October 28, 2021
We caught up with Convergent’s Lead Project Engineer Simi Falase in our latest staff spotlight.
Get to know Simi…
Lighting round questions:
What I’m Reading: “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
What I’m Watching: Succession – Season 3
What I’m Listening to: Fantasy Focus Football Podcast
What inspired you to become an engineer?
My paternal grandfather and my father are civil engineers. That makes me a third-generation engineer! I guess you can say that I’m the deviant of the family as an electrical engineer. Growing up in Nigeria—a country that is well known for its role in the oil and gas industry—many kids aspired to work in the energy industry. I also grew up surrounded by powerful, strong role models who shaped me into the person I am today. When it came time to go to college in the US, I decided to go to a relatively smaller school where I could get the technical expertise and limit college distractions, so I opted for the University of Oklahoma. Boomer Sooner!!! At the end of the day, I had the analytical skills, work ethic and the grades to back up my passions for engineering.
Why did you choose to work at Convergent?
After college I moved to Houston, TX, where I worked in the oil and gas industry for several years. Then the oil crash happened and there was no longer the incentive to work in that industry. When my husband moved to the east coast for his new job (he also worked in oil and gas but made a career pivot), I started to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my career. This all was happening when renewables started to boom.
I ended up changing my entire lifestyle—I wanted to be more sustainable, and I wanted to merge sustainability with my career. The opportunity to work with Convergent came up and it was perfect; it was exactly what I wanted to do. I started at the end of 2019, right before the pandemic. The small company vibe was really appealing to me. It was a flat organization where we are doing work in real time, we are learning and growing. Convergent is a smaller company in a big industry, and I wanted to be a part of the team.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
The opportunity for growth and learning. The energy storage industry is evolving quickly and there are not a lot of experts in the space. There may be a learning curve, but we are up to task. Convergent serves commercial customers, and utility customers, but we also impact the lives of everyday people, and that’s something I really enjoy about my role. I like that the impact of our projects touch people far and wide—when people turn on a light, they are using energy. Our goal is to make it more reliable and sustainable.
It doesn’t hurt that I get to work with great folks every day.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Keeping up with my uber active two-and-a-half-year-old toddler who is growing like a weed. It’s interesting: he was nine months old when I joined Convergent. Reflecting on my growth in my career alongside my growth as a mother is really exciting and I feel very fortunate
When I’m not at the office, I’m finding the time to celebrate milestones and holidays with my family. I love to craft, especially paper crafts like banners, pinwheels, paper flowers, and cards. I even make balloon arches for parties. I love the creative process and using my hands to make stuff.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Your network is your net worth! Always treat people with respect because the effect you have on others is your most valuable currency.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself to take more risks—it sounds intuitive, but it’s not. When I came to America as an international student and an immigrant, it was hard to take risks because I did not feel like I had the same opportunities to recover from failure. There are more hurdles that immigrants have to cross to attain success. I’d tell myself: “Give yourself a little room to mess up, because those are the lessons that count…ultimately, if you are talented and hardworking, people will take notice and invest in you. Be more open-minded and take more calculated risks in your career and future.”
Can you tell us about how your experience been like as a Black woman in STEM?
As a Black woman in STEM, and as an immigrant, it has, and can be, challenging to get people to see what you bring to the table aside from your identity. Anyone working as an engineer is already faced with the technical difficulties of solving problems. So, the added challenge of defending my ideas and voice is sometimes discouraging.
I recall being passed over on team projects in college because I was perceived to be the weakest link, or seeing subtle deterrents in engineering job listings that imply that a woman may not be a good fit. At the end of the day, perseverance is key. I hold myself in high esteem regardless of anyone’s perceptions, I maintain my integrity and I take time to help others get to know me better because, as a minority in the space, I believe I offer a worthwhile nuanced perspective.
That, and a lot of good fortune in my career has been all the difference. I’ve learned that you may not always be able to change other people’s biases, but you can certainly prove them wrong by being excellent.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Coming from a country where people do not have a lot of the everyday “things” that Americans take for granted means that sustainability is not an afterthought to me. Our consumption in the west is wasteful and it does not help the environment, or our climate change goals
I always look for opportunities to reduce my waste: I buy only what I need, use what I need, and strive to be less wasteful and more environmentally friendly and intentional with what I purchase and why. This is where we live and if we want to keep this for our grandkids, we must take care of it.
My biggest challenge that tested my commitment to sustainability was when I had my son. There is always something to buy or something you “need”—there is always a huge pile of trash and single use items for babies. For example, I had to put a lot of thought into my nursery—we went with cloth diapers and wipes. I bought used items off local moms that I would only need for a month or two. I was able to pass these gently used items on to other moms.
We also planned ahead! We bought products that consolidated needs and invested in high-quality goods that have longevity. We cook at home and buy fresh organic produce.
If you come to my home, you’ll see that it’s an entire lifestyle. Even with my crafting. This is why I was really happy to join a company that promotes my lifestyle.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I recently passed my PE exam on the first try! The exam is notoriously challenging and I worked hard to get the outcome I wanted. Passing the PE exam and getting your PE license means that you’ve been bestowed a high responsibility in the engineering world, you can’t technically be titled as an Engineer until you have a PE license. There’s also some self-gratification—I’ve put all of this work into my career and I feel very confident in my abilities.
Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how energy storage can benefit your business or community.
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