Design engineer: Why what I do matters

Looking at a building coming up, all one sees is concrete and steel. It looks lifeless. Cynthia Waihenya is a design engineer who brings life into the building by introducing service to it. She works at Gamma Delta E A as a consulting Engineer. Find out what is unique about a design engineer.

How did you get to be a design engineer? I am actually a Mechatronic Engineer by training. Mechatronic Engineering, in layman’s terms, is a lovely combination of electronics and mechanical engineering, which sounded like a good match for me. After graduation, I found employment in the construction industry.  It’s a bit of a leap, from manufacturing to construction, though some things are similar. I get to design, but for slightly different applications. 

What is the typical day in the life of a design engineer? A day is never complete without three things; replying to client’s emails, visiting a site or two and reviewing designs based on changes in requirements. My job tasks include project management including planning, design, cost analysis and estimation, tendering and short-listing, valuation and appraisal preparation, supervision and commissioning mechanical installations for developments in banking, hospitality, offices and residential constructions.

What are the highs and lows, in your experience, of being a woman in the construction industry? There are instances where I have been undermined because of my gender, which has given me the opportunity to prove myself. Construction sites are not for the weak of heart, from the staircases that are not present or generally a safety hazard to the language used. It is still a boy’s club, and I have learnt to let things roll off my back and not take it personally. 

“Working in the tech world is very fulfilling. It is no picnic but I love it!”

In your opinion, do you think mentorship is useful in supporting engineers to further their careers? There are many opportunities that have not been explored for engineers, ideas do not flow as much from the older to newer generation and as such we do not have high growth rates in the sector. Mentorship helps bridge this gap, younger engineers can learn about opportunities where they can apply their talents.

What do you know now about your career that you wish you knew when you were just out of campus? Approach issues with a solution but open to be proved wrong. There are many ways to achieve something especially in a dynamic industry like construction. It is always wise to approach problems with an open mind.

Any role model/mentor? I am lucky to work under a good mentor, Eng. Gicheru Kimani, whose work ethic and dedication keeps striving to give my best. There are few practicing ladies in this industry but Mrs. Sheila Ndirangu stands out as an engineer that I would try to emulate. She is diligent, competent and highly organized.

What is next for you? I feel I have gained some good experience in this industry and now looking into pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical engineering, with emphasis on services.

What is your favorite quote?Penny wise Pound full” (Need to keep things in perspective)

Any hobbies? Swimming, cooking and recently skating but nothing beats curling up with a book on chilly evening.

More about the authorCynthia has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechatronic Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and is a graduate member of the Engineers Board of Kenya. She is currently working on various projects at Gamma delta EA including Kiambu Mall, SHOFCO Mathare Clinic and Nova Apartments, with project completion for the first two by end of 2017. Cynthia Waihenya resides in Kiambu, Kenya.


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