I’m determined to nurture engineering to new heights as the first female President of NSE – Margaret Oguntala

I’m determined to nurture engineering to new heights as the first female President of NSE – Margaret Oguntala

On January 1 2023, Margaret Oguntala stepped into a pioneering role as the first-ever female president the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, an inst

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On January 1 2023, Margaret Oguntala stepped into a pioneering role as the first-ever female president the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, an institution with roots dating back to 1958. She opens up on her plans for the institution during her two-year tenure.
Congratulations on breaking the glass ceiling and emerging the first female president of Nigeria Society of Engineers. What does it feel like?
Thank you. Being the first female President of NSE is a groundbreaking achievement, representing a significant milestone in the history of the engineering profession in Nigeria. I feel so proud to have broken barriers and shattered stereotypes, paving the way for future generations of female engineers to pursue leadership roles within the NSE and even beyond. It is indeed an honour to serve as a role model and inspiration to other women in the field, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and aspirations without limitations. At the same time, being the first female President comes with a sense of responsibility to effectively represent the interests of all NSE members, regardless of gender. I am committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the engineering profession, advocating for equal opportunities and recognition for ALL engineers, regardless of their backgrounds.
 As a woman and mother, who embraces the responsibility of nurturing life, I am determined to nurture engineering to new heights, by rebirthing the NSE for the Growth, Empowerment, and Advancement of Engineering in Nigeria. Overall, being the first female President of the NSE has been a profound empowering experience, allowing me to contribute to positive change in the engineering and inspire others to believe in the limitless potential of women in Engineering.
Is this a dream come true for you, did you ever think in your wildest imagination that this would be your story some day?
Becoming the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers is truly a dream come true for me. It’s an honor and privilege to serve in this capacity and to have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the engineering profession in Nigeria. In all honesty, while I always aspired to contribute to the field of engineering and to advance within the Nigerian Society of Engineers, I never could have imagined that I would be entrusted with such a significant leadership role. It’s a testament to the support and encouragement I’ve received throughout my career, as well as to the progress that has been made in promoting gender diversity and inclusion within the engineering community. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and am committed to fulfilling my duties with dedication, integrity, and passion.
What are some of the qualities you believe worked in your favour and set you apart to emerge president?
Several qualities have played a significant role in my journey to becoming the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.
I have demonstrated strong leadership abilities throughout my career, both within the engineering profession and in various leadership roles within the Nigerian Society of Engineers. My ability to inspire and motivate others, as well as to effectively communicate a vision for the organization, has helped me gain the support of my peers and colleagues. As an engineer, I possess a strong technical background and expertise in my field. This technical competence has earned me the respect of fellow engineers and has contributed to my credibility as a leader within the Nigerian Society of Engineers. In addition, I am deeply committed to upholding the highest standards of excellence in everything I do. This commitment to excellence has guided my work within the Nigerian Society of Engineers and has earned me the trust and confidence of my colleagues. As a female engineer, I have been a strong advocate for gender diversity and inclusion within the engineering profession. My efforts to promote diversity and to empower women engineers have resonated with many members of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and have helped to create a more inclusive environment within the organization. I have a clear vision for the future of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and a strategic approach to achieving our goals. My ability to think strategically and to develop and implement plans for the advancement of the organization has been instrumental in my success as a leader.
How long is your tenure and is there room for re-election?
The tenure of the President of Nigerian Society of Engineers is 2years. Upon the completion, the Deputy President will transit to the position of President. There is no room for re- election. So, you must be fully determined to make impact in the Society within the 2years tenure.
You have obviously settled down to work. What are you hoping to do different from your predecessor to make your mark?
NSE is now on a transformative journey to elevate Engineering in Nigeria and as the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, I am deeply committed to advancing the role of Nigerian Engineers in nation building and ensuring their relevance in addressing the challenges facing our dear country.  Let me tell you some of our strategic roadmap outlining our priorities. We are prioritizing initiatives aimed at enhancing the capacity, skills and competencies of Nigerian engineers, especially the young engineers to meet the evolving needs of the industry. We have started walking the talking, right now we are about to conclude with our partners on international trainings, world – class workshops and certification program. These will commence in due course. Also, it is our plan to champion initiatives that foster innovation and research within engineering community, with a focus on a developing homegrown solution to local challenges. We are creating platforms for collaboration between engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs as well as support innovative projects and start up. We already have engineering hub which we intend to scale up. Our goal is to position Nigeria as a hub for engineering. In addition, we have started contacting government agencies, policy makers, and stakeholders showing interest to work together and advocate for policies that promote the growth and development of the engineering profession in Nigeria. This includes but not limited to advocating for increased investment in infrastructure, adoption of innovative technologies, and the implementation of sustainable development practices. Let me also add that we are prioritising Vocational Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (VSTEM) education to empower future leaders. We are supporting dedicated institutions with strategic endowments to ensure the thriving of VSTEM education for a generation of STEM leaders. For a greater Nigeria, we shall uphold the highest standards of professionalism and ethics within the profession, including adherence to codes of conduct, ethics, and best practices. We shall raise public awareness about the importance of engineering in nation building and engage with local communities to address their needs and concerns. Overall, we shall harness the collective expertise, passion, and ingenuity of Nigerian Engineers to drive sustainable development, economic growth, and social progress in Nigeria. Together, we will build a brighter future for our country and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Although the situation is gradually changing and more females are now embracing engineering as a career, the numbers are still a far cry from that of the male folks. How do you plan to make it an even more attractive career choice for females to pursue?
As the first female President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, I recognize the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion within the field of engineering. While we have made progress in encouraging more females to pursue engineering careers, there is still much work to be done to achieve gender parity in the field. I plan to support APWEN as a division of NSE to launch outreach programs targeted at young girls in schools to spark their interest in engineering from an early age. These programs will include interactive workshops, mentorship opportunities, and exposure to successful female engineers as role models. In addition, we shall advocate for scholarships and funding opportunities specifically aimed at female engineering students to alleviate financial barriers and encourage more women to pursue higher education in engineering fields. Also, we shall continue to campaign to highlight the contributions of female engineers and showcase their achievements in various engineering disciplines. By raising awareness of the important role women play in engineering, we can challenge stereotypes and inspire more females to consider engineering as a viable career option. By implementing these initiatives and fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, we will make engineering a more attractive career choice for females and pave the way for greater gender diversity and representation in the field.
