Dr Nike Folayan

Inspirational Woman: Dr Nike Folayan MBE | Chartered Electronics Engineer and Co-Founder & Chairperson, AFBE-UK

Dr Nike FolayanNike chairs AFBE-UK, a not for profit organisation which was established in 2007 to address the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the engineering workforce.

AFBE seeks to showcase and support the technical talent available within the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community through professional development, career placement services, mentorship opportunities, community engagement and by influencing governmental policies. She is also a Trustee at the Stemettes Futures and EngineeringUK, on the Advisory panel of Tomorrow’s Engineers Code. Nike was on the board of commissioners of the Hamilton report chaired by Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE and Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE. Nike is also a champion for increasing gender diversity in industry.

Nike Folayan is Chartered Electronics Engineer with a doctorate in Electronics engineering. Nike is currently Technical Director and the Technical Discipline Leader for Communications and Control within the Railways Division of WSP, an engineering consultancy where she leads a team of telecommunications engineers working on a variety of projects within the transport industry including railways and the highways projects in the UK, Australia, Middle East and Africa. Nike has also worked for Parsons Brinckerhoff, Mott MacDonald and Harada Limited. Nike’s interest lies in the evolution of Radio and IP Networks and its application within the transport industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a Chartered Electronics Engineer with a doctorate in Electronics engineering. I am also a Technical Director and the Technical Discipline Leader at Major UK Engineering Design WSP, where I lead a team of telecommunications engineers in the UK and India working on a variety of projects within the transport sector in the UK, Australia, Middle East and Africa. In addition to this I am chair and co-founder of AFBE-UK a not for profit organisation founded alongside my brother Dr Ollie Folayan in 2007 to promote higher achievements in education and engineering particularly among people from black and minority ethnicity (BME) backgrounds. I am a Trustee at Stemettes Futures and EngineeringUK. My vision is to continue empower people all around the world to use Engineering as a platform for change. I am currently leading the charge on promoting AFBE’s first national conference AFBELive taking place on 22nd April 2022 at the IET London Savoy Place.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

From a young age I knew I wanted to do something that related to problem solving but I didn’t specifically map out my career in that way. I found engineering and it all came together for me after that.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Challenges are a part of life. As a black woman in an industry that is only 12% female and 9% form non-white backgrounds it came with its own unique set of challenges including navigating and demonstrating excellence in a space that some would like to suggest was not typical. How I overcame these challenges is accepting that I needed to be a beacon and demonstrate that I belong by doing excellent work and not allowing people’s perceptions of what I should or should not achieve affect how confident I feel and my ability to be the best

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My Biggest career achievements is seeing the impact of AFBE has had over the last 15 years with over 20,000 beneficiaries, over 50 corporate members and over 2500 individuals from across the world having the shared vision of AFBE. It is meeting people who we have helped and are now succeeding in industries that only a decade ago would have seemed impossible

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Not giving up when things are hard or when there is rejection and no acceptance. I have found that the higher you get the more interesting the challenge. For me it has been accepting that challenges will come and I should never be intimidated by them. Also understanding that sometimes I need to step away and that is okay as long as I always remember to regroup and refocus.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

My top tip is never stop learning. You belong regardless of what anyone else thinks. Be confident Be you. Get all the tools and skills you need after that just keep your eyes on the prize and forget the distractions.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are still barriers. The gender paygap report demonstrated this clearly. How we can overcome these challenges are through transparency. Leaders in the industry need to accept and understand that these are not imagined challenges. Underrepresented groups and women have to face these challenges.so they must take action and demonstrate real leadership by leading the charge to change attitudes where they exist.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies need to be deliberate in their recruiting, retention and progression strategies. There is really no point encouraging women to join an industry which they may have to leave because of poor cultural practices within organisations. The most effective way to increase the proportion of women in the industry is by retaining the ones in the industry already and supporting them to progress and attain leadership positions.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

If I had a magic wand it would be for organisations to change the culture of sameness and embrace diversity of thought and experiences in all their practices. So many studies have shown that the more diverse a team is the better creativity it brings

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

A good resource is Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon’s Women Tech Charge podcast but also I encourage as many women who can to attend AFBELivenational conference on 22nd April where there will be a variety of amazing guest including Harriet Green who is the former