On International Women’s Day, we take this opportunity to celebrate women in STEM. Today we shine a spotlight on British Council Women in STEM scholar Yngrid Machado from Venezuela who is studying an MSc at Durham University. Yngrid tells us her story as a working mother in the STEM sector, and shares her advice for women and girls in STEM.
Congratulations on being a recipient of a British Council Women in STEM scholarship! You’re enrolled on a MSc in New and Renewable Energy at Durham University. How are you finding this experience? Are you in close contact with your fellow scholars who are also enrolled at Durham University?
Thank you very much. Yes this experience has been so exciting - from the first moment I decided to apply!
Since I arrived in Durham three months ago, I have tried to enjoy every day as much as I can. Time is too short and it goes by quickly, so I don’t want to miss any experience!
I am close to my fellow scholars, and I have also involved my family with them and in university social activities. I have met friends from different cultures including Chinese, Indian, Pakistani course mates, and, of course, Latin Americans. This has been one of the best parts of this experience.
How did you find out about the British Council Women in STEM scholarships and what prompted you to apply for a MSc? Is this something you would have been able to undertake in Venezuela?
Before the pandemic, I was looking for an opportunity to study abroad with a scholarship, but all of the scholarships offered were for those under 35 years of age. This limitation made me give up the search.
However, in February 2021, I came across a British Council promotion on Instagram, and my natural curiosity led me to join webinars, write emails, and connect with university staff to find out more.
And I was pleasantly surprised that this scholarship was designed only for women, especially those with job experience and mothers. This definitely motivated me to get involved.
In Venezuela, there are a lot of excellent professionals with high levels of academic degrees, but because of institutional and structural restrictions, there aren’t any programmes to support professionals to continue growing and preparing to face the world's future challenges, especially in this renewable energy area. So unfortunately, this dream wouldn’t have been possible in Venezuela.
You hold years of professional experience in the oil and gas industry – what made you shift your focus to renewable energy and also take the major step of studying overseas?
The experience in the oil and gas industry with the role of lead process engineer has allowed me to witness enormous changes in the energy sector, especially in renewables, and most importantly, all the future challenges we need to face. I know my career goals and this MSc will complete my profile by gaining a holistic view of the energy sector. Most importantly, it will find a good balance by expanding my horizons, taking advantage of my previous skills and experience.
Take the major step of studying overseas was scary at the beginning – I quit to my job for example; but certainly, studying in the UK represents an invaluable opportunity for anyone who wants to take their career to another level.
I never thought I would have a chance to study in the UK at this point in my life, due to personal and financial reasons. But when I found the British Council Women in STEM Scholarships programme, however, I could find a way to really make this opportunity a reality.
Your children have joined you to study in the UK. What has this experience been like for you as a family?
One of the things I value most about this scholarship is that it gave me the opportunity to bring my family with me. This experience has undoubtedly been enriching for the whole family.
Making the decision to move to another country with a culture and a language totally different from ours, leave our home, friends, schools in Venezuela, was not easy. Everyone from their own perspective, have had to face challenges and learn from them.
However, this has strengthened us as a family and open a door to the future. I am extremely happy, especially for my little kids because this experience definitely will prepare them for future challenges.
What will this MSc help you to achieve personally and professionally? What do you plan to do on completion of your studies?
Professionally, this MSc certainly gives me new opportunities in the labour field and will strengthen and raise my professional career to another level. As a woman in STEM, I will be respected and rewarded according to my experience.
Personally, in my opinion, I have grown a lot. Learning from many others' points of view, I feel like a strong woman and I feel I have become an example and inspiration to my kids and other women, especially those who are working mothers.
I hope to find a job in the renewable energy sector, to put into practice the new skills I will gain with this MSc, and to continue growing in the engineering field, now with a broader perspective that comes from having studied abroad.
What advice do you have for other women and girls with an interest in STEM and who would like to study and work in this field?
"My advice for women and girls wanting to enter the STEM field would be to first try to find what most excites you about the STEM field. This is a huge area where you can find a lot of opportunities to get involved, but the key is to find what you're passionate about and make it part of your life."
Often, you will find challenges you don’t feel you are able to face, but the truth is that you can. For girls who are still in school, I encourage you to participate in science activities, try to find a female mentor in the field you want to pursue, someone who inspires you.
Nowadays, connecting with other people by using social media is easy; take advantage of it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions. You will be surprised at how many people are willing to help you.
Find out more about the British Council Women in STEM Scholarships programme
Read more about the Women in STEM scholars at the Energy Institute at Durham University