Finding a balance between school, work, and extracurriculars is an eternal problem for the university student.
According to fourth-year industrial engineering student Ayan Gedleh, one solution to this problem is prioritizing passion. “I think when you’re passionate about something and you truly feel connected with the people that you’re working with you find a way to make things work.”
Gedleh herself is a student of many passions, including her area of study in information engineering and her work with the U of T chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
Information engineering centres on the optimization and efficiency of systems and information management.
Gedleh’s first experiences in the program were with human factors engineering, having worked at a lab that investigated driver distraction in rural and urban areas.
Last year, she completed her Professional Experience Year as a data quality intern and business analyst at Environment and Climate Change Canada. She is currently working there part-time.
Through these roles, she managed “the quality assessment for data being disseminated to government clients for weather” and developed policies that were then implemented in business processes.
Gedleh is also involved in community outreach and advocacy through the NSBE.
Having heard about the organization in her third year, Gedleh attended their annual conference in Pittsburgh. She noted that it was empowering “to see all these successful Black people in engineering and in STEM just doing amazing things.”
After the conference, she joined the executive team as their programs director.
In this role, Gedleh planned the program for the club’s upcoming year working closely with the President and Vice-President of the club.
On January 26, the club hosted NSBEHacks which Gedleh described as “one of our biggest achievements this year.”
The team identified a gap and gauged the interest of Black students in computer science to create a hackathon specifically for Black students.
The response to the hackathon was positive, and a high demand from students at both local institutions like U of T and Ryerson and more distant schools in Ottawa and Vancouver prompted the need for a waitlist.
Gedleh said that as an organizer, it was rewarding to see “how everybody was just happy even if they didn’t win an award, they left there with something that they learned.”
Through her involvement in NSBE, she helped run their mentorship series. In this program, NSBE alumni are matched to undergraduate and graduate students to foster a mentorship which enables students to see where their career could take them.
“There’s that feeling of family and validation, that they feel like they actually belong in the space and they can actually [say] ‘Okay, this is where I will be when I’m in fourth year,’” said Gedleh. “It’s a great space to mentor other students and to bring them in.”
She described her experience in industrial engineering as a learning process, to “make sure that I always put my best foot forward and I always show my best side of myself so I can make sure that I’m making the most out of my education and extra curricular activities.”
In order to foster equity, Gedleh stressed the importance of acknowledging the different barriers faced by Black women and providing support and encouragement as you would to anyone else.
She encourages high school students or students interested in pursuing higher education in STEM fields to keep at it. “At the end of the day, society and external pressures, they always change and you will still be there regretting not doing something.”