I think it's so important that everyone has equal access to explore engineering as a career, because not everyone will get the chance to

Nimi Oladapo
Nimi Oladapo
Maintenance Team Leader
Chemical Engineering Alumna
This is Nimi - she is a Chemical & Biological Engineering alumna who now works at Mars as Maintenance Team Leader. Here she talks about how important it is to her that people from all backgrounds have equal access to explore engineering as a career; why she chose Sheffield and what her experiences have been as a black woman at the University of Sheffield.

Watch: our interview with Nimi


What made you want to study at the University of Sheffield and Chemical Engineering in particular?

When I came to Sheffield, I knew that this was the place for me. At the Applicant Day they had lots of different events; they had the candy floss machine, they had the perfume activity, and it's just really interactive. I had a really good day.

From walking around with my mum, going shopping, I got a feel for the city as well and I could actually see myself here. As cliche as it sounds, you just kind of know, it just feels right when you get to the right Uni for you.

Why did you want to be an engineer?

My journey into engineering wasn't a quite clear cut one and I initially didn't really have much of an idea of what engineering was. I always knew I liked problem-solving and my parents always said that I liked to fix up everything around the house. I always like to get involved in anything that I could fix but then I still didn't really know what engineering was all about. I didn't realise how broad it could be and how rewarding of a career it can be as well. Once I actually gave it a proper thought, and saw role models; I had two family friends that were going to do engineering and two girls in the year above me [at school], and that really made me feel like, ‘Oh, if they can do it, this is something that I could do’ and I realised that I could actually do something that could have direct impact on the lives of people, be really beneficial to society and also something that I could see myself being really good at, and that was why I decided to pursue engineering in the end and I haven’t looked back.

As a black woman, we’re interested in hearing about your experiences both at the University of Sheffield and in the engineering sector in general.

When reflecting on my experiences as a black woman studying at the University of Sheffield and also working in the engineering sector in general, I  think firstly, you think ‘Ok, as a woman in engineering you already feel like sometimes you're one of the few’. I know, for example, Chemical Engineering had quite a good gender-balance and I never really felt like I was one of a few because there’s quite a lot girls in my course, but when you narrow that down even further into race and as a black woman you find that you’re part of a much smaller minority. I think all of these factors are there and I know the University is doing a lot more to try and actually tackle this. There have been presentations on microaggressions and I've spoken to some of the new first years and they’ve said how much that has helped them to realise, how they can make it more of an inclusive environment for everyone.

But personally, I felt like I had a really positive experience. I always felt really supported by the University and the wider Engineering Faculty. And I think my mindset has always been just to try my best in everything I can and try not to allow any barriers that might exist without me even knowing to stop me from achieving what I want to achieve. I think as an engineer in general, as long as you're willing to learn and you're willing to get stuck in and you're willing to just enjoy what you're doing and you genuinely have the ability for it you shouldn't really let anything hold you back at all and I think that's what I've tried to do; try to make sure that I take advantage of all the opportunities available to me and never really let my race or my gender stop me from achieving all that I know that I have the potential to achieve.

Nimi Oladapo

You have been a STEM Ambassador & an advocate for Equality and Diversity in STEM - how important is it to you that people from all backgrounds should be able to do engineering? 

Because of my journey into engineering and because I knew that I wouldn't have gone into engineering if it wasn't for people that inspire me, if it wasn't for the role models that I saw and actually getting to explore where before it was too late. And from that, that's really what pushed me to always make sure that I can do whatever I can to encourage people from all backgrounds into engineering because I know that I wouldn't, if it wasn't for people that inspired me.

So through my work as a STEM Ambassador as a Science and Engineering Champion and other things that I've done outside of Uni to try and encourage people into engineering, that's kind of what pushes me to want to do it. I just think it's so important that everyone has an equal access to explore engineering as a career, because you don't always get the chance to, you might not be fortunate enough to go to a school that brings people in to talk to you about engineering, to bring role models for you, you might not see them on TV, you might not get to go to Big Bang Fairs and that kind of thing. So I just think doing whatever you can do to try and encourage the younger generation, especially girls as well, to get into engineering. I know that this is a career and something that they can actually find really enjoyable and can be really rewarding as well.

We interviewed Nimi in August 2021.

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