To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGIS) we are chatting with SD Structural Engineer apprentice Eiana Cutamora about self-discipline and how to stay true to your passions. She also shares some useful links and resources for young girls who’d like to explore career options in STEM.
Q: How did you become a ‘Girl in science’?
Eiana: I genuinely liked to be in school. I enjoyed every single subject. I played sports, I liked doing art…When I got to my GCSEs I got good grades across the board. I did think of doing architecture at some point, but I just enjoyed maths and physics a lot more compared to all my other subjects so I went down that route and looked into civil engineering and structural engineering.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in your journey to engineering?
I think the biggest struggle that I faced was in secondary school. We had an interview with a careers advisor. She sat us down and explained what careers could be suitable for us. That conversation was the only thing that almost held me back. She told me “you’re smart and you’re good at maths now…but this might be the peak of how smart you could get”. And I sat there thinking “I don’t really know what to do with that information!”. Then I went into sixth form and I chose maths, physics and product design. After two weeks of being there, one of my teachers told me “you’ve got the grades but you don’t have what it takes to get your A levels”.
So I left. Yes, after only two weeks I’ve decided to leave. I knew that I wanted to do engineering and I thought “I’m still going to do it!”. I went to college to do a BTEC in Engineering, and got opportunities to go university and study Civil Engineering. I was eager to get some practical experience and I was learning more about myself too. I soon realised that I’m a practical learner and that I can progress better when I can apply what I learn or else I struggle to get my head around things. So when I got the opportunity to work at SD as an apprentice I thought that it was just perfect.
I am genuinely happy that I pursued it, no matter what anybody told me!
Q: Did you receive any external support that kept you motivated despite your teachers’ opinions?
I have an older brother who was studying engineering in college at the time, and he was telling me about what his course was and how practical it was. I think he inspired me a lot. But also, I’m quite self-driven; if you find something you are passionate about, you should pursue it.
Q: What advice would you give to young girls who are thinking of studying STEM subjects?
I would say to work on your self-discipline. For example, get home and just revise daily – this way you’re already practising a level of discipline for yourself without even noticing. It’s a valuable skill that you will be able to apply to everything later in life and in your work.
Q: Do you think self-discipline is something that can be learned and developed?
Yeah, I think so. For most disciplines, you’re not always gonna want to do it, but if you just keep practising every day and make it a habit, then it will get easier. They say it takes 21 days to establish a new habit. Beyond that point, it’s easier to keep going.
Q: What do you think it’s preventing more girls from choosing a career in STEM?
There are a lot of young girls who are skilled and interested in maths and science but don’t know how to actually get into the industry. They need more opportunities to expand their horizons, to see what’s available to them. I think school should provide more opportunities of that kind. I only learned about a career in engineering because my school made us take a quiz during our Careers Weeks. At the end, the quiz would tell you what sort of career to go into based on your responses. It was helpful to learn about possible careers, but it’s not enough!
So you need to be resolute in your choice and look for alternative ways to get the information you need. Personally, I’ve found the following links very helpful: