By Prudence Minayo
Maureen Okomo is Kenya’s first female licensed aeronautical engineer. She joined the aviation industry by chance after landing a three-months attachment at Kenya Airways (KQ) and it has been a part of her world since then. Her daughter Vanessa has also followed in her footsteps and this is their story as told by WoK.
Maureen’s Education and Career
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Maureen pursued electrical and electronics engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT). In her fourth year, she landed an attachment at KQ. At first, she didn’t understand why she had to work for an airline but after research found out that her skills were actually useful. During that time, KQ had a few engineers and were looking for more. Her supervisor told her about the interviews and asked her to step in. She was skeptical since she hadn’t finished her course and didn’t have the papers yet. The supervisor, however, told her she didn’t need the papers to be ready and told her to use her transcripts.
First Female Licensed Aeronautical Engineer
That is how her journey in the world of aviation commenced. She took up avionics systems of the aircraft which includes electric power generations, distributions, and Communication systems effectively becoming the first female licensed aeronautical engineer.
Currently, she is the director of maintenance at Jambo Jet and is licensed by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to deal with radio communications and avionics systems. Prior to her current position, she worked as head of line maintenance at KQ and also as base maintenance of the national carrier.
Mrs. Okomo also has a Masters of Business Administration in Aviations/ Airway Management and Operations from Moi University.
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Vanessa Onyullo is also following in the footsteps of her mother. She undertook a degree in Aviations Maintenance Science and is currently working as a reliability analyst. Onyullo is licensed to fix the body and engine of an aircraft.
“I am licensed to fix the body of the aircraft and the engines. That is within the American system or FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Each country has their own aviation body- so I studied within the American aviation system,” she said.
She is the third generation of the family to work in the aviation industry since her grandfather (Maureen’s father) also worked in aviation as an engineer at the now defunct East African Airways. She works with the optimization and maintenance program. Her greatest inspiration growing up was her mother and just like her she went on to take over the field of aviation. She is an alumni of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where she pursued both her BSC and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
Maureen is a mother of three children, two girls and one boy. Her second born daughter Joy is a biochemist and the youngest is Jonathan.
Her husband is also an engineer and together they have supported each other along the journey. In an interview with KTN, she recalled how while undertaking her studies, her husband would take a break from his classes to babysit the girls.