The STEMinist puffing out success in a cigarette making company
What you need to know:
- While growing up in our farm, I occasionally watched the farm produce go bad due to poor food preservation, which made me develop an interest in adding value to farm products.
- That is why I studied food science and technology, which entails application of science in the safe selection, preservation, processing, packaging, distribution, and use of food.
- Thanks to the knowledge I acquired from that course, I am now able to increase the utility of any product as it passes through different production stages.
Aged 26, Angela has risen steadily in her career, starting as an intern in the year 2021, to her current position. She attributes her fast rise to hard work and determination.
Tell us about yourself….
I describe myself as a problem solver. I believe that any problem, regardless of its magnitude, can be solved. I am also a curious, creative and a critical thinker who enjoys hiking and dancing.
How did your background influence your career?
I grew up in Nyeri County where my parents practiced commercial farming. Due to this, I interacted closely with livestock and crops, which sparked in me an interest in science subjects.
After completing my primary and secondary school education, I proceeded to the University of Nairobi where I took a Bachelor’s degree in food science and technology, and graduated in 2018. I later joined the Kenya Institute of Management in Nairobi and studied project management. In 2021, I learnt about an internship programme at BAT through a friend and I sent my application immediately. The recruitment process was thorough, but I passed and the rest is history.
What inspired your career path?
While growing up in our farm, I occasionally watched the farm produce go bad due to poor food preservation, which made me develop an interest in adding value to farm products. That is why I studied food science and technology, which entails application of science in the safe selection, preservation, processing, packaging, distribution, and use of food. Thanks to the knowledge I acquired from that course, I am now able to increase the utility of any product as it passes through different production stages.
What is your role at BAT Kenya and what does it entail?
As a Specification Coordinator, my role entails ensuring that the list of materials required to make a product, recipes from product developers, and documents on which product material and manufacturing information appears are available to the production team. I also ensure that all the data is integrated into the system. I make sure that all substances are assigned with materials and that the correct quantities and corresponding units of measure are maintained in the formula tab. I am also responsible for driving new products, which is part of the quality process.
I also do trials of new materials and new product designs to ensure product quality. I also do qualification of new machinery in collaboration with the engineering team. This is important because it helps us ensure that when new machines go to the production sector, they conform to the set BAT guidelines.
What are some of the challenges you face in your line of duty?
The main challenge is engagement. My work entails working with the production, finance, engineering team among other individuals. Being an introvert, it takes a lot for me to interact with colleagues from other departments. However, I have learnt to be patient with myself in such situations because I am still learning.
To what do you attribute your fast rise?
Hard work and commitment. After securing the internship role at BAT, I went through rigorous training where interacting with complex machines and systems was the norm. But after nine months, my hard work was noticed by the management and I began training for my current role. In March last year, I was confirmed as the Specification Coordinator. I also attribute my success to having a teachable spirit. I consider myself a student of life and I always take seriously my supervisors’ advice.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers are seen as a preserve of men. What has been your experience navigating this male dominated sector?
I studied in girl’s only institutions for the better part of my life and saw girls excel in mathematics and sciences. We would always try to outperform each other, and this built my confidence and nurtured my competitiveness.
In university, I realised that all the First Class honors in my course were scooped by females. This made me believe that I could achieve anything, as long as I stayed focused. On the other hand, I have seen BAT creating job opportunities for women, nurturing them and ensuring that they become the best version of themselves. Currently we have ladies heading various departments, including heading machine lines and occupying top leadership positions. One has to be intentional in this career. Know what you want and go for it.
You are just starting out, what are some of the lessons you have picked so far?
I have learnt to handle people with a lot of care, because we are all emotional beings. What you find amusing might be very offensive to the other person. I am also learning to accept people the way they are, and to allow myself to be vulnerable to those close to me.
What would you tell younger people, especially women, who shy away from STEM careers due to the stereotypes?
I remember I was reluctant to take physics because many believed it was a tough subject. But I later changed my attitude. I would advise young women to always believe in themselves and know that they are capable of achieving their goals. Also, remember to have a plan and share it with a trusted friend. It is important to note that maintaining a teachable spirit is key in any STEM career.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy dancing and hiking. I have enrolled in a dance and fitness class which I attend religiously. I understand that one has to strike a balance between work and personal life, and that is why I am keen to do the things I enjoy, and not just work.