Yewande Akinola

My Engineering Story
I kind of always had huge interests in Engineering. I was very impressed by the built environment (buildings, bridges) and realized from an early age the implications of a lack of good infrastructure in developing countries. I felt it was something I wanted to be part off! I admit though, I went through a number of phases. Architecture was my longest running. There were also times when I felt I’d rather spend my time learning languages, loose myself completely to Shakespeare’s finest works or sketch out my dream clothes. Just before I started to make decisions about university, my mum shared the thought that as an engineer I’d have more opportunity to express my ambition to create inspiring spaces for people to live and work and also be able contribute towards water, energy and transport design.
I gave it some thought.
Nearly ten years now, since I made that decision to study engineering at the University of Warwick, it has been an absolutely fantastic journey on the whole. With great times and also challenging times, I have come to really appreciate the beauty of engineering. The creativity, the daring to dream, the art of story –telling’ of conceptual ideas;  achieving an exact expression of sequence, relation and  logic is what creates the built environment and technologies that shape and influence our daily experiences. They range from our homes, the exceptional buildings around us, to trains, planes……. our mobile phones and even the clothes that we wear.

This amazing variety has helped me stay super interested in Engineering. The beauty of engineering is that its basic principles span across many different areas and aspects: communications, structures and so the prospect of learning something new every day keeps a momentum going. Two years into my career as an engineer, I felt I really needed to merge my personal interests with my engineering career…in a way, ‘make it my own’. I had worked on a project that started off as building services design projects which then expanded to include product design and development, so I applied to do a Masters in innovation and design for sustainability at Cranfield University and loved it. Over the years, my interests in development and developing countries has inspired and encouraged some truly fulfilling experiences. A recent one was in Mozambique with some good friends, working with WaterAid, to find solutions to sanitation issues in poor areas.  The thrills from the last couple of years have also been from including TV work in my engineering career, presenting TV programmes for Channel 4, Discovery Channel and National Geographic….. and once, did an TV campaign advert for clothes shopping, it had a brilliant engineering theme.

At talks that I give in schools, I almost always get the question on what it is like to work in a predominantly male environment. It has its fun and not so fun days. …. Just because there is still tons and tons of need/opportunity for the type of creativity women have. Things are changing but we really could do with a bit of an accelerated process. I have recently been designing high rise buildings in China, and it has been great to also see the amazing capabilities of my female colleagues- designing the skyline of China’s growing cities. In the U.K., I am constantly blown away by the work of some of my friends…female aircraft engineers, chemical engineers. They are all so modest about their achievements.

The last year has been very humbling. Winning the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the year, AFBE’s Exceptional Achiever Award and Management Today’s 35 under 35 award has inspired me to continue to ‘raise the game’. Daring to dream, having tons of fun and challenging myself would help keep my engineering interests alive so whether it is a primary school in the country side or a 300m tower in East Asia or water supply scheme for a remote village, it would be a project I’d be proud of.

I have been blessed with great opportunities/experiences, great sources of inspiration and the one thing that has helped me over comes fears of a lack of capability and gender imbalance is ‘making engineering my own’.

Twitter @YeWanDae