Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Chemical Engineer Kaela Mainsah.
1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? I decided on chemical engineering because I like chemistry and was interested in the industrial processes that enabled daily living. If you’ve ever eaten a chocolate bar, taken a pain killer or enjoyed a coffee at dawn – a chemical engineer has been involved in the creation of your experience.
2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? There were a few women in my undergraduate degree and others a few years ahead of us. Although they were not formal mentors, they inspired us by reminding us that we belonged. I know a personal mentor would have been a great help, and I am excited at the prospect and the wealth of female engineering mentors at NYPA.
3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I have been at NYPA for almost a year – I really enjoy the camaraderie and I am proud to be part of NYPA’s implementation of Executive Order 88 – I believe that strategies and initiatives employed as part of BuildSmart NY will have a lasting influence on the State Energy Efficiency Industry.
4. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? If so, which was the biggest one? I did find it challenging as a new engineer to find my place – I joined a company that had not hired a graduate engineer for a number of years; I was a novelty and constantly had to prove myself. They also did not have facilities at all the sites for women and I remember changing in closets once or twice.
5. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? I have learned that diversity strengthens all teams because of the different perspectives we bring to solution design and problem solving. Ultimately, success at engineering requires the ability to communicate, solve problems and work within a team. As women have a well-known bias for team building teams and communicating effectively, I think women are built for engineering.
6. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? I would tell young women that the engineering discipline is an excellent foundation for almost any discipline. Engineering particularly chemical engineering, touches a variety of industries and a wealth of opportunities to be involved in the manufacture of a wide range of products both at home and abroad.
7. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? Undervalued! I feel that society values the end consumer product, the marketing and buzz without an appreciation for the technical engineering behind it. Engineers are responsible for a lot of innovation and business growth and the industry plays a critical role in economic growth…. engineers create jobs… in fact, they create industries.
8. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? I could speak perfect Mandarin at the age of 4 because my parents lived in China at the time. I have forgotten every word of it but I am sure it lurks in the dark recesses of my mind. Maybe I will try hypnosis!