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August 11, 2015 AT 1:00 am

Marilyne Figg: Kenyan artist inspired by family to become an engineer #ImAnEngineer #WomenInSTEM

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Via I’m An Engineer.

  • Marilyne moved from Kenya to the United States to go to school. Though she studied art, her parents always knew she’d end up becoming an engineer.
  • Marilyne’s art piece titled ‘Capturing My Moment’ is inspired by her family. She says she gave up a lot to be in this country, including going 11 years before she saw her family again.
  • She has always been fascinated by airplanes and once thought she was going to be a pilot, so it is only appropriate she now works in aerospace.

When did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and I always wanted to come to the United States. Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things: an artist, architect or pilot, which I thought would be great because I’d get to travel around the world. I also wanted to help people, because my country is a third world country and people need to find new ways of solving problems, like getting clean water. So ultimately, I wanted to help people and challenge myself.

All my life, I’ve been fascinated by airplanes and even though I didn’t exactly know at that time that I wanted to be an engineer, when I did come to the United States, my parents put on my visa that I was going to school to be an aeronautical engineer. I went to the University of Central Missouri and majored in art, which I have always loved. When I graduated, I had no idea what I was going to do. Who is going to hire an artist? On top of that, the job market was pretty bad at that time so I decided to enlist the help of some of my professors. They suggested going into drafting, which was a combination of my love of art and my strengths of science and math.

I liked the challenge and when I learned about engineering it sounded really interesting to me. But at the time I was scared. I thought, “I’m a girl. That’s a boy field.” And I had a great advisor who told me that I had the skills to do it so I decided to pursue it.

When I finally decided to go into aerospace engineering, my parents said, “That’s what we put on your visa!” I guess they knew all along!

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