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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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If you don’t ask, you don’t get: How a chance encounter helped me discover my passion for engineering – Mimi Nwosu, Civil Engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine

Mimi Nwosu

Mimi Nwosu is a civil engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine. In 2020 she was named as ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers) London Rising Star and recently she won the Rising Star in STEM award from the Women Leaders Association. Mimi was also commissioned by the ERA Foundation and Born to Engineer to create content raising awareness about careers in engineering.

Mimi Nwosu

“Engineering is for women and engineering can be anything you want it to be! You don’t have to fit into any specific moulds to be an engineer!”

A chance encounter with civil engineering and I was hooked

I always knew I wanted a career in something that involved contributing back to society and importantly, my community – my mother is an RGN (registered general nurse) and my biggest inspiration. I wanted to join her in the medical/healthcare field and decided I wanted to be a doctor. I loved the sciences and decided at A-level I would study biology, chemistry, psychology and religious studies.

A-levels was the hardest period of my life and this reflected in my grades and I was unable to fulfil my dream of becoming a doctor. However, desperate to go to university with my peers I decided I would study another STEM subject.

After a few months of being at university, I knew the course was not for me and made the decision to drop out of the university.  Then, through a chance encounter, I found myself in a lecture that changed the outlook of my university experience. I was invited to a lecture by a friend, without asking what course he studied, I followed him. He studied civil engineering, I fell in love with the intricate details of bridge design and construction and decided I would change to a different university and study civil engineering.

In 2013 I attended the University of Portsmouth and began studying for my BEng (Hons) in Civil Engineering. I was worried, as I didn’t have the prerequisite A-level subjects (maths and physics) to study civil engineering, but I was very determined to achieve the best results and challenge myself. I appreciated the university’s faith in me.

Mimi Nwosu
Mimi’s graduation

I completed a year in the industry as part of my studies and felt more than prepared to finish my degree. My favourite module at university was ‘Soils and Materials’. I have always been interested in sustainable development and wanted to design and build for a better future – I knew material science would pioneer this!

For my final year project, I explored concrete technology and fire engineering. I completed a 15,000-word dissertation and a laboratory experiment titled: “Investigating the mechanical properties of ultra-high-performance fibre-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC) at elevated temperatures”. (A mouthful I know!). I achieved a first-class for my project and I fell in love with concrete technology and its complexities and decided I wanted to become a concrete engineer.

Using the skills I love most

Previously, I was an assistant materials engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine. I assisted on projects in the UK by reviewing their concrete specifications, managing materials testing, site investigations and liaising with various departments.

I was able to go on a secondment to the largest infrastructure project in Europe, HS2, training to specialise in concrete production and quality. I loved this role because it allowed me to specialise in my favourite material and learn all aspects of concrete production and quality control.

Communication was a huge part of the role whether that be at meetings, through presentations or CPD [continuing professional development] activities it allowed me to use the skills that I loved the most! Truly no day was the same I was either in a materials laboratory, office or on-site, the variety in my day kept me pumped!

Reconnecting with my engineering roots

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was furloughed for three months, which was pretty good for me. I really enjoyed realigning my chakras and picking up new skills. I was able to use my time to work on ideas, complete STEM outreach activities virtually and remember why I became an engineer in the first place. Construction was given the green light by the government and I was quickly back to work! I was still 100% on-site as I had a site-based role.

Many meetings are now conducted over zoom and dependent on your role some people are able to work from home. Sometimes it was hard to not see everyone in-person, but I noticed quickly that people were just as efficient at home as they were in office! I love technology!

Born to Engineer

Mimi-NwosuA career in engineering has some negative connotations attached to it, which stops young people from pursing this AMAZING career path. When I was younger, I even fell foul to some of these myths. For this reason, I absolutely love encouraging the younger generation, especially young women to consider a career in engineering through content creation.

I was so happy when I was commissioned by the ERA Foundation and Born to Engineer to create content. The first one was a video – Myths vs Reality: Engineering Edition, busting the myths behind a career in engineering! The video has been a huge success, it has reached over 100,000+ views across social media and has had a global reach too! I couldn’t believe it! The video has opened so many doors for me and I have been invited to take part in many opportunities that have been beyond my wildest dreams!

A career in engineering has really changed my life and I would love for others to feel the way I feel! Separately, I used my Instagram page to show people the amazing work I do in the construction industry and educating the masses! It great to see people interacting with my content and asking questions about civil engineering! I have created content with many organisations large and small to promote engineering it is something I thoroughly enjoy!

Out of this world recognition

Since the start of my career, I have become a multi-award-winning civil engineer! To be recognised for what you love is next to none. I recently won the Rising Star in STEM award from the Women Leaders Association. To be recognised as a rising star in my industry is really surreal, especially in a male-dominated industry. To even be nominated and then to be made a finalist was out of this world! It made me feel I could achieve anything, and I need to keep pushing and inspiring others, winning this award gave me the confidence I needed!

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

My advice to girls and women considering careers in engineering is:

  1. Somebody wise once said to me “if you don’t ask you don’t get” and now it is my mantra! To know more we should start asking questions and actively seeking the information that you require.
  2. Be bold and be brave! Sometimes for great things to happen you have to step out of your comfort zone!
  3. Do your research (e.g. around the differences between a degree, apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship).
  4. Grasp all opportunities and also create your own opportunities. 
  5. Set goals, however, don’t be too hard on yourself.
  6. It is ok to fail – failure could be the start of a new adventure.

International Women in Engineering Day: Amplifying voices

International Women in Engineering Day means a celebration of how much women have contributed to the engineering industry and their achievements. The percentage of women in engineering in the UK is horrifying low and the voices of the women in the profession need to be amplified!

Mimi-NwosuEngineering is for women and engineering can be anything you want it to be! You don’t have to fit into any specific moulds to be an engineer! Also, women from underrepresented groups need to be shown that there are women who look like them within engineering. I am a massive advocate of “you cannot be what you cannot see” – women in the profession are not a monolith and INWED is a perfect day to demonstrate this.

Next stop: Chartered Engineer status

I hope to go further in my career, I am currently on a scheme to fill the requirements to become a Chartered Engineer! I am super excited about my future, I have been involved in some fantastic opportunities beyond my wildest dreams and I cannot wait to see where life takes me next, watch this space!

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