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Chioma Eze: On balancing academics and leadership

Covenant university graduate speaks with Edugist on balancing her academic commitments with her leadership roles.
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Chioma Sonia Eze is a graduate of electrical and electronics engineering from Covenant University. She speaks with Edugist on balancing her academic commitments with her leadership roles. Excerpts

Please share with Edugist, a little about yourself and your background.

I am Chioma Sonia Eze. I graduated from Covenant University in 2022 with a second-class upper in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I am from Enugu state and the first of five children.

I have a keen interest in machine learning and I’m currently taking active steps to step into and become a professional machine learning engineer.

I work as a Junior Analyst in a startup. I love music, reading, writing and drawing and I’m learning Spanish.

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What motivated you to pursue a degree in electrical and electronics engineering?

This question is quite an interesting one. The course I wanted to study was Computer Science and not Engineering.

My aunt with whom I lived at the time did not exactly approve of it, so I opted for Computer Engineering.

Honestly, Elect Elect was a course the best graduating student in my secondary school wanted to study and I thought only very smart people could take on the course. 

Mr Olaniyi Shontan, my physics and math teacher then, helped me pick my courses while filling the Covenant University Scholastic Aptitude Screening (CUSAS) form. He didn’t think it was right that I put my first choice as Computer Science and my second choice as Computer Engineering; they were practically the same thing in his eyes. He counselled that I put Electrical and Electronics Engineering as my first choice and Computer Science as my second choice. 

I looked at him and asked him if he thought I was smart enough to study the course, he looked at me and told me I was smart enough to study anything I wanted to.

Were there any courses that you found particularly challenging?

Oh, my days! There were a lot. But there were some that I had to cry to God about. There was ‘Introduction to Electrical Engineering’ in 200 level. There were ‘Electromagnetic Fields and Waves, Circuit Theory 1 and 2’ in 300 level, and ‘Power Systems and Industrial Electronics’ in 500 level.

I genuinely thought I wasn’t going to do well in those courses but I’m thankful for the help and strength I received from God.

How do you balance reading to gain knowledge and to get good grades?

The way my department was structured, we had a lot of tight deadlines. You could have tests throughout the week backed up with assignments you had to submit in the same week. Sometimes, the courses were so abstract that you needed resilience and persistence to understand just enough to give you good grades. 

I had to develop an interest in what I was doing and be really curious. It’s possible to listen to what the lecturer is saying and decide to just run with that information or you can go a bit further; ask questions, check the internet, and read up on it.

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You have to be a little bit more curious and see every phase as a learning phase. This would help you go beyond the “let me just cram and pass” phase. 

What significant challenges did you encounter during your study?

I’d give an example of a course that had more Greek letters and expressions than actual English words.

It described concepts that were observed by more sophisticated technology than just with the eyes, so it seemed a bit abstract and harder to relate with. It made learning and loving it tasking and demanding. I encountered this with some of the courses I took through school. 

Another issue I had was balancing my academics with extracurricular activities. Being a leader in my service unit, there were more demands on me than the average student. Most of my days in school were spent in class and at the chapel. I was also given the responsibility of managing people. Many times, I had to show up for others, sometimes at the expense of my luxury. It could get overwhelming and I could be down for days. There were times when I felt foolish for taking on such responsibilities. 

However, I always found joy in service and in helping others. It helped me take my eyes off the problems in my life and focus on what God could do in the lives of others. That gave me a lot of faith and assurance that God is interested in his children and if he can work it for someone else, he’ll definitely take care of me.

Those years shaped me into the person I am today. I can say I’m stronger and better and I’m glad I got the opportunity to serve in my student days. 

Did you participate in any internship during your study?

Yes. The major one was my six-month internship in 400 level. It was an awesome experience.

I worked as an Electrical and Automation engineering intern at Guinness Nigeria Ltd under Diversey West Africa Ltd. I had the privilege of observing manufacturing processes firsthand, and it was quite intriguing. I guess that’s what sparked my interest in automation and subsequently machine learning. 

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I also participated in the scholarship offered by DataCamp to learn data-inclined skills and was privileged to be a Cowrywise Ambassador.

Other than these, I was a leader for most of my school years in the Student Chaplaincy. 

Did you win any scholarships for your study?

I wouldn’t say win. I would say I was greatly favoured. I was on scholarship for my 100 and 200-level studies. I was under the Vice Chancellor’s scholarship for that period. 

For the rest of my years in school, my fees were crowdfunded at some supernatural speed. 

Do you have any role models you look up to?

Yes, I have a lot. I have my Pastor, a late friend of mine, Wisdom Sonibare, and some mother figures in the church that have different characteristics that I admire; in child raising, handling life’s issues, and how they handle their marriages.

Pastor E.A. Adeboye and Papa Eagle, Bishop David Oyedepo and his wife. All these are in life, ministry and career.

There is another woman I admire. She spurred me to go after being what I want to be – Ire Aderinokun. A renowned female Nigerian software developer. Seeing her and the things she did and is doing inspire me to go for all I want to be in my career. 

Has any lecturer contributed to your ease of navigating your academics?

Yes, yes! My level adviser, Dr. Engr. Tobi Shomefun and my project supervisor, Dr. Mrs. Mercy Adeyemi. There was also my school mummy, Dr. Mrs. Chekwube Excellence-Oluye, she was in a completely different faculty but she helped me in times when I had it difficult. There was also Engr. John that came in later in my 500 level. 

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What are your long-term career goals?

I’m pursuing a career in Machine Learning and Automation Processes. I love programming. There’s this unfathomable joy I have when I’m sitting with VS Code or Jupyter Notebooks with a focus and a goal.

In order of hierarchy, I’m looking into dabbling into the world of machine learning in cybersecurity or finance as I also have a keen interest in investing. Robotics engineering is a second choice for me and I’d seek to apply my knowledge of artificial intelligence to that choice of career. 

If all this doesn’t work out, I’d thrive in web and/or software development. 

Are you interested in furthering your education beyond the undergraduate level?

Yes, I am. I look forward to doing a master’s in data science and machine learning.

After your bachelor’s degree, what next?

I’m done with my NYSC. I plan to work for a little while. I’m saddled with the responsibility of handling my younger ones as both my parents are late so I haven’t been able to get into a masters programme as quickly as I would have wanted to. I trust that God would take them through school the way he took me through school. 

At the moment I’m taking courses, getting certifications and applying for internships to increase my knowledge and skillset while I work and get hands-on experience. 

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