Women in the data centre space: Elham Ebrahimi
Thu 21 Jul 2016
Elham Ebrahimi, senior RF engineer at Brand Rex, gives us an insight into her career so far.
Elham Ebrahimi is a young female engineer who joined Brand-Rex 18 months ago. Elham grew up in Tehran, Iran, where she completed her undergraduate electrical engineering course and masters degree before coming to the UK to embark on a PhD course at The University of Birmingham.
‘I have always been interested in problem solving and still find it very rewarding.’ says Elham, and explains how she became interested in engineering: ‘In school, my best subject was maths. Analytical thinking and applied logic have always appealed to me.’
Exposed to engineering projects from a very young age by observing the work of her father, a civil engineer, Elham very quickly became interested in building things. Attending an all-girls school in Iran, she was encouraged by her teachers as well as her parents: ‘Competition among the girls in my school was fierce. We didn’t have any boys to compete with. Nobody could use the excuse that, as a girl, you weren’t expected to do as well in STEM subjects as the boys because we didn’t have the direct comparison. I had great teachers who encouraged me to follow my interests in maths and physics.’
About 25% of engineering students in Elham’s course at K. N. Toosi University of Technology in Tehran were young women. This compares to 15.8% women undergraduates in engineering courses in UK universities.
For me, a successful completion of the PhD degree had to include practical, real-life results
Studying for her PhD in electrical engineering at The University of Birmingham, Elham found herself under the tutelage of an experienced professor and mentor. She describes him as a very good teacher and a ‘true British gentleman’. Elham did not want to follow the conventional route to the PhD viva; she was determined to make the best use of her time and the study resources at her disposal.
‘I didn’t just want this to be purely academic. For me, a successful completion of the PhD degree had to include practical, real-life results. After long discussions with my supervisor, and with his full support, I applied for funding to the Royal Academy of Engineering to work with industry partners.
“In the end, the funding bid wasn’t successful, but I had built a large network of industry contacts Europe-wide.’ As an added bonus, one of her new contacts invited Elham to work on a project at their facility in Germany for one year.
In her position at Brand-Rex, Elham mostly works on solving how to avoid interference in connectors. As a highly-qualified electrical (radio frequency) engineer she is often asked to help out with other projects in the R&D laboratory. ‘I enjoy working on the design of cables. The detailed studies and measurements needed to optimise the performance of structured cabling are very satisfying.’
Looking into the future, Elham would like to work as a technical manager in telecommunications. Before joining Brand-Rex, she worked in the wireless industry for a number of years and would like to apply the knowledge and experience gained in her career so far. ‘I have gained skills and experience in a range of electrical engineering fields and would really like to make the most of these in my career. I’m constantly learning new things and like to be challenged in everything I do.’
Obviously happy with her choice of career, what is Elham’s advice for girls considering reading engineering at university? ‘If you are interested in problem-solving and you like maths and physics go for it. Enthusiasm is key. You need to go where your heart leads you. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers who tell you that this is not for girls. Be flexible and grab any opportunities that come your way. Engineering is a very broad subject and if you actively look for projects that interest you, you will find the engineering discipline right for you.’