Incredible, exhilarating and a dream come true. Such was the feeling when Mercy Mahinda stood on the podium of Le Sporting Club in Monte Carlo in Monaco, France, on the night of June 12 this year. She was in the city to collect the Young Engineer of the Year Award.
This annual award, given by DataCloud Europe, was a validation of key contribution in the field of engineering, and the culmination of a childhood dream to become an engineer.
DataCloud is a platform that brings together leading data centers, cloud and hosting companies from across the world.
Mahinda, 27, graduated in 2015 from Dedan Kimathi University of Technology with a First Class Honours in Mechatronics (Mechanics and Electronics), and today, she is a mechanical engineer at Safaricom, a central role in the operations of the network and a dream job for any engineering student.
Mahinda’s mother is a Physics teacher, which meant that she grew up with the necessary guidance in a household that held science in high regard.
From the start, her desire was to launch into automotive engineering/manufacturing. Her pursuit of mechatronics though was a pure case of happenstance.
“Just before I graduated in 2015, I stumbled upon Safaricom's Women in Technology (WIT) programme. It was a poster calling for applications that a friend forwarded to me. I thought it was an exciting opportunity and applied. That is how I joined Safaricom as an intern,” Mahinda narrates.
The three months of internship at the telco would be the ultimate game changer for her career path. The alumnus of Kenya High School describes the experience as an eye-opener that triggered her change of heart from a field she wanted to pursue so much.
Few months later, her supervisor left the company, upon which Mahinda sought to fill the position. She applied for it and, luckily, landed the job.
“This job chose me. I happened to be in the right place at the opportune time,” she says.
So what does her job entail? And what responsibilities does this role come with?
“As a mechanical engineer I am in the data centre design and operations section, charged with maintaining the right temperatures and humidity in the data centres to ensure that the equipment functions optimally,” she explains.
The data centre, she adds, is the room where information about all clients on the network is stored in hardware.
She goes on: “I ensure that our sites are covered against the risk of fire by designing and installing automated fire suppression systems, and also ensure all equipment rooms are adequately cooled in the most efficient manner by introducing industry’s best practices.”
While at it, Mahinda conducts proof of concept for new technologies both in fire suppression and cooling the facility.
The equipment in the data centre is extremely sensitive to heat and moisture; exposure to these elements could slow it down or cause it to develop rust and affect its efficiency, she explains.
“Overall, I have an energy management goal; to ensure that energy is utilised efficiently. Energy efficiency is one of the best practices emphasised in data centres around the world. I am also keen on ensuring that data centres have the required redundancy as per Uptime requirements,” she explains.
Mahinda feels privileged to be on the tech scene, and to hold a pivotal role in a leading organisation. She could not be prouder of herself and what she does, she says.
“Nearly all essential services such as banking are getting automated. Everything today is becoming data-centred. I am excited to be part of this digital revolution,” and adds; “Mechatronics is a highly specialised and exclusive field. It is also a very rewarding profession. Data centres are a fairly new ground in Kenya, and as such, we have a long way to go before we can attain the level of advancement enjoyed elsewhere in the world,” she observes.
On whether the role of women in technology has been well appreciated in Kenya, Mahinda is content with the strides the country has made in the last few years, noting that there is increased consciousness among Kenyans on the critical contribution that women play in engineering.
“Women in Technology (WIT) by Safaricom, Women in Energy and Women’s Network at General Electric are some of the organisations that advocate for; and promote the welfare of women professionals in technology and engineering,”she says.
Mahinda hopes to expand her knowledge in mechanical engineering and “to become a specialist and contribute to legislation and policy formulation in this area.
“Winning this award challenged me a lot. I met engineers from around the world from whom I gathered important insights. While I thought Kenya had attained remarkable developments on this front, I realised just how long we have to go to be where other countries are,” she says, noting that the profession has wonderful prospects for young people who are driven by zeal.
Through the WIT programme, Mahinda is involved in mentorship and training of high school and university students with an inclination towards engineering and technology.
“The programme is also open for children who exhibit fascination for technology from early on. We guide them as they grow to nurture their enthusiasm for technology,” she says.
Mahinda is also a video blogger. Through her YouTube channel Wangari Mahinda, she engages her audience on lifestyle issues that matter to women. A devoted reader, she also loves motivational literature particularly on women empowerment.