Chat with Shanna Charlette – Young Seychelloise in Electrical Engineering.

Can you tell us a bit about your education? The school you went to, the subjects you did and what your experience was like?

I went to Mont Fleuri primary and secondary school. After that I went to Advanced levels studies (SALS) to study Maths, Biology and chemistry. A levels was tough since it was a huge gap from IGCSE. After completing A levels I went to PUC to work for a year where I was a hydrology technician. I was mainly collecting, recording hydrological data and writing monthly reports to the CEO.

Can you tell us a bit about journey to becoming an electrical engineer?

My first choice was to study Medicine because I wanted to help people and give back to the community. But then I realised I would not be able to bare to see people in pain. Then, I decided to do Control and instrumentation engineering which is a branch in electrical engineering. The course was funded by the government of Seychelles and PUC (part finance). When I got to university, there were only two of us that signed up for the course, so the university decided to put us with the electrical and electronics engineering cohort and changed the syllabus to match ours.

What was is like studying in a male dominated environment?

It is quite intimidating because I was the only female on my course. The males are always testing you to see if you can do it. It’s what I love to do and I put my mind to it so in the end proved them wrong.
A lot of people asked me why I chose this field and my answer is always the same, you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. The first key to success is confidence and determination.

Which achievement to date are you most proud of?

I am immensely proud to have been the only female on my course and to have managed to receive a first class with honours for my master’s degree. I have worked so hard for it and did not stop even though I felt like I could not do it. Also, proud to have been chosen by the professors at the university to be a laboratory demonstrator which is a paid position to help guide and assist undergraduates during laboratory in electrical, coding and electronics labs. Proud to have been the representative my course on the engineering society committee. Also, mostly proud to have represented my country.

Who would you cite as your inspirations (academic or otherwise)?

Strong independent women, especially my mother. She taught me to depend on myself and to be strong when life gets tough. Her main phrase was life is not easy but with focus, drive and determination anything can be achieved.

Did you come across any setbacks whilst studying?

Yes definitely, being far away from home can be depressing at times. I did not have any Seychellois at my university, so I had to make friends on my course and societies. I was felt alone most of the time. Another setback was minor discrimination from males on my course but that kept me going and made me stronger. When they think they are breaking me, I am working twice as hard to prove them wrong.

Did you have anyone in your life who acted as a mentor to you? Did you have a support system in place? Teachers, friends, family etc.?

Dr Valentin was my extra maths teacher he was extremely helpful, and he always said to take your education seriously since that is the key to your dreams. The staff and teachers at Mont-Fleuri secondary school and A level who gave me the motivation to continue trying my best which paid off today.  My PUC family, they know who they are who inspired me to follow my dreams and not to listen to people who will discourage me or give reasons to change my mind. My parents, relatives, friends both from Seychelles and internationally, some who I met on the way who guided me on the path to where I am today. For that I thank all of them and I appreciate the roles they played in my life.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to keep updated with the technology world and my engineering field. As a result, this keeps me on the right track in my career path. Moreover, spend time with family and I like to go to the beach. I also like to spend time in nature and appreciate my surroundings while reading a book.

What have you been doing since you graduated from university?

Since completing my course, I have been doing some continuous professional development (CPD) online. Moreover, with the covid-19 virus situation my graduation has been postponed to next year. My plan was to go travel around Europe because there are a lot to see and to gain more experience and appreciate other people’s culture. But that was not possible. I am back home where I will be working soon.

What’s your absolute dream job?

Absolute dream job is to be researcher for renewable energy field. Basically, finding ways and experimenting with new materials how to improve the efficiency for example solar cells. As a result, this shall make the renewable energy field more reliable and efficient. Plus, that will gain more consumers which will make it cheaper and affordable.

What inspired you to pursue the career path you’re pursuing? What aspect of that profession are you enjoying the most?

I was always intrigued with electronics and fixing thing. I remember once I learned in secondary school how to change a plug and I thought it was so cool. The same night I bought a 3-pin plug and replaced a 2-pin plug with it. It worked and I remember that it made me so happy and I felt proud.I prefer field work because there is something new every day and there is a lot to learn. As a result, that will make me gain more experience.

What’s next? Your future plans?

Next is to start my career which will be at PUC specifically in the electrical field. I want to put in use everything I learned at university and develop a set of skills that will be valuable for me and my country. Also, give back to the community in any way that I can.

Your academic achievements are incredible, what advice would you give to young aspiring Seychelloise who wants to get into this field?

A message to all the females out there is that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. just believe you can do it and you will be halfway there. God is good and put your trust in him. If you need help don’t hesitate to ask and also ask as many questions because there are no such thing as silly questions. One saying that kept me going was “a bird that keep its mouth closed doesn’t get fed”. But listening and understanding are also great skills that will help you to move forward.

Advice: Focus in school and follow your heart. Whatever you want to do in life you can achieve if you put your mind to it. Never give up, if you fail do not be shy to start over again because that how you succeed which is learning by your mistakes.