Instead of living by the stereotype that mechanical engineering isn’t for women, Olamide Ogunsami ensures that her choice, borne out of rounded self-discovery, leads her from the ‘ridiculous to the spectacular.’
As the sole female engineering intern at Nigerite Limited in Lagos, a renowned name in Nigeria’s construction industry, she consistently defies conventional norms. Her actions challenge the prevalent stereotype that women tend to opt for easier paths.
“People ask me why I am studying mechanical engineering. Do I want to be a mechanic? But I knew what I wanted. The moment everyone became disapproving of the field, I knew that it is something special,” she relishes the peculiarity of her choice as she discusses withPrime Progress.
Except for her father, who stood by her choice and encouraged her decision, everyone she meets insists that she’s trekking a path meant exclusively ‘for guys’.
But Ogunsami wouldn’t allow those existential, structural and communal pushbacks to discourage her.
However, that does not mean she has found the career easy.
The experience as an Obafemi Awolowo University undergraduate, the determination to not only study but practice, coupled with the reality that the mechanical engineering discipline and profession is sometimes boring, have been tough on her.
“I specialise in pump and piping systems, and where I work, we do a lot of pump and piping maintenance which requires a lot of cleaning. In fact, we do routine maintenance every two weeks. Cleaning up dry cement on equipment that has stacked itself into them for more than five days isn’t an easy job. Trust me, and I want to be involved,” she says.
As an intern, cleaning the heavy equipment is part of her job, a daunting task for someone like her who doesn’t fancy cleaning for too long.
That she does that repeatedly makes her find her field less enterprising and keeps her away from exploring her hobby.
Though she is not a technician, which means she wouldn’t necessarily carry heavy equipment, she cannot begin her career from the top. It means that she has to carry equipment and do other tiring labour.
Of course, carrying equipment could even fall into the smallest of the physical and masculine tasks she has to do daily.
There are many claims that female graduate engineers refuse to practice because they fear doing the dirty job before rising to white-collar juicy positions.
“I discourage my team at the firm from leaving me out of big tasks simply because I’m a woman. I don’t want them to sideline me from the basic technicalities of this profession,” Ogunsami said.
She questions, “Even when I become a senior staff, I will still need this basic training to stand out. The administrators here also do those technical parts or give advice to us in the workshop when the needs arise. How then will I be in pole position of giving this advice if I don’t put my head down to learn from scratch?”
Even though Ogunsami doesn’t believe that one gender is superior to the other, she wouldn’t agree that any is equal to each other either. To her, men tend to be physically stronger.
Therefore, to take up the challenge of excelling in the field the world perceives to be meant for men, she must vehemently work on herself.
“Men are unique, and women are unique too in their own rights. For me, I have built my mentality and physical strength to be very strong,’ she says.
She challenges herself to carry the heavy equipment that even some men will be afraid of lifting.
Ogunsami has followed her calling to carry “heavy-duty materials”. She has repeatedly identified her strengths and weaknesses to choose the best path she can excel in decisively, but she’s not stopping there.
“I want to further my education in aeronautics ( study, design, and manufacturing of air flight), expand my knowledge of software development and become an innovative fashion designer,” she envisions.
She will love to see many women do extraordinary things, and she hopes more women can be daring despite the odds against them.