An interview with Brida Mbuwir, PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering and Former Electrical Engineer at Schneider Electric.

“A lady, an engineer, and precisely an electrical engineer?!” “So Brida, you will climb on electric poles?!!”, “This is not a lady’s job!” … So they said.

Brida Mbuwir is a Lady-On-A-Mission. Intelligent, Focused, Resilient, Driven are just a few of the adjectives you could use to describe her. She eats obstacles like they were cereal. A former employee of Schneider Electric, the French multinational corporation that specializes in energy management and automation solutions, spanning hardware, software, and services and a current PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering working on control of clusters of load, with a focus on microgrids using machine learning techniques. Machine Learning…yes I said Machine learning.

She is the true definition of a “Diva Geek” and a testament to the fact that nothing can stop you from reaching your destiny but you. As part of the series “Ladies in STEM and How They Started”, I reached out to her after her participation in the Next Einstein Forum African Science Week to learn more about her beginnings. Take a walk with me into the life of this amazing Cameroonian lady Engineer.

1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Brida Mbuwir, a Cameroonian and currently a PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering. I hold a B.Eng in Electrical Engineering from Ecole Nationale Superieure Polytechnique Yaounde-Cameroon, and an M.Eng in Electrical Engineering for Smart Grids. Prior to starting my PhD, I worked as an Electrical Engineer at Schneider Electric.

2.) When did you discover that you had an interest in STEM?

Growing up in a remote area in Cameroon, I loved to read novels, study and obtain the best grades in the entire school. But, the number of blackouts every week were so unbearable and a hinderance to study as desired. This pushed me to developing an interest in remedying the situation when I grow up, and so I discussed this with my teachers and some seniors at school. I was told engineers are the ones who work on such systems… “So Brida, you have to study hard to be an electrical engineer in order to achieve your dreams.” This meant getting into STEM!! So, I made my dream to become a vision and then my passion for STEM.

3.) What are some of the obstacles you have faced so far along this journey and how have you been able to overcome them?

I will say, I had two main obstacles: 1.) convincing people to believe in my dream, and 2.) language barrier.

“A lady, an engineer, and precisely an electrical engineer?!” “So Brida, you will climb on electric poles?!!”, “This is not a lady’s job!” Those were some comments I will receive. Even though I was made to write the entrance exam into med school, I knew deep inside me that I didn’t want to be there. And so I was painstakingly able to convince everyone that I will be better off as an engineer, especially my parents. They had developed a lot of confidence in me after seeing my grades from primary to high school. So their support was enough for me.

And to the language aspect, Yes ‘’Polytechnique Yaounde’’ is a prestigious school. But,.. courses are given in French….you are anglophone, how on earth are you going to cope with this?! Indeed it was a great challenge for me. First time to have all my courses in French coming from a purely anglophone society. I learnt to read, write and speak french while studying at ‘’Polytechnique Yaounde’’, Cameroon.

I will say, these obstacles made me who I am today, they were my stepping stones.

4.) What are you currently doing to get other ladies like you involved in STEM?

I have a few students that I am currently mentoring. Once in a while I give motivational talks during conferences. I am equally involved in some charity schemes aimed at making sure girls at the infant ages have access to study materials.

5.) You recently participated as a speaker at the recently concluded African Science Week. What was your assessment of it and what should be the next steps in your opinion?

It is a great initiative and I must say that I was overwhelmed by the organization, the turnout and most especially the activities. It will be good to have this every year. Also, maybe start the campaign a little earlier to create awareness to many more young people.

6.) Any advice to some ladies who will be reading this?

To all the ladies out there, you have to believe in yourself even if no one else does, and be self confident. Only you can create the person you want to be.

This interview was conducted by Arreytambe Tabot (Next Einstein Forum Ambassador for Cameroon and Curator of #Mentor2Impact) for the Ladies in STEM and How They Started series on the MentUp Report. Follow his work on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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