Stéphanie Amati is a Research Engineer in the field of underwater robotics. After her studies at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, she now works with autonomous submarine robots at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal.
In my recent chat with Stéphanie, she was very kind to share her experiences, challenges and aspirations as a young girl engineer.
When and why did you decide that you would be an engineer?
This was a bit difficult path for me. Before I went into engineering, I did audiovisual media training, where I also studied web design. But the only thing that actually motivated me there was the logic behind the code of websites. So I realized that I liked logic a lot and I wanted to solve problems.
My parents are also engineers, and when I talked to them about a possible change in the field of study, they supported me. So I chose a Bachelor degree in Microengineering, which was broad and allowed me to decide on the specialty at a later stage. It was nice, because we did a bit of everything: mechanics, electronics and also informatics.
What do you like most about working in your field?
That I can see the practical application of my work. During my studies it was only theory, and the application side was really missing. But there are a lot of things that you can only understand when you do them.
Delfim Geo, robot catamaran, Lisbon, Portugal (photos courtesy of S. Amati)
What was the biggest challenge during your studies?
Even though we are already at a point when gender parity is improving, my biggest challenge was to take my place as a woman in the engineering field. During the first year of my studies, every time we did a group assignment together and I gave an answer to a question, my male colleagues always double-checked with someone else. I think it wasn’t mean but rather unconscious. My male colleagues only started to trust me after the first session of exams, because I had good marks. They finally realized that I could be intelligent too.
However, the saddest part is that this gender bias also exists in women themselves. Just recently, I caught myself looking for a man to advise me in a bike store. So it’s really a work that we all have to do.
What is your biggest aspiration or dream in relation to your work?
I would like to become a real expert in my field and know answers to all the questions.
What would be your advice to little girls who want to be engineers?
I would say that you shouldn’t close any doors and be afraid to look for what you really like. That’s very important. Don’t go into the direction that other people want you to go. And when you’re there, just fight! Because you do this for yourself and because you like it. Just fight and don’t listen to others. The only thing that matters is what you feel inside.
More information on Stéphanie’s professional background can be found on her LinkedIn page.