When NC State senior and four time NC State career ambassador Fatima Fatajo was a child, she dreamed of growing up and becoming an astronaut. While her aspirations have shifted slightly, her intellectual curiosity has remained fully intact. As an electrical engineering major, Fatima has set her sights high on one day landing in a career that will enable to give back to society through technology. With a GE Healthcare internship under her belt, plus a wealth of other accomplishments, Fatima is already off to a great start. Read on to learn more about her major, her advice to other students, and how the Career Development Center has helped her through her four years here at State.
When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut. I thought it was really fascinating. And then I somehow through my research found out that most of the astronauts start out in the military and I am a pacifist so I was like, ‘no.’ After that, I wanted to be a doctor–a pediatrician. I just think that it is a very, very noble profession. I volunteered in a hospital, and I saw that one aspect is that there is a lot of blood, and that is something I really, really did not like. And on the flip side, I get emotionally attached very easily, and I just thought from an emotional health perspective, I would be too attached to patients and if something bad happened that would just hit me really hard. So because of those two possibilities, I crossed medicine off of my list. Even today, even with electrical engineering, I’m always looking for new avenues to kind of incorporate medicine while still being able to help improve lives.
How did you pick your major and how did you become interested in it?
I actually came into engineering pretty late. I went to Wake Early College of Health and Science. It is a health based High School and early college. You graduate with your associate’s degree and High School diploma at the same time. That was when I was trying to go towards the medical field. I came into [NC State] with a biological science concentration, and then I decided that medicine was not for me. So I started checking out the different departments. I was stuck between biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and then eventually electrical came. I talked to the department head that founded the biomedical program here, and said, ‘I want to work with healthcare products.’ Since I can’t be in a hospital I want to create and design manufactured equipment that these doctors actually use. And that’s what brought me closer to electrical engineering.
How has the career development center aided you in your goals?
When it comes to helping myself be professionally competitive, and when it comes to resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn, the Career Development Center has been instrumental for me in that aspect. Another aspect is that English is not my first language, so I struggled with speaking out loud, and especially speaking in front of crowds. That was one of the main reasons I became a Career Ambassador; so that I could work on my public speaking. I wanted to be able to articulately speak in front of crowds of people. Once I was able to overcome that hurdle, I started working on how to create my own resume, and I started learning the tips and tricks on what actually goes on a resume and how to apply that to help other students. The career center has helped me exemplify the skills that I’ll need when I’m in interviews and when I am creating my cover letters. And they’ve created such a strong network for me and they’re also a good support system. If I’m stressed or if I don’t know what to do, I have people that support and champion me along the way.
What was your motivation in becoming a career ambassador?
So back when I was in the college of science I had USC 110 and Dr. Simpson and Jenna Hartwell, both [suggested the Career Ambassador program]. They said hey your personality is really good, and I was like ‘no I suck at public speaking. I am not going to be a part of an organization where you have to stand up and talk in front of strangers and try to teach them something.’ But, they really believed in me, and I didn’t want to let them down, so I was like okay, I’ll just do it. This is my fourth year in the program.
What advice do you have for other students that want to be successful?
At this point in our lives, it’s okay to not know. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t know what you want to do. However, utilizing the network you have and the people around you. There are people around you that want to champion you and there are people who want you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid of failure, because it is through failure that we discover what we are truly capable of.