Charting A Unique Career Path In Engineering Through The Telecel Female Engineering Students Scholarship Programme

When Georgia Agyekum was considering the academic programme to read in high school, like almost every Ghanaian child, she was under some form of pressure from her parents to choose General Science and become a medical doctor. But Georgia knew early on that biology wasn't her calling.  

"There's this thing about every parent wanting their children to be a doctor," Georgia said with a laugh. "For secondary school, I opted for a course that eliminated biology, a clear sign I wasn't going down the medicine route. Engineering, with its focus on physics and chemistry, was where my heart belonged."

Fast forward to early 2009 as she was settling on a university programme to offer, Georgia came under similar duress. This time, friends and acquaintances urged her to drop her quest to read engineering and opt for business administration instead.

“It was more of – ‘it's not a lady’s course’ Why are you coming to offer engineering? Everybody was pushing, ‘business is for women, go and do business.”

However, in a society that often steers women towards traditional career paths, Georgia dared to dream differently. Fuelled by a passion for problem-solving, she defied expectations and pursued Telecom Engineering at the Ghana Telecom University College.

Turning point

Georgia’s life-changing moment came in 2012 when she received the Female Engineering Students Scholarship Programme (FESSP) award from Telecel Ghana (then Vodafone). She was one of 10 female students chosen for that year’s cohort of the programme.

"I was excited when I got a phone call from the Human Resource Representative that I have been selected after the screening and interview process. I was in my third year and the award came with final year tuition fees, hostel fees and some books fee.”

Introduced in 2011, FESSP has supported and empowered 90 brilliant female final year engineering students through financial aid, mentorship, tech tools and work opportunities. Through FESSP and other talent diversity improvement initiatives, Telecel Ghana aims to tackle gender imbalance in engineering and inspire more young women to pursue technical careers in the field of engineering.

Career trajectory

Georgia did an internship at Telecel Ghana prior to graduation and followed up with her national service at the telco before transitioning into the graduate programme. This extensive work experience enabled her to rotate across all functions to gain exposure in various roles, leading to positions in IT, corporate systems, and network architecture.

Currently, Georgia is a sales solutions architect at Telecel Ghana, contributing to the design and implementation of I.T. systems to support the telecoms’ operations and business processes.

“The internship was eye-opening. Moving through different teams during the graduate programme helped me understand my career path better.  Each role brought new skills as you tend to learn and grow with each position. Managing people and continuous learning are crucial skills I've developed."

Career-boosting mentorship

Receiving mentorship played a major part in Georgia’s career stability. Her mentor, Eunice Annor Kwafo, currently a Core Planning Manager at Telecel Ghana, played a pivotal role in guiding her in the various rotational positions she filled.

“My mentor went above and beyond, even helping me with personal challenges. Mentorship is vital for young engineers, especially women. Having a dedicated mentor made a significant difference. It's essential for guiding young engineers and can make a tremendous impact."

Breaking the glass ceiling 

Reflecting on the challenges she faced, Georgia mentioned the comments that come up from working in male-dominated roles. "Every female engineer can attest to the hurdles. Some people doubted my ability, suggesting female-dominated roles instead. But breaking that glass ceiling was crucial. My presence encouraged more women to join, proving we could succeed in these roles."

Telecel Ghana’s FESSP is a remarkable initiative that demonstrates the organisation’s unwavering commitment to empowering women and bridging the gender gap in the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Director of Human Resources at Telecel Ghana, Hannah Ashiokai Akrong, said “Diversity and Inclusion is important to us at Telecel. This initiative helps us to bring more outstanding and talented young engineering students through the door to bridge the gap in gender representation and create a diverse and inclusive workforce that drives innovation and growth. Like Georgia, we are proud to have supported 90 female engineering students since 2011 and look forward to having more female engineers on board.

Georgia’s advice to aspiring female engineers is clear: "Be passionately interested in your field. Open yourself to mentorship and be prepared for challenges. The journey won't be smooth, but with genuine interest and resilience, you can succeed."