With the coming of artificial intelligence and society advancing as a result of it, how do you think it can positively influence engineers within the Nigerian context and to help them remain at the forefront of this technological advancement?
I believe that artificial intelligence (AI) presents significant opportunities for engineers within the Nigerian context to remain at the forefront of technological advancement. AI technologies can streamline engineering processes, automate repetitive tasks, and optimize resource allocation, thereby improving efficiency and productivity in engineering projects. This will enable Nigerian engineers to deliver high-quality solutions in a timely manner, enhancing their competitiveness on both local and global scales.
Likewise, AI fosters innovation by providing engineers with powerful tools and techniques to solve complex problems and explore new frontiers in engineering design, analysis, and optimization. By leveraging AI technologies, Nigerian engineers can develop innovative solutions to address the unique challenges facing the country, from infrastructure development to energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. AI-enabled collaboration platforms facilitate communication and collaboration among engineers, both within Nigeria and across borders. These platforms enable knowledge sharing, interdisciplinary collaboration, and collective problem-solving, fostering a vibrant engineering community that can tackle large-scale projects and drive socioeconomic development in Nigeria. Unarguably, AI education and training programs can help Nigerian engineers acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to leverage AI technologies effectively in their work. By investing in lifelong learning and professional development initiatives, the Nigerian Society of Engineers can ensure that engineers remain abreast of the latest AI advancements and trends, positioning them as leaders in the field. Let me summarize that AI presents immense opportunities for Nigerian engineers to drive technological innovation, enhance productivity, and address societal challenges. By embracing AI technologies and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration, we will empower engineers to remain at the forefront of this technological revolution and contribute to the socioeconomic advancement of Nigeria.
Female engineers suffer non inclusivity and are sometimes overlooked for their male counterparts. How do you plan to change this narrative and promote inclusivity?
Like I said earlier, I am deeply committed to promoting inclusivity and gender equality within the engineering profession. To change the narrative and address the challenges faced by female engineers, I plan to raise awareness about the importance of gender diversity and inclusivity within the engineering profession through advocacy campaigns, workshops, and seminars. Educate both male and female engineers about the benefits of diversity and the need to create an inclusive work environment. It is our plan to establish mentorship programs to pair female engineers with experienced mentors who can provide guidance, support, and career advice. Create support networks and peer mentoring groups to foster collaboration and solidarity among female engineers and provide them with opportunities for professional growth and development. We shall recognize and celebrate the achievements of female engineers through awards, scholarships, and public recognition programs. Showcase their accomplishments and contributions to the engineering profession to inspire the next generation of female engineers and challenge stereotypes and biases. Of course, we shall continue to advocate for policies and initiatives that promote gender equality, diversity, and inclusivity within the engineering profession. Work with government agencies, educational institutions, and industry partners to implement policies that support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of female engineers.
Nigerians are known to be some of the most brilliant people on a global scale. But they suffer some drawbacks, one of which is in their various professions. With engineering, what solutions would you proffer for these draw backs and how do you plan to enhance the visibility of Nigerian engineers on the world stage?
While Nigerians are indeed known for their brilliance and talent, there are some challenges and drawbacks that hinder their full potential. Nigeria faces significant challenges in infrastructure development, including inadequate transportation networks, unreliable power supply, and limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Also, corruption and governance issues remain pervasive in Nigeria, affecting public trust, investment climate, and overall development prospects. Nigeria lags behind in research and innovation compared to other countries, limiting opportunities for technological advancement and economic growth. To address these drawbacks and enhance the visibility of Nigerian engineers on the world stage, NSE will advocate for increased investment in infrastructure projects and support the development of sustainable infrastructure solutions. Nigerian engineers can play a critical role in addressing infrastructure deficiencies by designing and implementing innovative solutions for transportation, energy, water, and sanitation infrastructure. Also, NSE will collaborate with educational institutions and industry partners to expand access to quality engineering education and training programs. This includes promoting STEM education, offering scholarships and mentorship programs, and advocating for curriculum reforms to align with industry needs. We shall not rest on our oars in advocating for transparency, accountability, and ethical standards in engineering practice. Engineers can serve as advocates for good governance and integrity in infrastructure projects, helping to combat corruption and promote sustainable development. As a technical Professional body, we shall support research and innovation initiatives that promote technological advancement and economic diversification. We are prioritizing strengthening partnerships and collaborations with international engineering organizations and networks. This includes participating in global engineering forums, conferences, and exchanges to showcase Nigerian engineering talent and expertise on the world stage.
What are some of drawbacks mitigating against the growth of Nigerian engineers?
Nigeria’s infrastructure is often inadequate and poorly maintained, which limits opportunities for engineers to work on large-scale projects and hinders professional development. Nigeria allocates minimal funding to research and development compared to other countries. This lack of investment hampers innovation and limits opportunities for engineers to engage in cutting-edge research and development projects. Let me tell you that the current high rate of unemployment and underemployment in Nigeria affects engineers, leading to job scarcity, low wages, and limited opportunities for career advancement. Corruption and bureaucracy in government agencies and regulatory bodies often impede the growth of engineering projects. Bribery, red tape, and inefficiency can delay projects and increase costs, discouraging investment and innovation. Many engineers in Nigeria face challenges accessing state-of-the-art technology, tools, and resources needed to execute engineering projects effectively. This hinders their ability to compete globally and deliver high-quality results.
What was your motivation for settling for engineering when you could have settled for anything else?
From onset, I always want to have the opportunity to impact society in meaningful ways and make a different by designing sustainable infrastructure and addressing global issues like climate change and poverty. Also, I am drawn into engineering because I enjoy solving complex problems and finding innovative solutions to real-world challenges. Engineering offers continuous opportunities for growth and development and attracts individuals who are intellectually curious and enjoy learning new concepts and skills. All these influences my decision to settle for engineering.
How has your career choice shaped you to become who you are today?

