How (and Why) I Came To Study Engineering

Frosty and my Graduation at UCT, 2011
Cath is back today sharing her story on how she became an engineer! Read more below and be sure to check out her blog Practical Cookie!

I grew up in a small town in the Kwa-Zulu Natal midlands in South Africa. I spent my entire schooling career at schools that all neighboured each other – I went to the local pre-school and junior school, which I loved. I then moved from a co-ed junior school, where everyone lived nearby, to an all girls high school where about 90% of the students were borders. (I was a day scholar as I lived next door to school. Lots of my friends used to bunk out to visit me, but that’s another story!)
During my matric year (last year of high school), I had to decide what I wanted to study. After some thought and a careers guidance session, I decided I would be keen to study something that combined my creative side with my scientific brain and architecture was my first choice of degree. I applied to various universities. All of the universities also wanted to know your “second choice” of degree. Since I had the marks, and since I had studied computer science at high school, I decided to put down Computer and Electrical engineering as my second choice of study. To cut a long story short, I was provisionally accepted to study engineering at the University of Cape Town relatively early on. But I really wanted to study architecture, so I waited. I waited and waited and waited– finally about two weeks before varsity was due to start, I found out that I had not been accepted to study architecture. And so, I fell into studying engineering by default.
At the beginning of 2008 I set out to the UCT with a plan to try and swap into architecture at some stage during the year. As the year wore on, I discovered that even though engineering was a challenge, I was enjoying it. I also discovered that architecture was a lot more “arty” and a lot less “sciencey” than I had imagined. I preferred the structure of my engineering degree and so I decided to stick it out. And that it how I came to study engineering.

The reasons why I carried on with engineering were multiple. Firstly, once I had decided to pursue the degree to completeness, I found that I enjoyed the challenge of engineering. I decided to change from Computer and Electrical to straight Electrical engineering because I enjoyed programming, but preferred to make physical things work. I also continued to study it because I knew that even if I didn’t use my technical skills in my future career, the degree was a good base on which to build a career. The starting salaries of engineers are usually pretty decent, compared to those of most other graduates, which is always a bonus. Engineering skills are skills which are sought after by many different companies, not just engineering companies. Finally, I studied engineering to break the mould. About 25% of my class were girls. I completed my degree in engineering to show other girls out there that it is possible. I want to use my degree in engineering to inspire other young ladies out there to go and pursue a challenging degree. And that is why I decided to continue engineering and become an engineer.
Every month we want to spotlight an Engineer that has a story to share about her experience in the field or the classroom.  If you would like to share your story please don’t hesitate to contact us at 

Thank You!
  • Anonymous

    I found a blog recently that I think you girls might like. It’s written by an engineer in Chicago who I believe is about your age. He talks mainly about personal finance. Here’s the link:

  • Anonymous

    Cath, you are a dynamic young Lady, your choices have been very powerful for your position for a long time, you are a special person, go young Lady. We are so proud of you.