Erusa completed a master’s degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London in 2008. After graduating she joined an oil and gas services company in Aberdeen, Scotland.
She now works for renewable energy specialist Drax, researching innovative ways to reduce COemissions from power plants.
Engineering is for all
In Erusa’s family, nobody was surprised when she announced that she wanted to become an engineer.
After all, as a child she’d had two fine examples to follow, with two aunts who were highly successful international engineers.
Erusa is determined to promote engineering as a hugely rewarding career option to as many young people as possible. She’s particularly keen to inspire young people from minority ethnic groups.
That’s why she responded to a request from the IET Education team to take part in the Many Faces of Engineering campaign run by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in June 2020.
“I’m a Black woman engineer,” she said. “Here in the UK, I don’t often see people like me at work. I wanted to show that engineering isn’t just for ‘certain types’ of people; engineers come from all walks of life and from all backgrounds.
I also wanted to highlight that engineering can lead to a phenomenal range of careers.
“The MMU campaign featured my photo, comments, and video, along with those of many others from minority ethnic groups.
I hope it resonated with young students and made them recognise their engineering potential.”
Honest, but not brutal
At the IET, we are committed to reflecting and representing the diversity of the engineering community in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender, and mobility.
We are proud of what we have achieved to date, but we know we still have work to do, to make sure diversity and inclusion are hardwired into everything we do.
In March 2021 Erusa pulled no punches in a ‘3 minutes with’ Instagram post published by Scouts, the UK’s largest scouting organisation, during British Science Week.
Her Q&A post reached more than 9,800with almost 500 ‘likes’ to date!
“The interview started off with a question about what subject I enjoyed most at school,” said Erusa. “The answer was definitely mathematics. I’ve always loved solving problems, using a step-by-step approach. It’s a skill that I use most days at work.
“I really liked the questions about diversity. When asked about the challenges I have faced, being ‘a woman of colour in a white, traditionally male-dominated industry’, I felt I could speak to a diverse audience and tell the truth.
“I explained that sometimes the lack of representation can be very obvious, especially at executive level. And that as a Black woman it has at times been difficult to find role models who look like me, whose situation mirrors mine, and who can give me a pathway to follow.
“I was honest, but not brutal: I admitted that being the only woman of colour in the room can be both tiring and a source of great pressure.”
When asked if things had changed over the years, Erusa was pleased to confirm that they have: “I said that I loved the current drive to increase diversity.
“Many employers – including in engineering – are now starting to accept that everyone deserves to work in a setting that allows them to excel, with people who understand them.
Some employers still have quite a way to go in that respect, but I’m glad that diversity is at least firmly on the radar now.
“I was really pleased with the heading for the Scouts Instagram post. It summed up the message I wanted to convey to all young people: ‘Be brave and confident in your abilities. You have a place here.’”
Supporting minority ethnic schoolchildren
Erusa has been delivering STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talks at schools and colleges for many years.
“When I’m telling young people about my work, I tailor what I say according to their age. I always break it down in a way that helps them understand it,” she said.
“I love that ‘lightbulb moment’ when a child recognises how what I’m doing at work links back to what they are learning at school.
“This experience in front of a class of young people has proved very valuable in my professional life. I always used to feel quite nervous about presenting to an audience, but not anymore. And these days I need to be good at it!”
Since the start of 2021 Erusa has been helping to run a weekly after-school homework club on Zoom for schoolchildren from minority groups aged between nine and 11 living in Glasgow, Scotland.
She was inspired to get involved after taking part in an IET Education Officers meeting where educational poverty was high on the agenda. The initiative is the brainchild of grassroots organisation African Challenge Scotland.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know the kids and helping them,” said Erusa. “I send them worksheets to complete each week and we go through them together during the hour-long session on Zoom.
It’s good for them to see someone who looks like them and is working as an engineer.
“The club is a lot of fun, especially when the kids use special effects to make it look like they are wearing sunglasses. It’s quite random!”
In her free time, Erusa is developing a STEM activity that profiles and highlights engineers from under-represented groups who are working in the energy industry.
“I have spoken to a couple of schools about trialling it in September,” she said.
“It’s called ‘Unmasked: STEM in Energy’ and I’m really excited about it. I want this to be a virtual platform for all young people to be able to ask questions about engineering careers and to gain awareness about issues like the scale of the net-zero challenge.
I want them to feel like they are striking up a conversation.”
Establishing a new network
Erusa is fast becoming a powerful voice for engineers from under-represented groups.
On Women in Engineering Day in June 2021, she was one of three women engineers working in energy who took part in a panel discussion.
She is also establishing a new network for engineers, scientists and technicians from minority groups who work in energy. “The government is now really focusing on renewable energy and low-carbon fields,” she said.
“I feel that as a network, we need to be focused on it too – and we need to get as many of us into those fields as possible.
“Big decisions are being made around energy. If we have as much diversity as possible, then everyone can put their viewpoints across, so that we end up with decisions that are advantageous to all.
“The new network will also create an important opportunity for us to learn from each other, share experiences and advice, and provide mentoring.”
Find out how we’re supporting STEM education and email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can get involved.
If you’d like to find out more about the new network that Erusa is setting up for engineers, scientists, and technicians from minority groups who work in energy, email Erusa directly at email@example.com.