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Real Women in STEM: Jacky A.

The power of the internet has made this happen. Jacky (currently in Australia) and I met through a mutual Facebook group that focuses on personal development. After spotting each other as engineers in the group we connected and started exchanging emails.

She is a real woman in STEM and this lady is definitely one to watch - a female engineer with a great future ahead.

Bio: My name is Jacky Ayo-Opio. I am 22, and an engineer. I love all things creative - sketching, 
painting, braiding, designing and building; and all things active - from running to playing various sports, and random outdoor activities.

Picture 1 ( Right). Christmas in Uganda 2015 - I am of Ugandan heritage, I didn’t get to go there often as a child, however in the last 6 or so years I have gone every 2nd year with my parents and brother. It is a place that is, though unfamiliar, has a feeling of belonging, because it is where my family is from - it is such a strange feeling to hold about a place. This photo was taken in my dad’s village, and I just love the happiness that seen on my face mid-dance.


I studied Civil Engineering (Geotechnical) at uni. I recently graduated, and am only 6 months into my career. I’m loving it so far, as I get to see the practical aspect of the stuff I have learnt at uni.

Job title:

My job title is Site Engineer. On a very simplistic level it is pretty much ensuring that what is designed is built.

Typical daily routine: Below is my usual weekday routine. My weekends change depending on what I have on. However, generally Sunday mornings are my reflection days and long run days - it’s amazing for the soul and general spiritual well-being.

Get up at 5.30am.
Quiet time for 15-20mins and check my phone for 5mins.
Get ready for work.
Leave for work at 6am/6.15am - either drive or use the train/bus.
Get my morning coffee at 7am.
Arrive on site at 7.15am - check emails + eat breakfast.
After checking emails and breakfast the day is never really standard/routine, it is dependant on what’s going on site - so it can include meetings, inspections, paperwork and tracking the project.
I usually have lunch around 1pm/2pm most days.
Usually finish works around 6ishh.
Might pass the shops to buy a few things - usually get home around 7ishh.
In the summer/spring I usually go for a run when I get home, however in the winter it gets dark fairly quickly.
Have a shower.

I check my personal emails, blog and social media.
Prepare/have dinner and usually watch some form of talk/discussion/news/tv show - generally something on YouTube.
Prepare for the next day

5mins quiet time before bed. Usually sleep between 10pm/10.30pm.

Do you love your job/subject area and why?

Yes, I am absolutely loving my area of work at the moment. I am learning so much daily, due to the fact that I am permanently based on site. I get to experience the building process of a structure right before my eyes. I have to remind myself how much of a blessing this is, because sometimes one forgets when there is so much going on around. I am loving being able to see the practical aspect of the engineering theory taught at university. I think this job will really help with regard to making me a more well-rounded engineer, as I will not only consider theory, but also “buildability".

As a woman in engineering, what are your experiences within the industry?

I have had a good experience as a woman in the industry so far, however I am saying this after a few months, I think I have to be in it for at least a year to give a holistic perspective of a woman in the industry. Although, I can say that from what I have seen personally, and what I have been told about what the industry once was, it has moved in the right direction with regard to the inclusion of women in the engineering/construction world.

How you got to where you are today - school, subjects & Key decisions:

"I think I got to where I am primarily because of my support system." 
Of course a lot of hard work, perseverance and resilience factored in me ending up here today, but having my parents (and my brother) as a constant support system, particularly when things got tough is why I am where I am today. I am lucky enough to have two parents who I look up greatly, and who always I wanted to be just like when I grew up. They have painted a picture for me of what it is to chase your dreams, and live them. 

Picture 2 - My graduation in April 2016 is amongst one of my top achievements in life to date. I don’t think there are enough words to really capture my feelings of that day except one phrase in my dad’s language which embodies the resilience attitude that my dad taught me, and the legacy my great grandfather left my dad with - 
"INYOMO ALAM”, which means “Married to the Pen” literally translated. 
There is a story behind it in that my great-grandfather opted to sell a cow to pay for my grandfather’s fees for teacher training college, instead of marrying him off, as many in that time would have. He named this cow “inyomo alam” ,because although an illiterate man he saw the value of obtaining an education, and he wanted this for his son. 

People that inspire you and why:

I have 3 people that inspire me - my parents (mum and dad), and Michelle Obama. Firstly, my parents are my biggest inspiration because as I said I had the opportunity to watch them chase their dreams, and live them. I am of Ugandan heritage, hence working hard in school is instilled in you from day 1 of Pre-school - 
"if you’re going to colour in, you better do it to the best of your abilities within the lines haha."
Anyway, the value that my parents placed on education stems from the roles that education played in their lives - my mum is second generation of her family lineage to go to university, while my father is first generation. For them getting an education is what saw a person get out of the poverty cycle, so it was imperative that they instilled in their children a love for learning.
They have both taught me, particularly my dad, that me being a girl and African is never a hindrance to achieving any goal I set in life. Although very simple, this is so vital to hear on a regular basis. Needless to say I owe all, if not most of my achievements/successes to them.

Another person I look up to (from the public eye) is Michelle Obama, as she embodies strength, resilience, grace and pure #blackgirlmagic. I love that she is unapologetic about who she is, and where she comes from. I have followed her “Let girls Learn” campaign over the years, and I too share in the passion to see the girl child take hold of her own future and pursue education, as education has played an important role in my family.

Word of encouragement to younger women who want to have a career in STEM.

I think one of the biggest things I have learnt during my journey so far is resilience and self-belief. 
These are things that my dad endeavoured to instil in my brother and I growing up, and they are what has got me to this point, and I’m sure will continue to get me through the future obstacles. As cliche as it may sound life is not a straight path, and there are various valleys, so one must build up their resilience to get through these, knowing that they can and will get to the mountain top. Resilience in particular encapsulates various things for me - such as hardwork, perseverance and strength. In addition to resilience and self belief I would encourage younger women to grasp opportunities when they present themselves, because as the saying goes “success is when preparation meets opportunity” - so put in that work, and don’t be afraid to put your hand up for the chances that come your way because you are definitely more than capable.

Other interests (outside of STEM):

I have a wide range of interests outside of STEM, so much so that I struggle to find time to fit them in, particularly with having recently started full-time work. These include playing sport, running, braiding hair, sketching, hanging out with friends and family, cooking, baking, volunteering as a tutor, and taking interest in social issues (particularly regarding African women).

Picture 3 - Above. I love love love jumping - there is a sense of freedom that one gets from it, as though you’re defying the laws of gravity from that split second you’re suspended in air haha. This was taken after my 10km Sun Run from Dee Why to Manly Beach in Sydney. I have always loved sport/exercise, but this year running has become my escape from stress, so much so that I have signed up for a marathon, which is currently in about 1 week - I am super excited…almost as much as my expression in this photo haha. This photo was from Feb 2016.

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