Happy International Women in Engineering Day! #INWED21
Today, we celebrate our colleague Ain Sufi Baharozaman, who is in the Engineering Team as our Jr. Mechatronics Engineer.
Ain is now handling the mechatronics at our fly company, but she's actually familiar with a different type of fly. Graduated with a Bachelor of Aircraft Engineering in Avionics from UniKL MIAT, Ain took the leap of faith and flew onto our Mechatronics Traineeship programme late last year.
She successfully completed the traineeship and joined our team, developing automation, improving our mechanical systems, new concepts and prototypes. At our farm, you will find her tinkering with our IoT devices; a screwdriver in her back pocket, a multimeter in her hand, gingerly diagnosing circuits and switches. At her desk, she plays a role in developing Protenga's data-driven software systems, the Insect OS. She ensures smooth integrations of our Insect OS, a uniquely Protenga operating system monitoring our farm conditions, enabling traceability and environmental optimisation.
And that's worth mentioning as she is an example of venturing into unfamiliar territory and doing well in it! Ain's story shows that the education you graduated with is not necessarily the only path you can take in your career. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
For Ain, every day is something new!
We had a chat with her to know more about how she's doing.
Q: Tell us about your role in Protenga, and what you do.
Ain: I'm a Junior Mechatronics Engineer. Here at Protenga, our Insect Farms are operating based on data and this is where I come in. I provide the IoT support that the Production team needs such as sensor data across the facility and automation of environmental controls to obtain the optimum environment (ie: climate) for the larvae and flies. On top of that, I am also in charge of making sure that our server, or what we refer to as InsectOS, is accessible to our users. InsectOS is the home to our daily operations data and also IoT data.
Q: We know that you are actually from a different background than what you're doing now. What is it like to step into a whole new industry and how has it been for you?
Ain: Yes, I have an educational background in avionics, which essentially is electronics for aircraft. A part of the reason why I decided to change my field because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but mostly it's also because I developed an interest in IoT and automation towards the end of my undergraduate studies. When I joined, there was certainly a feeling of uncertainty of whether I was fit for the job at all. I had almost zero knowledge about breeding insects, but I thought that it was worth dipping my toe into. It's not aircraft for sure, but hey something more awesome is flying here!
On a serious note, it takes some courage to step out of your comfort zone, but they say that "pressure creates diamond", and I guess you just have to enjoy the process before you could turn into one.
Q: You were previously a Mechatronics Trainee here and then you were hired as a Junior Mechatronics Engineer. We understand Protenga is your first job, congratulations! How has it been so far?
Ain: Thank you! It has been an exciting 6 months. I have learned a lot more than I have been when I was just trying to learn through online courses. It's always different when you are putting your knowledge into implementation. It's also a good feeling when you know what you're working on will have a positive impact. I'm not only contributing to the production of animal feed, I'm also contributing to promoting sustainability. So while I have learned a lot about IoT and automation, I've also gained some insights into sustainability, biotech and agriculture. It's interesting to see the merge between technology and biology.
Q: In your role as Junior Mechatronics Engineer, you have to enter our insect farms to install the set-ups. Tell us about your first time doing so and what's it like now.
Ain: Oh, I remember the first time I came into the farm. All I can say is, I have never seen so many larvae so up-close! On my first day, I was surprised by how not only the Insect Caretakers but also people in the Corporate team were very comfortable in touching and feeling from neonates, larvae, pupae, flies to even frass! The Insect Caretakers received my utmost respect when I first entered the flies' mating chambers. Immediately as soon as I stepped in, I was swarmed by black soldier flies. I could only imagine how the caretakers spend every day in the hot and humid chambers, collecting eggs. Seriously, utmost respect!
Compared to my first time here, I am much more comfortable with the environment now. I have no problem touching these flies, I realised that they're just going through a cycle of life, the same as we are.
Q: Deep! What are the kinds of challenges you face, and how do you handle them?
Ain: There are a lot of challenges that I have faced, especially when you're working with IoT, connectivity is very important, relatively, and figuratively. There are also other technical challenges in making sure that what we have implemented at the farm is reliable. When it comes to such technical difficulties, it's important to find the root cause, which honestly is already a challenge itself, and then to address it accordingly. Sometimes you are just at a dead end, and all you can do is scrap everything and start from scratch.
On top of that, jumping from one field to another, there are a lot of things that I am unfamiliar with. For example, I had no experience in MODBUS at all, so that was something I needed to learn from scratch. It's always a rewarding feeling every time you make progress on your projects. And even more so when they are complete! As with other challenges in life, you need to have perseverance, and the interest to get over them.
Q: Do you feel that being a woman is disadvantageous in this field and in Protenga?
Ain: Not at all! Saying that it's disadvantageous being a woman is like saying it's disadvantageous being me, and that is not something I would want to embed into myself. Your gender should not be deemed as a bad thing. Engineering is a male-dominated industry and you might encounter sceptics who doubt your ability, but that's more reason for you to prove them otherwise! The Engineering Team at Protenga has been a great support, letting me discover my potential.
Q: One last final question! This may inspire other fellow fresh graduates in engineering, especially females. What is some of the advice you share with other young women entering a male-dominated profession?
Before I answer this question, I would like to say that I am just as fresh as any of you fresh graduates out there. My respect goes to women who are engineers by day, and moms 24/7. We really do need inspiring figures to aspire our future generations, and who could be better than a mother inspiring their kids?
Now back to the question. I would advise young women not only in engineering but also young women in other branches of STEM: if you have the aptitude for it, then you can achieve your dreams just as equally as any of your male counterparts can.
It can be intimidating, but it's also exciting. Focus on what interests you and work on your career development. Be sure to have the right support system at home, and at your workplace that would encourage your growth. Know that it's okay to ask and learn from these seniors, no matter if they are men or women. Learn and make connections with them! The right people would want you to grow and learn, anyway. And if they won't, maybe they're not the people you should be working with. Lastly, if there's anything that I've learned, it's that yes engineering can be difficult, and yes technical skills are important, but be versatile and practice to see the big picture. It's also what I am working on as well.
Happy International Women in Engineering Day!
At Protenga, we believe in empowering women and allowing them to unleash their innate strength, appreciating a woman's intelligence, empathy, compassion, and leadership, in ways that are different from a man's leadership style. Unfortunately, it has been ingrained in us that woman when assertive is aggressive, when she speaks the truth she is difficult, and when she's leading, she's bossy. We acknowledge these societal norms and biases towards women, and we're looking to change that.
We're inviting more courageous, bold, power women with a mission towards sustainability to join our teams! If you are hungry to contribute to our global food systems, and you want to grow and be better, we want you on our team too.
To find out more, visit protenga.com/careers