India Eiloart is an environmental engineer with WSP Opus. Based in Wellington she specialises in three waters investigation and design. India is also the National Marketing Manager for Engineers Without Borders New Zealand (voluntary position), a not-for-profit that aims to create systemic change through humanitarian engineering.

We sat down with India to discuss her role and ambitions. Plus India offers one piece of advice she urges everyone to live by... 

Tell us about your professional background – why did you choose to follow a career in STEM?   
I had always been fascinated by science growing up. It wasn’t until I was introduced to engineering at a career fair that I realised that I could combine my passion for the environment and my inquisitiveness to know how things are made.

What was school like? Had you always enjoyed the field of science?
Absolutely! I have wanted to be in science for as long as I can remember. I loved learning about natural environments in books and TV shows and always worked towards a science-based career. I remember being annoyed that my primary school didn’t focus much on science – so I was super excited to head to high school and broaden my educational horizons!

What advice would you give to those looking to follow the same career path?
I am grateful that I didn’t follow the herd, as I’ve witnessed first-hand a number of my peers regret their career choice. Luckily, they are working towards where they want to be now.

I would advise that you follow the field you are most interested in and keep following that path. Never mind what everyone else is doing because, trust me, you’re going to find it all a lot easier if you have passion on your side! 

Perks of the job?
Being surrounded by other people that are just as environmentally-nerdy as I am.

What does your family think of your career choice?
My grandad is very proud – he had always wanted to pursue architecture and/or engineering but wasn’t allowed, everyone else is glad I’m happy and enjoy my job.

In your opinion, which changes, if any, are needed in the scientific system to be more attractive to women in science and possible future scientists?
Emphasise the huge variety of work that is possible in these fields. I spend a lot of extra time with humanitarian engineering groups. I also remember seeing the stall for Engineers Without Borders NZ at O-week of my first year at university. To know that engineering could be channelled in such a way that helped and empowered communities made me certain that I wanted to pursue it.

People are attracted to these fields for different reasons; they just need to know the opportunities, possibilities and paths that are available to them. 

Do you enjoy being outdoors? –field work, wanting to build real-life towers like the Lego you played as a kid? – structural engineering, want to build robots?  - mechatronics engineering, want to improve access to engineering knowledge? – humanitarian engineering, just love cheese? – chemical and process engineering.

Why do you think there aren’t more women in science? 
It’s considered a masculine profession in general – I frequently wanted to play with my brother’s toys and asked for science-based gifts, but they just weren’t available at the time I was growing up.

It also isn’t presented in the same way as other professions at school to us, I was told that men simply are better at maths when I was in primary school, by my maths teacher. I was the only person leaving my all-girls high school to do engineering!