Liliane is a 28 year old Rwandese interested in innovation and technology with a focus on mobile networks. She is currently a Product Validation Engineer at Nokia France. She has an auto-entrepreneur mindset, optimistic and is a believer in the strength of prayers. She likes travelling, reading and adrenaline hunting.
Why did you get into STEM?
The curiosity of discovering how things work and my desire to contribute to new technology evolution. I am result-oriented. I simply feel satisfied when I resolve some network issues, and see the direct improvement that it has in our everyday life.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
My very first achievement was a high school diploma with a distinction which allowed me to benefit from a scholarship of university studies in Morocco, a Master’s Degree in France, an Internship at Orange (1st telecom operator in France) and then my first job At SFR (2nd telecom operator in France). The stay in Morocco and these first two experiences helped me to be open minded, and to develop the faculty of adaptation in various socio-multicultural environments. In most of the projects I worked on, I was the only beginner surrounded by senior engineers. This allowed me to pick up the necessary skills quickly. And most importantly, it allowed me to have what really interests me and refer to projects that are most suited to my profile, including the position that I currently occupy as Product Validation Engineer at Nokia.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
It was very difficult managing the balance between family and my studies. As at a very young age, I experienced a civil war in my home country, that left me an orphan. I was shocked and traumatized, unable to speak or defend myself when it was necessary. My family has always forbidden me to cry about my fate saying that no one would come to save me but myself. My brother used to promise some rewards if I bring home a good grade. In the beginning, I did everything I could to bring the best grade of the class to get my rewards. So far I have realised that even without rewards, I should keep the best place in my class. The spirit of competitiveness was born. I was the first girl in our District during the final examination of primary school and was selected by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Rwanda for a scholarship towards my high school studies. Through FAWE, I was fortunate enough to benefit from every kind of counseling and support I needed. Then I was able to develop my self-confidence and overcome the trauma.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I have one mantra: ‘Be brave’. When people don’t believe in you or when you don’t believe in yourself — because it happens a lot — just be brave and go for it. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish when you put your fears aside. One of the biggest challenges women face is self-doubt.