My career as an Engineer often involves solving complex problems and addressing technical challenges. This fosters a strong problem-solving mindset and the ability to approach issues analytically and systematically, which are valuable skills in leadership roles that I am holding now. Engineers are trained to think innovatively and creatively, seeking novel solutions to problems. Take a strategic approach to problem solving considering long term implication. This mindset of innovation is what I am applying to leadership roles, driving the organizational growth, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement while strategic thinking ability is essential for me to make decisions that impact the future direction of the Society. Overall, the engineering career choice has shaped me to become an effective leader in the society by instilling valuable skills such as problem-solving, innovation, strategic thinking, collaboration, adaptability, and resilience. These qualities are essential for success in leadership roles within engineering organizations like the NSE.

You are a board member of some companies including BlackHouse Media, a Media and Public Relations outfit. Your role as an engineer and what BHM represents are two poles apart. What is the correlation?
My background in engineering equips me with a strong analytical mind set and problem-solving skills, which are valuable assets in any boardroom setting. BlackHouse Media, for example, thrives on innovation and strategic thinking, areas where my engineering background can contribute alongside the creative strengths of the team. Serving on multiple boards allows me to leverage my diverse skillset and gain exposure to different industries, fostering well-rounded business acumen.
You are a recipient of many awards. Which of the awards would you say is most important to you and why?
All the awards are so important to me because all the awards validate my hard work, achievements, align with my personal values, reflect my impact on society, recognize my philanthropic efforts, advocacy work and many more.
If you weren’t an engineer, what other profession do you think you would have excelled in?
In a different life, I might have gravitated towards a career in communications or storytelling. Acting in Wale Adenuga’s movies was a fulfilling experience that allowed me to explore creativity and connect with audiences. These are transferable skills that can be valuable in various fields.