Spotlight on STEM with Obedience Aruna

This week Telent is supporting British Science Week, a ten-day celebration of all things STEM. Telent has around 40 Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) ambassadors across the business and today is your chance to get to know Obedience Aruna, Graduate Engineer in Transport.

Tell us about your current role at Telent and your background…

I’m a Graduate Engineer at Telent with six months to go before I complete the Graduate Scheme.

Almost ten years ago I joined an apprenticeship scheme at an engineering company with the hope of learning on the job and beginning my career. However, the apprenticeship didn’t turn out as I’d expected, and I didn’t enjoy it. A combination of job dissatisfaction and working hours led me to leave the programme and return to college so I could gain qualifications go to university.

I spent two years studying a HND in Electrical Engineering then qualified to study for a university degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. During my studies I took a placement year out working in rail and was mentored by a manager who was extremely good at his job, took me under his wing and supported me to realise my potential. This encouraged me to go on to complete a master’s degree in Engineering Management – my goal is to be as experienced as my mentor!

Today I’m what you might refer to as a ‘Covid Graduate’ having completed my studies and successfully joined Telent’s Graduate Programme during the pandemic!

What interested you about a STEM career?

Growing up I always wanted to be a medical doctor so I always knew I would work in STEM. Life unfortunately got in the way and I had to retake one year of my A Levels which ultimately scuppered my chances of getting into med school directly.

Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired or encouraged by someone?

After realising I wouldn’t be able to qualify as a doctor, I tried to revive my medical career aspirations by going to study occupational therapy with an aim to use that to get back into medicine. I lasted at university a whole month but my father (who is also my best friend) was very disappointed in me. He felt I could do better. One day he sat me down and said: “Get a job that no one can ever take away from you. A job where you make a real difference in life. Something the world is not expecting you to do, break the barriers and make sure no one will ever see it coming”.

I asked him what career that would be, and he said he always saw me as an engineer from the day I was born. That’s how my Engineering career began!

I was also born in a third world country where people often don’t have access to necessities. Although I relocated abroad, I’m always reminded of the people I left behind and ask myself what can I do to help? For me STEM was the answer.

What have you found challenging about being in a STEM environment?

Being a female engineer is not the easiest thing. Even in 2022, the world still hasn’t fully accepted that women can be engineers too. I also personally struggle with imposter syndrome. Some people are very good at making comments or remarks and sometimes I question whether I’m just a statistic – I often ask myself: am I here because I tick the right boxes? As a female engineer you have to work ten times harder than your peers just to prove you’re good enough.

What’s unique about working as a woman in STEM at Telent?

I love proving people wrong and surprising people. STEM gives young people a platform to learn and discover themselves and what they can bring to the table. I also love being able to show other young women following in my footsteps that if I can do it so can they. I’m in a position to inspire, strengthen, and empower other women to take those steps into STEM roles and Telent gives me the platform to do that.

What advice would you give to a colleague considering a STEM career?

As Nike would say, ‘Just Do It’. Don’t think about what society would say about a woman wearing safety boots and a hard hat. Think about what society said after Roma Agrawal helped design The Shard and use that to motivate you to take the leap!

What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue a career in STEM?

One of my favourite quotes in life is, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”. I’d urge anyone to think big and dream big. Where would the world be without STEM? From the phone in your hand, the TV you watch at home, the bus or car you use to travel, the cooker you use to make your meals – even the road you walk on. That was all designed and made by someone working in STEM. Have you wondered if it will ever be possible to cure all kinds of cancer? Maybe the answer will come from your work if you choose a career in STEM.

Why should women be in STEM roles?

People work and think differently and when working on a project, it’s beneficial to have a variety of opinions to get the best possible ideas and solutions.

What does it take to be successful in a STEM career?

Pure dedication and hard work.

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