Umeadi Chidera was born in Lagos, Nigeria and is currently a mechanical engineering undergraduate at the University of Lagos. She attributes her passion for science and her choice of the current career to a variety of factors including her primary and secondary school teachers and her parents.
“Different people over time have contributed in one way or the other to the choice of my current career. The first of my inspiration were my high school teachers: Messrs Raymond Ehiedu and Mr Richard Abayomi, who by their ways and methods of teaching piqued my interest in STEM, engineering especially,” says Miss Chidera, who also loves reading, watching movies and learning new things.
She says Ehiedu did not just confine himself to the task of delivering curriculum but he always went beyond the call of duty. Miss Chidera says on some days Ehiedu would dedicate time just to talk and connect with them and more importantly to inspire them. He made sure that we see the bigger picture and also encouraged us to dare to dream and dream big, Miss Chidera says, adding that “his impact served as a moral and academic support to delve into the field of engineering”.
Similarly, says Miss Chidera, Abayomi would always find a way to break things down to the barest level so that we could all understand and follow the class. Above all, she adds, we would confide in him not just as a teacher but also as a friend. “He was always there to listen and guide us without judging us,” says Miss Chidera.
Mainstay of support
Added to the list of people who shaped and influenced her career path is her is a Miss Elizabeth, her technical drawing teacher. She said Elizabeth “took time and patience to guide me through ropes of elementary engineering drawing and made me fell deeper in love with it”. Miss Chidera says these teachers not only impacted her life in a positive way but also made her realise that they were above all, kind people who cared for their students. But to top it all, it was her parents who gave her an unwavering love and endless support.
Importance of science
Chidera swears by the power of science because she believes it is a vital aspect of human life.
“Everything around us speaks science and revolves around STEM in a way. Our breathing process involves science. Science has helped in groundbreaking medical feats and research. For example, the exploration of science research helped us navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines are now available.
In terms of communication, a lot has improved and so much is being done with technology today, people can now communicate and work together, distance is no longer a barrier. We have technology that helps keep our world green such as electric cars; we have fin-techs for easier modes of payment. This and so many more are examples of how technology has helped humanity,” Miss Chidera says
Miss Chidera is probably one of the lucky few in the STEM field as she been “blessed to have supportive people by my side most of my life” instead of discrimination. The only challenge that she faces is that “people tend to underestimate me a lot. I am however, learning to use this to my advantage” she says.
Miss Chidera’s biggest career highlights include being part of The Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation Makers of Africa, also known as STEMi Makers Africa. It is a Non-Governmental Organisation that prepares young talents for Africa’s Workforce across 17 Sub-Saharan Countries.
She later became the organisation’s ambassador where her role was to sensitise and create awareness about STEM, its uses and importance the world today. For instance, during the collaboration between STEMi Makers Africa and Google, she formed part of the team that trained people on online safety measures.
Miss Chidera was also a communications regional lead for STEMi Makers Africa where served as a point of contact for communications by disseminating information to volunteers across countries. She was also involved in spear-heading impact-driven conversations for volunteer engagements, drafting newsletters to be sent out to the community. She also ensured that volunteers converse and engage with one another respectfully.
She is also actively involved in the planning and execution of projects at STEMi Makers Africa. Miss Chidera has also been able to be part of projects with companies such as Google, Oracle, to mention a few. “My work at STEMi Makers Africa has enabled me to build a network around Africans and as the communications regional lead, I have engaged with a cross-cultural team, thereby overcoming physical, language or cultural biases,” she says.
Tips and advice
Her advice and tips to girls who are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics is:
- Don’t try to fit in. Be audacious. Dare to be you.
- I have often been asked why I chose to study mechanical engineering as it is a male dominated field. But I always say being in this field gives me the opportunity to be myself. I chose to be myself and stand out rather than trying to fit in.
- I believe life is a process and we grow by learning. I am enthusiastic to discover and learn from insights.
- I would also like to encourage youths to be free to connect and learn from the work of those who inspire you.
Let their story inspire you to shape yours. Be original and consistent in what you love doing.