Sara Ilkhtchoui, Women in Engineering Society, University of Leeds

Sara Ilkhtchoui

What inspired you become interested in the field of engineering/computing?

From a young age I’ve always been inquisitive and curious about the logic and science behind how things work. As a result, during secondary school the sciences and mathematics were inevitably my favourite subjects. After much research I found out that there was a lot of flexibility studying chemical engineering and I wasn’t tied down to any specific industry. As I was not sure which field/industry I wanted to be in, this was the main selling point for me. I could use my science and problem solving background and apply it with a degree in chemical engineering to obtain a job in almost any field. Sounded like a dream come true to me!

Why did you choose to study at the University of Leeds?

When I applied to the University of Leeds, it was 3rd in ranking for chemical engineering. So it was known and established for what I wanted to study. I also did some research into the city to see what types of activities it had to offer and it turned out that Leeds had a bit of everything.

Tell us about your role in the Leeds Student Women’s Engineering Society (WES)? (Committee)

Currently I am the Secretary of the Women in Engineering Society (WES), which means I am the main contact. On a daily basis I respond to emails, I reach out to external people if we are planning events or site visits, I organise committee meetings, I keep in contact with the members and so much more. Although the committee has titles, in the end we all have the same goal in mind. We help empower and support our members by organising events that will engage and develop them into better individuals; in hopes of improving their employment prospects when they graduate. 

How do you think your experience with WES Leeds will help you in your degree/career?

I think my experience of being on the WES committee will definitely help me in the future. I have learned how to manage my time more efficiently, this is very important in terms of the society as I have people depending and counting on me to get tasks done. What I do does not only impact me, but it impacts all the members involved. Additionally, I have improved my teamwork and communication skills. One person cannot move mountains alone, so when we combine our strengths we make impossible tasks possible.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer to students?

Leeds as a city has a variety of activities to keep students busy. I am in my final year and I have yet to try everything! From tons of good restaurants to shopping, escape rooms, bars, mini golf, movies, museums, concerts. There’s something for everyone.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My future ambition is to secure a good job in either the energy or FMCG industry. I would also like to become a Chartered Chemical Engineer with IChemE.

What other experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career (e.g project work/year in industry etc.)?

The endless group projects have definitely prepared me for my future career. I have learned how to work and communicate with people from different backgrounds and with different personalities to meet tight deadlines. In addition, I have learned how to do a variety of tasks and work well under pressure.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in engineering/computer science?

I would say don’t let anyone deter you from pursuing a career in engineering or computer science. Not even your parents, your teachers or your friends. My mom and sister would always tell me that chemical engineering is difficult but I didn’t let that stop me. If you set your mind to it, you can do anything… I am proof of that! Here I am in my fourth year, graduating in 3 months. If engineering or computer science is truly your passion, then go for it!