Put Your Best Foot Forward – Irene Nyakwezi


Irene and I met through a mutual friend called Racheal. We are both part of a G4G cohort called ShEagles. G4G is a group of women from different countries, that come together to help empower girls to lead. Here is our interview about her scientific journey:

Nice to have you today Irene
The pleasure is all mine.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Irene Nyakwezi. I am the last born in a family of four. I grew up in Kitante – Kampala. I went to Kitante Primary School and Namugongo Girls Boarding School for my primary education and Trinity College Nabbingo and Gayaza High School for secondary school. In 2008, I joined Makerere University Kampala and graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.

In 2013, I joined Total E&P Uganda as an environmental permitting officer, doing environmental permit applications and managing existing permits. I was later promoted to Environment Engineer, managing baseline studies and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for exploration and appraisal oil activities for the Tilenga development. After working for Total for 4 years, I joined Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) in 2017, as an Environmental and Social Safeguards Officer, monitoring compliance on national road projects. While working these two jobs, I returned to school to pursue an MBA at Heriot Watt University, UK. After my MBA, I moved to the UK to undertake an Msc in Environmental Engineering at University of Nottingham, which led to my current job.

I am now an Environmental Engineer by profession currently working as a Permitting Officer for the UK Environment Agency. I work as part of a team which determines applications for environmental permits from operators of industrial installations all over the UK.

What has been your biggest challenge in life so far?
My biggest challenge on my career journey has been the struggle to be patient and work hard even when I don’t see immediate results. Careers take ages to build so it requires lots of patience and perseverance to stick to the path. I think I underestimated this.

I have also had to prove myself as a female engineer. In many of my professional encounters, people have confessed that they were surprised when I spoke sense or delivered good results. This has kept me aware of the bias that still exists in this day and era and forced me to prove my worth in a male dominated field.

How about your daily inspiration irrespective of the challenges?
My inspiration mainly comes from the female influences in my life especially my mum. She is strong and has always taught me to work hard and shoot for the sky. She’s also super strict, so I didn’t really have any options but to study hard.

What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I like going to church and listening to worship music. It gives me a sense of peace and grounds me. I enjoy doing business so I run a small logistics company. I also like playing, so I like to spend time hanging out with my nieces and nephews. I occasionally go dancing too. A girl’s gotta get her groove on😉.

Tell us about your prestigious achievements & awards
Winning 2nd prize in the “show me the money” TV contest with my friends. It was a TV competition about presenting and defending original business ideas. A low key version of the UK reknowned show “Dragon’s Den”. We were in S.6, showed up for each round in our school uniforms and won fifteen million shillings.

Being awarded performance company shares when I worked for Total E&P Uganda. These were company shares awarded to employees for exceptionally good performance.

Achieving a distinction in my Msc studies.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish except those in your thinking.

Word of encouragement
Put your best foot forward and trust the process.

Thank you Irene for sparing time to talk to me.

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