Abidemi Saka, 26, a civil engineer with Shapoorji Pallonji FZE Nigeria Limited, speaks with DAVID OLADUNJOYE about the challenges she faces on her job
What is your educational background?
I had my elementary education at Kidback Nursery and Primary School. For my secondary education, I went to Kidback High School; both in Ire, Osun State. I then bagged a degree in Civil Engineering at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State.
Where are the places you’ve worked?
I worked with the Osun State Ministry of Works for my industrial attachment while still in school, but the first real job I did was with Aaraji Group Construction Company. Their head office was at Lagos, and they had another branch at Osogbo, but I worked with them on a project in Asaba (Delta State). I currently work with Shapoorji Pallonji FZE Nigeria Limited, an Indian company that works with Dangote Oil and Refinery.
What are the highlights of your current job?
It has actually widened my scope. Working on the Dangote oil refinery project has not been an easy task and I actually say that working a month here would be equivalent to working a year elsewhere. The work is different from what I’m used to and my confidence level has really increased. It is an eye opener and has given me a new experience.
What are some of the challenges you have faced on the job?
The major challenge I face has to do with my gender. Initially, I had issues with the workers because they didn’t want to listen to me. As a lady, until one can prove to people that one knows what one is saying and doing, they wouldn’t listen to one. Also, the job requires a lot of standing and moving around and sometimes, I look at myself and feel I’m gradually turning into a man. I used to have phobia for heights and climbing but I just had to do it on the job. Another challenge is that I have a very soft heart and this job requires one to be firm. Also, there is communication barrier because I work with Indians and I have to struggle to make them understand what I’m saying so there wouldn’t be any miscommunication.
What are some of the qualities that have helped you to be successful?
My drive and passion for the job are some of the things that have helped me over the years. I believe in putting my best into whatever I do. I am always open to learn because when I got to my present company, I had a personal teacher and I asked a lot of questions from him. I have always wanted to be a civil engineer and I am happy that I achieved that aim through commitment and dedication.
Who are you role models?
Prior to coming here, I did not really have any role model. I just admired different people but my role model now would be my present boss, Mr. Kundu, an Indian. I look up to him because he is really outspoken and knows a lot of things. He also knows how to manage situations and deal with challenges. He constantly motivates me to be a better professional.
What are your other interests?
If I were not a civil engineer, I would probably be a fashion designer, barber or mechanic. I like those jobs because it is rare to see a woman doing them, and I like to do things that amaze people. Even now, when people see me working as a civil engineer, they tell me that I’m strong, and that motivates me.
What advice do you have for youths who are interested in engineering?
Follow your dreams and don’t give up on them. Civil engineering is a very interesting job, though it could also be very challenging because I would not want to deceive anyone. However, if you put your mind to it, then you can do it. As humans, we can adapt to almost anything. When I started my career, I was being offered N60,000 as salary, but I refused to accept it because I was a proud graduate. With time, things improved and I did not have to put a price tag on myself. My boss often says that when you chase money, you keep chasing it for the rest of your life, but when you are diligent in your work, money would chase you.
What are your hobbies?
I believe I am a boring person, but I love cooking and reading.
How do you like to dress?
I love to look like a girl by dressing comfortably, but now, I think I have a flair for T-shirts, jeans and sneakers because of the nature of my job.