Meet Phoebe

Full name: Phoebe Oriama

Age: 26

Living in: Nairobi, Kenya

Studied: Electrical/Electronics Engineering in Nairobi

Job: Electrical Engineer at Burn, designing new products ready for testing.

What made you want to study engineering?

Since high school I’ve always wanted a challenge, I found STEM subjects challenged me and made me push myself to see how far I could get. I chose my university course because I wanted to work at the cutting edge, with the newest technology and the newest challenges. Electrical engineering jumped out at me as ticking most of my boxes. I find that it’s really exciting to learn about things before everyone else.

What do you like about your current job?

I really like working here because I am able to keep developing and finding new applications for my skills. The team are really accommodating and supportive and we get to do really interesting work, getting to practically design and create new things.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I actually grew up being told what I would be good at. My mother would say to me “you’d make a good lawyer because…” or some other profession, and it took me a while to see what I would enjoy doing.

What are your hobbies?

I play the guitar in a band, we perform quite often and sometimes get studio time to practice. We’re playing this week or next week in a Nairobi blues lounge. I sometimes play at hangouts when people want an accompaniment to their performance. I love being outdoors, hiking, visiting rainforests and exploring new places. It’s really fuelling my wanderlust tendencies. I have a couple of trips planned this year – I’m going to Ethiopia and Egypt. Mauritius is a dream visit for next year and I’d also love to visit Europe at the end of next year. I climbed Mount Kenya this year and it surprised me how well I coped with the altitude.

What is your favourite food?

Anything with meat or milk in.

Working at a company producing stoves means I get to try a lot of test dishes at work! I also love the food Rebecca brings in to work, and she always bakes for people’s birthdays which is great. I love hosting people and cooking BBQs and I really enjoy the fact that cooking brings people together. I do lots of restaurant hunting to try new food in the city.

Electrical engineering jumped out at me as ticking most of my boxes. I find that it’s really exciting to learn about things before everyone else.”

Who has been an inspirational person in your life?

There’s a pool of people really and I’m inspired by different characteristics that I admire and want to be more like. I’m inspired by two friends who have made difficult decisions in their lives to follow a path which gave them fulfillment.

If you hadn’t become an engineer, what would have been your alternative career?

I always masqueraded as an arts student – I love to dance and to choreograph and I loved learning french, so I would have had a career in some form of performing art.

What has been your coolest achievement?

In my previous job I was developing medical equipment for a low-budget medical centre. I was responsible for managing the project which included the electrical design and fabrication as well as managing the time and cost for the project. It was very challenging but being able to create something affordable that really helped people was something I loved. It was such a steep learning curve but I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in. Within a month, I had created a product which passed all of the quality tests.

I developed some of my skills at FabLab, which is a design and fabrication workshop, part of the University of Nairobi. Spending some of my spare time there really boosted my confidence in my ability. With the medical equipment project, I did something that I was really unsure of and I succeeded. I’ve learned that it’s ok to push myself out of my comfort zone. Another project I worked on which is a real achievement is when I worked with the UN and created air pollution sensors, a really formative two months where I pushed myself and didn’t give up.

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