Diversity alone won’t be materially effective and sustainable without equity and inclusion.

Aatikah Adam
Aatikah Adam
Chemical & Biological Engineering Aluma
Portfolio Management and Business Development
We asked our student body about their experiences of equality, diversity and inclusion at the University of Sheffield and this is what Aatikah, Chemical & Biological Alumna said.

What motivated you to pursue a career in Engineering?

Retrospectively, I was uninformed on career routes and opportunities I could pursue when it was time to apply to study engineering, and, again when making job applications. 

In making an informed decision, it’s valuable to learn how companies ‘work’ in terms of governance, what career ladders exist for roles you are interested in and how one can climb them, and the practicalities of the roles your degrees enables you to do – including what key activities actually look like on a week to week basis. At the time of application to university my reasoning for studying engineering didn’t consider these things. I wanted to do a degree which was highly employable and it was an exciting prospect to learn how to apply my STEM knowledge practically. I had a strong interest in conservation so working in energy was a stretch but one I could transition to.

I found out what I had really applied to – and became a strong advocate for studying engineering - throughout my time at Sheffield University rather than prior. This extends to the non-engineering roles studying engineering can open effective pathways to.

How would you describe your time and experiences at University in relation to any challenges or opportunities related to equality, diversity or inclusivity?

Celebrating the international side of University is an opportunity not to be missed. I loved attending events like ICE (International Cultural Event), Chinese New Year Celebrations, the many food related Malaysian socials and the list goes on. 

It wasn’t purposeful, but reflecting back on the courses and societies I was a part of they naturally required collaborating in environments of high diversity and inclusivity. This isn’t the case for all societies - and in many ways set me up to thrive working in culturally rich teams post university. For example, enjoying learning languages, most multi-disciplinary engineering societies like Engineers Without Borders and certain sports like boxing which don’t have socio-economic barriers to the degree many other sports do. 

It’s also important to have individuals you can call on in proximity for familiarity. I was lucky to naturally form such connections as there will be times you can benefit from leaning into these for a sense of comfort or expression. For example, the only time I felt homesick was when it was Ramadhan and I would start and end my fast studying long shifts in the Diamond where the month of fasting coincided with exam season. Towards the end of the month, I invited Muslim engineering friends from various societies and courses I’d met along the way to a dinner and games night. Everyone brought a home cooked dish so the table hosted plates from many nationalities and ethnicities. It was an evening which went a long way in raising my morale at the time. We were all at peak stress with our courses but invested the time to feel a sense of togetherness in our experience; even in spite of the fact many had just met each other! 

I was also proud to see an engineer in my cohort couldn’t be associated with any face or ‘type’ of person. Nonetheless, as a faculty, engineering has much room for equality, diversity & inclusion improvements. When at university I wrote an open letter to the engineering department alongside peers calling for various changes. This was prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, and included increasing the department's diversity of staffing and specific measures to decolonise the engineering curriculum.

What is your role at your company?

I work in Portfolio Management and Business Development. The arrangement is a unique one where I partially spend time as a Development Engineer moving projects along the development pipeline to fill a resource gap, and, I primarily work as a Portfolio Management Associate making strategic, financially driven decisions on all prospective and operational assets.

Do you think diversity in Engineering is important?

There is a bounty of research indicating the value to business, customers, clients and the industry of diversity. I hope we are moving into a time where we no longer need to be having the conversation as to whether one thinks diversity is important when we now have such data to support this to be true. But, diversity alone won’t be materially effective and sustainable without equity and inclusion.

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