Manager at Woodside Innovation Centre
Our third profile is on Malaika Ingram. Malaika came to Monash about a year ago to manage the Woodside Innovation Centre. She began as a mechanical engineer and has worked at many companies including Rubicon Water (Melbourne) and Spirit AeroSystems (Wichita). Throughout her career, she's been consistently involved in advocacy for engineers, particularly for female and black engineers. In her role as manager of the Woodside Centre, she's helped the lab become a hive of activity, with students and researchers always buzzing around completing interesting work. It's a pleasure to know her and even more of a pleasure to have her as a role model to look up to! So without further ado, here is a bit more about her;
What is your involvement in engineering?
I'm currently the manager of the Woodside Innovation Centre, a joint research venture between Monash and Woodside Energy. On a day-to-day basis I look at optimising component design for additive manufacturing. I also perform project management and managerial duties for the lab. Prior to this role I worked as a manufacturing engineer for an irrigation solutions company (Rubicon Water), providing LEAN solutions to manufacturing problems and streamlining processes. Before I moved to Australia in 2014, I worked as a Research Engineer in aerospace manufacturing (Spirit AeroSystems). In that role I researched solutions to various manufacturing problems for Boeing and Airbus aircraft. I was in that position for 9 years,and prior to that I spent 3 years working as a Mechanical Engineer for the NYC steam distribution system (Con Edison).
What inspired you to go into your field?
I'd have to say the biggest influence in me going in to engineering was my high school guidance counsellor. I was always good at math and didn't know what I wanted to study at university so she recommended engineering. i started out as an electrical engineering major, but after finding out it wasn't a good fit for me, I switched to Mechanical Engineering and never looked back.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEMM?
As a woman in STEM I've faced the usual challenges of not being taken seriously because I'm not a man. I also had the added challenge of overcoming people's assumptions about me based on my race. (In the US I'm classed as a double minority since I'm a black woman.) I think my age has also played a factor since I've usually been in work groups with older men. It takes some time to break down the stereotypes, but I found that once I showed what I was capable of on a project then my gender was no longer an issue.
What advice would you give to young women in STEMM?
My advice for young women in STEM would be to not let anyone dictate who or what you should be. Set your own standards and stick to them. Don't try to fit into a mould or try to be extra tough so that you can be treated like a male peer. Let your work speak for itself and prove that you are just as capable as any man in a similar position.
Finally, what's something (unusual) that keeps you going every day?
One of the things that keeps me going every day is the fact that I somehow became an inspiration for young women without ever intending to be. I think that if people can look at me and what I've done and it gives them an idea of the possibilities open to them then I have a duty to continue down this path. So even when I'm doubting myself and wondering if I should be doing something else, those are the moments that make me want to push even harder just to show others coming behind me that the struggles might be hard but the end results are well worth the fight.
For more information about Malaika and her work with the Woodside Centre, check out the following links; here and here.