Meet Sepelong Motloung, an aeronautical telecommunications engineer with the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana. She graduated with a degree in Telecommunications Engineering and is currently living her passion. She is a registered professional engineer with the Engineers Registration Board of Botswana (ERB). Find out what inspires her.
Who inspired or what inspired you to study your field of engineering? In all honesty, I didn’t think I would end up in engineering. Growing up my profession was already determined for me. It was go to medical school and become a doctor like most of the women in my family. Flashback to junior high school; I started to gain interest in subjects like design and technology, you know, subjects that were deemed as “boyish”. When I got to senior high school, Physics and Mathematics made me quite curious; how and why things worked, the way they worked, I became very intrigued by that. In spite of my curiosity, at this point in my life, studying medicine was still the plan because of my family. When the time came for us to start choosing courses to study for university (around Form 5), I was still leaning towards medicine. However, when I looked at the course outline for Telecommunications Engineering, subjects like “Digital Signal Processing”, “Antenna Theory” and “Mobile and Satellite Communications” captured my attention. The same curiosity from high school came rushing back again. I was more fascinated now by the idea of knowing how we communicate. How is it possible that I can pick up this thing we call a mobile phone, press a few buttons and voila! I am talking to someone who can be on the other side of the world. I decided in that moment that I wanted to study engineering and I don’t regret that decision. Fast forward to college life; it was very hectic! The workload was overwhelming! It was nothing like my experience in high school. I had to adapt to the sleepless nights, the back to back assignments, and the never-ending research. It was quite a ride. Would I do it again? All I know now is that it was worth it. There were times when I felt like quitting, I must admit, but I am not a quitter, so I continued and it paid off in the end.
How did you get to work as an Aeronautical Telecommunications Engineer? I knew nothing about aviation before I got into it. I knew we could fly from point A to point B on a plane and that was about it. But as time went by, my knowledge in aviation grew. I am now working as an Aeronautical Telecommunications Engineer in Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB). I am part of the CNS (Communications, Navigation & Surveillance) team. We are in charge of all the ground-based equipment that pilots and air traffic controllers use to communicate and navigate the skies. We maintain and install the equipment as well. We attend to any faults to ensure that everyone is safe in the skies. My job, thus far, has been an amazing experience. The days are never the same nor, in my opinion, will they ever be. The amount of knowledge I had to consume was incredible because there are so many systems you have to know how to operate.
What do you love most about engineering? The prospect of working with great minds to figure out why things are the way they are; how and why communication is possible between two individuals is fascinating to me. I love the fact that, with my career, the days are never the same. Every single day is a learning experience, the learning never stops. There are so many advances and breakthroughs that are being made in engineering and being a part of it is simply amazing. You get to see problems being solved, technology being revolutionized and being made easier for human interaction.
What advice would you give to young girls who would want to start in your field of engineering? Research!! Know what you are getting into before you start and make sure that it really is what you want to study. Prepare yourself mentally and physically because the workload can be overwhelming, both at school and on the field. Do not let anyone choose the field for you. Make the choice yourself! Enjoy the field and have fun with it. Have perseverance and patience. Most importantly, enjoy what you do because it is a hectic job. Don’t lose track of your goal, keep it right in front of you at all times. Prepare your mind to learn and work hard.
Looking ahead, what do you plan to do in the future? I really don’t see myself leaving aviation as yet because there is still a lot to learn. I have big dreams. I see myself playing a big role towards the development of the aviation sector in my country, which is still young. Five years down the line, I see myself as a Chief Engineer in some big airport. In addition to that, not many women are in the aviation industry. We see more and more women becoming pilots (which I am proud of) but, little is known about us, the background people who also play a major role. So, I would like to empower and encourage more and more women to come and join the aviation world as engineers.
Parting shot? To all the young girls out there, who are drawn to engineering, don’t be afraid of answering that call. There is nothing scary about the field; it’s rather an eye opener to so many things. You can make a change, an impact; improve someone’s life, just by solving a problem! That’s what engineers do, solving everyday problems for the everyday person. So, don’t be afraid to explore your talent.
*Article first posted on Society of Women Engineers Botswana on July 26, 2017