FERM of the month: Sharon Odetunde
Do you have a passion for maths? Perhaps you too could pursue a career in engineering and work on some of the UK’s biggest rail projects, like this month’s Female Engineer Role Model - Sharon Odetunde.
Sharon was born and raised in London and from a very early age became a practical person, fascinated by the way things work. Enjoying mathematics at school and its practical application, a career in engineering seemed like the most logical path to take. Making the decision to pursue engineering resulted in Sharon being able to work with London Underground, giving her the opportunity to use her skills and enthusiasm to keep London moving.
Although Sharon was aware that her passion for maths could be applied into engineering, she is very aware that it may not seem as obvious for other young people, especially with the engineering industry having to contend with careers being misrepresented in the press and media. Getting the message out there to young people that engineering is a diverse and exciting career path is high on Sharon’s agenda, and has led to Sharon’s participation in a group called ‘Routes into Rail’, a subgroup of NSARE (The National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering), that has been set up to promote careers in rail.
In a world of uncertainty with many saturated marketplaces and reports of high youth unemployment, it may seem like the future is bleak to those still in school. However the world of rail paints a completely different picture. Over the next 10 years and beyond, there will be huge amounts of investment in the UK rail industry, through projects like Crossrail, HS2 and the Northern Line extension. Given the current age profile in the rail industry and the predicted skills gap due to retirement in the next 5-10 years (that ‘Routes into Rail’ aims to address), there are fantastic opportunities available to young people that they may not be aware of.
Being a woman in engineering hasn’t stopped Sharon at all, and she makes an insightful observation that “some of the biggest challenges are in our own minds.” If you have a good technical knowledge and are willing to apply yourself, then there are so many opportunities out there. On the subject of barriers, Sharon does say that she has “come across people in my career who have challenged my abilities due to my gender, age and ethnicity but in all of those instances, given time, it has been possible through hard work and a willingness to learn new skills to prove that a good engineer is a good engineer, regardless of gender.” This reinforces that if you have the right mindset and the skills and ability to back it up, you can achieve anything.
Sharon says that “Positivity and self-belief are vital. If you work hard and focus on the aspects of your work that are within your power to change, rather than worrying too much about perceptions and stereotypes - a career in engineering can be very rewarding. In STEM careers you have an opportunity to be constantly learning so a willingness to acquire new skills and take on new challenges will really help. Engineering skills are useful in so many walks of life. I have found that in my current roles as part of a research and development, delivering solutions for the rail industry, having an engineering background has helped me grasp new concepts and solve problems effectively.”
As well as being an engineer, Sharon has a very active social life, she loves watching and taking part in sport, and has a wide range of hobbies from ballet to tag rugby. She’s also a prolific fundraiser, getting involved in several runs, hikes and climbs for charity. Sharon also enjoys to travel, especially if it involves adventure, her next big trip is in November where she will visit the Everest base camp in Nepal!
If you are interested in a career in science, technology, engineering and maths, we run a range of activities for ages 11 to 21, to help you understand more about the careers and opportunities available. Click here to find out more.