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Drivers of Innovation: Thriving on Trust and Improving Lives

Omokhuwa Omosotome, a program manager at UL Solutions, reflects on her Nigerian culture, the importance of celebrating our differences and getting more students interested in STEM.

Closeup of Omokhuwa Omosotome in red hair wrap.

February 13, 2023

In honor of Black History Month and the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Omokhuwa Omosotome (Omo) reflects on her Nigerian heritage, what appealed to her about a career in engineering, and how to encourage more Black and female students to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Omo is a program manager within the Field Engineering team at UL Solutions.

Please tell us about your background.

I am from the  Southern part of Nigeria in West Africa. I grew up, went to college and began my career there, until 2011 when I moved to the United States to get my Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Hult International Business School in Boston, Massachusetts.

How did you get into engineering?

I had an interesting childhood. Being a very active child, I was quite curious and can say I was a bit of a daredevil. My dad wanted me to channel my natural curiosity and loads of physical energy into a career in the army, but that did not appeal to me.

I loved sciences. I was also always intrigued by how chemical substances could change states and form something completely different — how by using a formula, you could calculate the speed at which objects in space were moving. It was so fascinating!

Naturally, this made me gravitate toward the subjects of chemistry and physics. I also discovered early on that I enjoyed solving problems and would rarely back down from one, no matter how hard it was. I would instinctively try to put puzzles together or figure out how parts of my play toys fit together, pulling them apart and putting them back together again. I can say I enjoyed the rush I got from getting something done. Engineering, therefore, became my go-to in terms of determining a course of study in college. It’s a perfect combination of discovery and problem-solving.

I completed a three-month internship program in my third year at an international beverage bottling plant — learning how process engineering worked — and another 6-month internship at a software development company in my fourth year at college. I went on to major in electrical/electronic engineering for my undergraduate studies.

Upon completing my college degree, I worked in the Nigerian office of a global telecommunications company for about six years, filling in a range of technical and managerial positions. Gaining experience in the business side of things was what began my journey to the United States (U.S.). I moved to Boston in 2011 and completed my MBA a year later. Within a couple of months, I got a job offer to work with an Insurance company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

What brought you to UL Solutions?

I worked in the Insurance and information technology (IT) industry for about nine years, starting out as Business Analyst and then later as a project manager. At that point, I decided to re-focus my work experience more on customer-centered problem-solving activities.

I joined UL Solutions in September 2021. The company’s mission of working for a safer world and thriving on trust, which is a rare commodity in today’s business world, was the biggest motivator to join the organization. I have come to appreciate that trust is central to what UL Solutions does as a safety science company. The work we do as a company makes lives better.

What are your favorite things about working for UL Solutions?

One of my favorite things about working for such a large company is that there is no exhaustion of the different things you can do throughout your career. There are so many roles and opportunities here, and I appreciate that I will never get bored. You can choose to do so many things at UL Solutions.  

As someone who loves change, I enjoy doing different things from time to time. It’s a way of challenging myself when I know I have stayed too long in my comfort zone. Working for UL Solutions provides a great environment to employ a combination of my natural problem-solving abilities and my engineering and technology background in the work I do every day.

How has being a part of the Black Business Resource Group (BBRG) impacted you and/or the community?

I joined several Business Resource Groups (BRG), including Women in Leadership, Diversity Equity & Inclusion and the UL Solutions program managers forum. I started volunteering for more activities with BBRG towards the end of 2022. The BBRG community has helped me put myself out there. I volunteered for a regional talent recruiting event at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) conference hosted in Indianapolis, IN, in the fall of 2022. There, I met some UL Solutions colleagues and formed new friendships, which would otherwise have been difficult to do as a fully remote employee.

Why do you think Black History Month is important?

For me, it is essential to recognize what is unique about each person. Whether it is language, culture, food or traditions, every person has a unique history. In a society where the culture requires the need to be different and for that uniqueness to be recognized as an important part of what makes us human, it is essential to advocate for and celebrate those easily forgotten or overlooked differences. We need to ensure that we are all being recognized and that the “me” part of the inclusion is heard. In this light, I think celebrating Black History month helps us be inclusive, not of some, but of ALL.

History will always repeat itself when we refuse to learn from it. We must recognize what has happened in our past and what we cannot, should not allow to happen again.

We are all human — black or white. We all desire the same things — to live a good life and enjoy the good things. The prejudices we see and experience today are sometimes a result of ignorance but are most times a result of miseducation or lack of available correct information. People are most often afraid of what they do not know or understand. Black History Month is an opportunity to educate, provide correct information, and create awareness to bridge those gaps.

What are you proud of about your heritage? What traditions do you enjoy?

I love the diversity and uniqueness of the many peoples, cultures and languages that exist in Nigeria. The food, the sense of community and a sense of oneness are what we thrive on. In Nigeria, the sense of community is really strong — people generally look out for each other. We take each other as family, even if we are not family by blood.

We also love to celebrate life using food as a symbol of our tradition and cultural heritage — we find any excuse to gather over an assortment of meals on a good day. It is a common tradition to share a meal with families, throw a party with friends and celebrate life at the slightest chance we get. Many families would cook a big pot of food in anticipation that someone may just drop in to visit unannounced! It’s that kind of culture. And the food! Oh my gosh, there is so much variety of savory dishes to enjoy that represent different cultural backgrounds.

I also love our diverse cultural style. We dress in fabrics of bright, colorful and distinctive patterns that often represent the regions we hail from. Creativity is such a wonderful part of Nigerian style — along with the hair, jewelry, art, dressing and dance. The Nigerian culture promotes the authenticity and uniqueness of each people group. Our traditional marriage rites also reflect the richness and variety of the many different cultures in the country. This togetherness is what encompasses our way of life.

How can we encourage more Black students to engage in STEM education and careers?

In Nigeria and largely in Africa, there are still parts of STEM that are very much male dominated. Very few girls studied engineering during my time in college, but that has changed now. There is nothing that can stop a girl from doing what a boy can do. The opportunities will become boundless as more people become educated and enlightened with a global perspective. Girls are becoming more fearless in choosing their career paths.

I think there is also the aspect of the influence of social media on how Black people are being heard and seen today. To encourage more Black students to choose STEM, we need to have a more visual representation of Black people who have been successful in STEM in the social media space — not just those who have excelled in sports or music. Many children choose a career path because they have a role model — a parent, relative, icon — someone they can visually see and attribute the success they desire to. In the same vein, we need to showcase and highlight the positive impact and change Black people who have been successful in these STEM fields have made to help sell this vision to the younger children. Then, I believe we will see more and more students choosing similar career paths.