Diversity/Careers in Engineering and Information Technology, a publication focused on technical careers for groups traditionally underrepresented in technology, profiled Bechtel electrical engineer Fanta Sacko.
Bechtel values an inclusive culture based on the diverse backgrounds, experience, and views of its employees working around the globe on hundreds of projects in nearly 50 countries. Bechtel works closely with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) in advancing diversity in the field of engineering.
Here is an excerpt from “Women engineers and scientists launch fascinating careers” in the summer/fall 2010 minority college issue. (Reprinted with permission.)
Fanta Sacko is part of a groundbreaking project at Bechtel
Fanta Sacko is an electrical engineer at Bechtel (San Francisco, CA). She’s working on the Prairie State Energy Campus project. The facility is situated in Lively Grove, IL, and will be the largest new U.S. greenfield coal-fired power plant built in twenty years. It also will be one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the nation, producing 15 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than comparable plants.
Sacko begins her day by checking designs, drawings and data from suppliers. She produces lower-tier drawings, does cable sizing and of course coordinates with folks from other engineering disciplines at the facility.
She earned her 2006 BSEE at Howard University (Washington, DC). As a student, she was heavily involved in NSBE, and credits the organization with helping land her job at Bechtel. She’s one of the founding members of the NSBE alumni chapter at Bechtel’s Frederick, MD campus.
During National Engineers Week, Sacko reaches out to high school students to generate interest in engineering. The Bechtel chapter also participates in pre-college intervention. “We help Frederick high school students with their school work and college applications,” she says. “We have enough members that we can rotate that responsibility.”
Sacko is originally from Guinea and grew up in Conakry, the capital of the French-speaking West African nation. Her mother is a physician there, and Sacko was brought up believing she too should have a challenging career. She started med school in Conakry to become a pediatrician, but by the third year knew that medicine wasn’t for her. So she switched to engineering. “Now every day is a new challenge.”
Sacko came to the U.S. by herself as a twenty-year old in 1999. One of her uncles was working at the United Nations and recommended that she continue her education here. But before entering college, she had to learn English. “That was challenging,” she says. “I took English full time for about seven months at Lado International College in DC.”
Sacko got a scholarship based on her high grades, but still worked full time as a sales manager at a retail store. She believes these two factors and her excitement about the company were instrumental in getting the job. “They saw my GPA and working full time as a great achievement,” she says. “I have a strong work ethic.”
Sacko recommends that students attend job fairs. “Read up on companies to prepare before attending,” she cautions. “And to get the challenging assignments you want, you must be flexible about where you will consider working.”
Read the article in Diversity/Careers in Engineering and Information Technology.