Ghadir Siyam (Engineering 2010) has a PhD in Engineering Design and is mentoring the next generation in her role at BP and with Arab Innovation Network.
Why did you apply to Fitzwilliam and what was your experience like?
I did my first degree in Canada and then I applied to the engineering department. I liked the location and just wanted a place a bit away from the city centre. It felt really like home. It was a remarkable experience. One of the things that inspired me is how passionate and humble people are when it comes to learning. Right now I’m really involved with the students who come to work for us in the summer. In my team we look at projects in the future. You need to have this optimistic view and be able to see it. When I was at Cambridge, there was always this vision, speaking about the future, which is very inspiring.
Why did you choose engineering?
I have always been fascinated with production engineering. I was also very good at maths from a young age, and I love problem solving. We had a family business - car radiator manufacturing in Jordan - and I always spent my summers there. When I was in university I started a programme where I would go to universities in the Middle East and students would come with me to the factory in the summer. When I was at Fitzwilliam, that idea became a charity and now it’s one of the biggest charities in the Middle East, focusing on engineering, health and the environment. It’s the Arab Innovation Network.
How can diversity in engineering improve?
Everybody is responsible, so for our children and grandchildren it is a given. How do we get there? It’s a mind-set that everybody can implement from their learning. This is what I’m doing here at BP, saying, what is our role? What is our responsibility? We can’t treat these things as a given and we have to be proactive about it. I was at a graduate engineering dinner recently and someone told me that in the last 30 years the proportion of female engineers in the intake has not increased. We need to rethink the approach. It needs to start at a very young age. For my children, we’re really trying to break the stereotypes. The other thing we’re doing at BP is asking how we can make the environment on locations and off-shore more inclusive. It can be quite difficult.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Never put yourself down. Be confident. I always say that to myself. I’m in a male-dominated environment, but you must know what’s unique about yourself, work on your weaknesses, be passionate, be pro-active, don’t miss an opportunity. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and believe in you. You can really achieve a lot. My husband, Tariq Saeed, is also Fitz. He was doing his PhD in aeronautics. We met at a book launch. We have twins – a boy and a girl - who are a year-and-a-half old. We have a lot of books for babies on quantum theory, engineering and aeroplanes!