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#STEMStories: Colette, Energy Engineer, Cameroon

Name: Colette Jaff

Role/Occupation: Energy Engineer / Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

Country: Cameroon

Colette Jaff is an Energy Engineer at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. As an energy engineer, Jaff is responsible for maintaining all aspects of energy management on telecom Base Transceiver Stations. This broadly involves supervising all regulatory compliance activities during implementation as well as helping to ensure site energy security policies and practices.

Jaff initially wanted to become a medical doctor, it was one of her absolute passions, this passionate later shifted to engineering as she got older. She studied Physics with Computer Science as an undergraduate student and then went on to achieve a masters degree in Renewable Energy Engineering with focus on solar and biomass energy. She currently works as a Renewable Energy Engineer. She is motivated by the desired electrification of remote parts of Cameroon through renewable sources of energy. Jaff feels that “our world would be a much better place if everyone works, thinks and acts at FULL POTENTIAL,” and that full potential can only be achieved through authenticity. “Renewable energy brings every environment closer to authentic modernization,” she elaborates.

As a young girl, Jaff had a neck for going after anything that was tagged “NOT FOR GIRLS”. She vividly recalls her tree climbing and hunting adventures as lone girl amidst a crown of boys, “those days greatly shaped my future. Every time I was told I couldn’t engage into whatever activity because I was a girl, I became more determined to excel in it.” Jaff feels that STEM fields are still highly male dominated fields, with many stereotypes against women and that being a woman in engineering an be challenging and discouraging, “you have to prove your worth against a vast number of male counterparts and many a times to a bias management,” she explains. She maintains her composure by reminding herself of her worth and competencies, “I hold my head high, and when I fail as sometimes I do, I learn from the mistakes and confidently move on,” she elaborates.

Her advice to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is to simply believe in yourself, “my dear sisters, be confident and make your impact to bring change in your community and the world at large, “ she emphasises.

With regards to the future of STEM in Africa, Jaff feels that girls need to be shown that STEM is as fun and rewarding as the somewhat more glamorous career options in show business. She feels that girls need to be shown that, “We don’t just make careers in STEM, we build our lives, identities and leave a better environment for generations to come.” She believes that African STEM women should reach out to the youth and become role models for them, thus “letting them savour the fragrance of the flowers that bud and blossom in STEM.”

There have been several milestone moments in Jaff”s career, the most recent one being her selection as an Emerging Leader for the ongoing TechWomen18 mentorship program in Silicon Valley. As part of the program, she learnt new skills as a female leader in STEM from other amazing female leaders who have being making strides in the STEM industry. She described this opportunity as a one of a kind experience, “a breakthrough from all those chains and setbacks that kept you going round in circles, a moon-shot in [your] network with inspirational persons that share your vision and enlighten your path.”

Read more about this energetic energy engineering Geeky Girl, Colette Jaff in an interview that will inspire you to reach your full potential by discovering your authenticity. 

  1. Describe what your work entails. 

As an energy engineer, I am responsible for maintaining all aspects of energy management on telecom Base Transceiver Stations. Supervising all regulatory compliance activities during implementation and helping to ensure site energy security policies and practices. My duties include:

  • Carryout energy audits, solutions design and site configuration
  • Supervising onsite material logistics
  • Implementation of Base Transceiver Station energy solutions
  • Developing ways of improving existing processes and promoting the integration of clean energy through Huawei’s hybrid energy solutions
  • Installing and commissioning AC/DC rectifiers
  • Project documents classification
  • Implementation of cooling systems in Telecommunication equipment rooms
  • Design technical drawing for energy solutions and emergency exit plans
  • Oversee the design, installation, operation and maintenance of Access Control, CCTV, Fire Detection, Suppression systems facilities in Camtel Data Centre structures 
  1. Describe your engineering journey. 

As a young girl, I always went for anything that was tagged “NOT FOR GIRLS”. I still remember so vividly, my tree climbing and hunting adventures as lone girl amidst a crown of boys. Those days greatly shaped my future. Every time I was told I couldn’t engage into whatever activity because I was a girl, I became more determined to excel in it.

This developed in me a dying passion to become a medical doctor, later shifted to a mechanical engineer, and today I am a Renewable Energy Engineer.

I studied Physics/Computer Science as an undergraduate, and later a master degree in Renewable Energy Engineering with focus on Solar and Biomass. 

  1. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? 

I am passionate about the electrification of the most remote parts of Cameroon from Renewable sources of energy. I believe firmly that our world would be a much better place if everyone works, thinks and acts at FULL POTENTIAL. Being authentic, is very essential to attaining full potential and renewable energy brings every environment closer to authentic modernization. 

  1. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the engineering space? 

Being a woman in engineering an be challenging and somewhat discouraging as you have to prove your worth against a vast number of male counterparts and many a times to a bias management. STEM fields are highly male dominated fields, with very many stereotypes against women.  I always have to remind myself of my worth and competencies and be satisfied with what I do, love my work and be proud of myself even when no one else does. I always wear my “Power Bracelet” before stepping out to work or anything else. I hold my head high, and when I fail as sometimes I do, I learn from the mistakes and confidently move on. I give a deaf ear to every demeaning stereotype whatever the source or popularity. 

  1. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? 

I have just one word: “believe in yourself”. Any woman looking towards building a career in STEM is strong, intelligent, smart, unstoppable, has a vision, is in touch with and loves her environment/community. Therefore, my dear sisters, be confident and make your impact to bring change in your community and the world at large. 

  1. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? 

My heart feels heavy at the trends we see in our young girls nowadays; everyone thinks of nothing but ‘Showbiz’. That is what our world and models portray: that Showbiz offers a heavenly life. We need to show our girls that STEM is as fun and rewarding and why not more. We don’t just make careers in STEM, we build our lives, identities and leave a better environment for generations to come.

African women in STEM have a duty to reach out to our youths and become role models for them by letting them savour the fragrance of the flowers that bud and blossom in STEM. 

  1. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? 

There have been several milestone moments, the most recent being my selection as an Emerging Leader for the ongoing TechWomen18 mentorship program. I am learning new skills as an emerging female leader in STEM from amazing female leaders making strides in the STEM industry here in Silicon Valley. This is an experience compared to none other; a breakthrough from all those chains and setbacks that kept you going round in circles, a moon-shot in my network with inspirational persons that share your vision and enlighten your path. 

  1. How do you maintain a work-life balance? 

My principle has been one of simply focussing on what I have to do at a given time. I do everything within my power not to take work home. This allows me to give my family my full time and attention once with them. In the same way, I do not take my family challenges with me into my work place. My colleagues and work deserve a happy and focus collaborator. 

  1. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? 

I am most inspired by my beautiful mum. She does all things well even to this date, always finding the balance between her family and personal life. Though an Agricultural Technician whose role required lots of travelling and long hours work, she is always available when needed. I learned from her, the art of multitasking while staying focused; “Effective Multitasking”. 

  1. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? 

LinkedIn Profile: JAFF Colette

Twitter Handle: @CKwatika 

Colette Jaff  interviewed by Dhruti Dheda

Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter @dhrutidd