How She Built a Successful Career in STEM

Leticia Oppong, Field Service and Technical Advising Specialist, GE Africa: I read a book about a blackout that inspired me to go into STEM. It was a story book, the kind with pictures in them, and there was a blackout in the town and the electric company sent a team to work on the issue. So when I turned the page there was a women on an electric pole, she was wearing a hard hat with the safety gear, and I remember being fascinated by that picture and thinking I want to be like her when I grow up. So that’s how it all started.

THE DAUGHTER OF AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER, LETICIA OPPONG WAS ADAMANT SHE WANTED TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THE SAME FIELD, BUT NOT EVERYONE WAS IMMEDIATELY CONVINCED.

Leticia Oppong: The reaction from my family when I told them I wanted to go into engineering, in the beginning it wasn’t very supportive. My father was worried there was no place for a women in engineering so I wouldn’t have a future in it. It took convincing from an engineer to get him to know that there are opportunities and that I can make it in engineering. So that’s when he gave the go-ahead. For most other people the question was “Can you do it, are you sure you can do it?” So it wasn’t very encouraging.

DESPITE THIS, SHE FORGED AHEAD, EVENTUALLY JOINING GE AS A POWER GENERATION SERVICES INTERN IN 2013, PROVIDING SUPPORT TO TECHNICAL ADVISORS IN THE FIELD.

Leticia Oppong: Then a year later I was hired as a technical adviser myself, I went for training and became a controlled technical adviser. And that’s my current role right now. The trainings I’ve received so far are administrative and technical training. For technical training I received my 6E gas turbine control training, that’s for my current job to work on gas turbine control systems, and for leadership training I’ve received delivery customer impact training, and I’ve also received influencing deals training.

WORKING IN THE MALE-DOMINATED FIELD ISN’T ALWAYS EASY, BUT THE CHALLENGES HAVE NOT DETERRED HER.

Leticia Oppong: In GE the male counterparts are very supportive, they always there to help when you need them. But sometimes you meet other people from other companies on site who maybe have the impression that you’re a women, what do you have to offer, so then you have to prove yourself to those people.

A TYPICAL WORK DAY AS A FIELD ENGINEER OFTEN STARTS AT 6 IN THE MORNING AND CAN LAST FOR UP TO 12 HOURS.

Leticia Oppong: My responsibilities are basically the control system – I have to make sure that the software for the control system works the way it should work. I have to supervise the installation of instrumentation system devices for the gas turbine in the field, I have to make sure that they’re working properly that they’ve been calibrated properly, that there are no issues, if there’s a valve issue I need to find out what is wrong and find a solution to the problem.

IT’S FINDING THE SOLUTION TO PROBLEMS THAT DRIVES LETICIA…

Leticia Oppong: What I love most about my job is being able to fix an issue. When something breaks down and they call you in and you troubleshoot and you find out what is wrong and it’s a fulfilling and satisfying feeling that you are doing the right thing.

SHE ALSO FINDS IT SATISFYING TO SEE THE GROWING NUMBER OF WOMEN INTERESTED IN STEM CAREERS.

Leticia Oppong: I believe more women should be in STEM roles because of the message it sends to younger girls. Some of the girls think they can’t because they haven’t really seen a lot of women who do the jobs they want to do. For me it took a drawing of a woman in a book to inspire me to pursue my interest. Maybe for another girl seeing a woman in STEM role will tell them that it’s not impossible, there’s someone already there so they can also do the same.

HER ADVICE TO THOSE WANTING TO PURSUE A CAREER IN STEM?

Leticia Oppong: If you have the interest to become a scientist, you have to find out what courses do I have to do to take me to that direction so then you go to school, you take those courses, you excel in them, and when you see an opportunity for that role, you go and you apply for it.

2017-09-08T03:33:12+00:00