Aorthi Afroza’s growth as an engineer was supported by the Women in Engineering Network (WEN), the Engineering Revue and Systems Week, all of which gave her opportunities to connect with her fellow students.
Qualification: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Computer Systems Engineering
Role: Web Developer at Trade Me
At school, Aorthi had a physics teacher who always encouraged the girls in the class to attend WEN outreach events where school students get to meet current Engineering students.
“So I started going to these events and seeing the girls that were speaking and I was like, “oh they seem normal’”, she joked. “That was a big influence on me picking engineering”.
“When I got into my second year, I went into the WEN mentoring program, and I got paired up with this girl called Bridget. She was a year above me and we just had so much in common, we became really good friends and she was actually the reason I applied to work at Trade Me, because she interned there the previous summer and really enjoyed it. I just thought ‘they would never take me, I'm not clever enough, I've been rejected by all these places’ and she was like, ‘just go for it, just give it a go’.”
After completing an internship at Trade Me that was arranged through Summer of Tech, Aorthi was told there would be a job waiting for her at Trade Me. When she called her previous manager to see if the offer was still on the table, they were really excited to hear from her and welcomed her back. She’s been there since December and is finding plenty of opportunities to grow as an engineer — both in terms of technical ability and as a strong team member.
One of the cool things about my role is you can just get stuck into it and try lots of different things, so technically speaking I've grown so much.
“I do this thing where I try my best to take tasks that terrify me, ones that I look at and I'm like, ‘I don't know how to do this’ and then I kind of just figure it out as I go along.”
“Then there’s also the people's skills which just kind of come naturally when you have to work in teams where there's all kinds of people of different ages and different backgrounds. You have to learn how to manage different types of people with different skill sets and their own aims for the project.”
Engineering projects like Systems Week see the students come together in multidisciplinary teams to solve a hypothetical problem, like what might happen to Auckland if the Harbour Bridge collapsed. These collaborative assignments genuinely helped Aorthi prepare for a career as an engineer and the situations she described above.
“I think one of my favorite things about Systems Week was you're not meant to really know what you're doing, but you'll need to be able to figure out how you should go about it. I remember on the third day it suddenly clicked for me where I realised ‘oh this is how the real world works!’”
Aorthi’s student experience was enhanced by her favourite club, the Engineering Revue. It’s a variety show completely written, directed and produced by our students. Aorthi joined in her second year and found it’s an amazing way to meet people and learn valuable life skills. Her only regret was not joining sooner.
“I was chosen for assistant producer, which meant that in my final year I was one of the two main people in charge,” she said. “It ended up being the number one most valuable learning experience I had at university. All of a sudden I was in charge of a large-scale project in real life, with one hundred students and a team of 18 execs that I had to manage."
That's really great, but more generally the people in it are just the nicest people. They're all engineering students, they're all getting out of their comfort zones and it's just a great way to meet people.
As well as getting involved with WEN and the Engineering Revue, Aorthi recently presented at our annual Engineering Futures Events for high school students. Considering how influential meeting the WEN students was for Aorthi when she was still at school, she knows how valuable these events can be for potential students who are still unsure about applying.
“Students have this idea of what engineering is and what the people that do engineering are like and they sometimes think I can't do it,” she explained. “That was personally me when I was in high school, I was like, ‘I'm not smart enough, I'm not this and that’. I don't fit certain stereotypes and I think it's really important for people to come to these events and see that there isn’t one type of engineering student”.