I am Melissa Ahmed: a design engineer, an entrepreneur, an ambassador for women in STEM. I launched my own company- Techwuman to empower and promote women in STEM fields. The gender gap in STEM careers in the UK (where less that 13% of women pursue Engineering) was the driving force for my passion. I strive to increase this figure, to change the stereotypical perceptions about women in Engineering and to instill a zeal for STEM in the next generation. It has been my honor to be a motivational speaker at events conducted by organisations such as the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). By these endeavors, I wish to be a role model for women in STEM demonstrating that if I can embark on a career in STEM, others can too.
I am originally from the Maldives and believe that influences in our lives guide us, give us purpose, and impact our career choices. Growing up, I was inspired by my father, who spent over 24 years working in the airline industry, and my grandfather (now retired), who was a Mechanical Engineer. As a child, I traveled extensively fueling my passion for aviation and adventure. That was one of the reasons why I decided to consider working in the engineering or science industry. During my childhood, I always had a creative streak, taking interest in music, instruments and art. As I got older, my interests transitioned to encompass Science and Maths. Maths was a subject that I initially struggled with but after a lot of hard work, I was able to grasp the theory behind the numbers and it became one of my favorite subjects. As you grow up, your interests change depending on your lifestyle; this could be your hobbies, the television shows you watch, the books you read etc. which all have an influence on the path you choose in life.
I was a very active child and participated in numerous sports and extra-curricular activities, getting the chance to develop various skills. When I was 13 years old, I had to choose 3 options at GCSE level which made me ponder about my future career. At that age with a love for many subjects, I found it difficult to know what the ‘right subject choices’ were. Did I choose subjects that I enjoyed doing or choose subjects that increased my career options? I decided to do both; art, media studies and sciences (physics, biology and chemistry); those were my first steps towards planning my future career. These decisions helped me determine my likes and dislikes for the subjects. For example, as a perfectionist, becoming an artist wasn’t a realistic career option for me unless it came with unlimited time. Looking back, I realize that is why I enjoyed the design engineering aspects of my career.
One advice I can pass on to STEM aspirants is to get as much work experience as you can. I was fortunate that my parents found me different work experience in science and arts. I knew I wanted to study something that would pair my creativeness with problem solving, and so my work experience in different fields was very insightful. After working for different companies I realized there was one thing that stood out for me – engineering! My work experience assisted me to make this career decision.
So, I went on to study Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Salford (being one of the 5 females in a class of 70 students). At the end of my second year, I managed to secure an industrial placement at Technocover Ltd, a mechanical engineering company. From this training, I was able to gain engineering skills that I could not have learnt at university. Despite the placement being in mechanical engineering, it provided me with real-life practical experience of how a typical engineering company operates. After completing my placement, when I returned to university for my final year, I felt that my organisational and time management skills had improved significantly. I felt more focused and was looking forward to post-university working life. I received a First-class honors degree, and several awards at the university; Manchester Branch Project Prize from the Royal Aeronautical Society and the RAeS University Prize by the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Following completion of my degree, I was offered a sponsored opportunity to complete a Master’s degree in Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering and develop a new design process for the security industry. I secured a KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) which allowed me to manage a 2-year funded project in industry, continue personal development and earn Master's, at the same time. My KTP was between the University of Salford and Technocover Ltd, focused on security products. This was a big stepping stone in my career as it allowed me to gain skills which I used to move forward in my career. On the completion of my KTP and Masters, I was looking for a way to complete engineering projects as well as to promote women in STEM. Having a career in a STEM industry, I felt that it was important to be a role model for the next generation, to break stereotypes in the industry, and to improve gender equality by changing mindsets. I felt I could achieve this by setting up my own engineering consultancy company: Techwuman Ltd (www.techwuman.co.uk). Techwuman provides a range of engineering services with a focus on promoting women in science and engineering. Techwuman’s mission is to empower women in engineering, improve gender parity in the industry and to promote STEM careers for the next generation.
About the Editor:
Dr. Nida Rehmani serves as a mentor for the Global STEM Alliance programs, New York Academy of Sciences, USA. She is the scientific editor for Bio-services.org and content editor for Lotus Stories blogs.
Dr. Rehmani completed her B.Sc. & M.Sc. in Biochemistry from Aligarh Muslim University, India. Her zeal for higher education led her to pursue Ph.D. in molecular biology. Under the auspices of the Obama Singh exchange dual degree program, she continued her research in the Department of Radiology, The Ohio State University, USA. During the program, she earned a M.Ed., specialized in STEM higher education.
She is a science communication enthusiast and volunteers for advocating STEM education, especially under-represented communities and minorities. She has a flair for writing & maintains her own personal blog nidarehmani.blogspot.com. She loves cooking and launched her own youtube channel: Millenial Recipes. Last but not the least, she is a dedicated mother to an active toddler!
Linkedin: Nida Rehmani Twitter: @DrNidaRehmani Instagram: Dr.Nida.R Email: firstname.lastname@example.org