate our work in a way that is exciting and easy to understand, and if we could show them in simple terms the importance of our work in creating resilient infrastructures for a resilient society, we could foster people’s interest in engineering.
Even with this increasing interest among women when it comes to engineering, there are still challenges that contribute to gender inequality. From the lack of female role models in the field to better opportunities, it can be difficult for new generations of female engineers to find mentors they can relate and look up to. Through initiatives that empower women while being proactive in breaking the stigma that engineering is a masculine profession, and offering female-friendly policies in the workplace, employers can cultivate a culture for women to reach their full potential.