Mauryn Uba has a degree in Banking and Finance from Lagos State university. She worked in the banking sector for about seven years before leaving to carve a new career path in health, safety and environment (HSE)
She is the team lead, HSE, at GSR 360, a Lagos-based project development and facility management company. Her job takes her into locations in the volatile areas, including the Niger Delta region.
For this safety professional, life is all about choices, including the choice to work hard and succeed or just lay back in laziness and face the consequences, as there is no successful person in life with an easy past.
Uba believes that women should pursue their goals without setting gender boundaries, for she does not agree that women are marginalised at the workplace
She spoke to Daily Sun recently:
Where did you draw the strength from to move from banking to a career path in health, safety and environment?
Succeeding in any career is all about your willingness to go the extra mile to realise your vision. From an early stage, I understand that keeping it real and simple are great skills to discover my vision. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize, if not, you are going to float around and be a misfit wherever you find yourself, or work hard, succeed and actualise that vision. My parents always told us while growing up that hard work does not kill. Instead, it prepares you for greater exploits in all spheres of life
You are one of today’s young women who pushed the boundaries to succeed in areas previously meant for men. How did do that?
I have always been conscious of the fact that, first, I am a human being, a unique one at that, before being a woman. And we as humans all have potential. Application of these potentialities and gifts are not in any way limited by gender. Therefore, there is no reason to isolate myself as a woman in any field of endeavour. I might not have all it takes to pull through but I am ready to grow through the hurdles and never be discouraged. As soon as I knew, consciously, that my vision was right and I had a goal in mind, I pursued it passionately without setting gender boundaries.
Was it all about monetary reward or sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment?
Choosing this path is more of a personal accomplishment than monetary profits. One can earn a living in any job. However, it is also important that you earn a life alongside, in order to strike a balance. Seeing my job through safely and when all stakeholders are happy is more satisfying and a plus for me.
I believe that money will surely come as long as your service is in demand. At every point in life, priority changes and you decide what matters most. If you can remember, there was a time when education was on top of everyone’s goal list; but I am sure now other things have overtaken that space. As one grows older, you have to think about raising a family, training the kids and other things. So, it is in the career path, too.
How do affirm your authority as a woman in this new field?
One needs a lot of hard work to accomplish one’s dream in any field at all and occupational health and safety is not an exception.
Most times, I am the only woman on the project site with the huge responsibility to ensure that jobs are carried out safely. I do this with humility and compassion. These are the simple traits that have given me the edge to communicate our project mission to the least among the teammates.
You don’t command respect. You earn it by first respecting others. I know humility is one key thing that has kept me going in this male-dominated environment, much as I am seen as a competitor because any move or idea is perceived to be a threat.
As a HSE officer, what are some of the highs and low points on the job?
Of course, there have been some disappointments. I have had my high and low moments in the course of this career change. What keeps me going is constantly keeping a positive thought process and pushing to have a better version of myself, each day.
I remember my mom would always say to me “girl, whatever you lay your hands on, do it right to the best of your ability and remember you are created with a purpose for humanity.”
One of my biggest challenges earlier was communication. It was difficult to pass information across to the workers, considering where I was coming from, the banking sector. There, the majority of my customers were educated. Oftentimes, here, I have to keep changing my communication approach to be able to pass the message across. I always have to coordinate different people from different backgrounds with different psychological makeups.
What do you think you need most to navigate safely in this field to achieve success?
As a HSE officer, my happiest moment comes when a project is safely delivered, successfully meet man-hour targets without a fatality, and receive awards and recognition.
On the other hand, things could actually go bad, so much so that my project site could be shut down and investigation carried out due to incidents or accidents. In some locations, I am exposed to some unforeseen circumstances, especially security issues in the volatile Niger Delta region. It can also be emotionally devastating when you lose a worker in the line of duty due to safety negligence; so, it is a serious matter. We take safety very seriously and are mindful of everything we do in a project site.
Why was it important for you to change careers, after all, banking was also lucrative?
For me, banking in Nigeria is not interesting and impactful. For that singular reason, there was a need for me to change my career path. I hated that job but I was stuck in it for about seven years. However, at my entry point, I had given myself a five-year target to leave the industry but I was too scared for a change. I ended up with two extra years.
In 2011, I was so determined to leave the job so much so that I wanted any other job, no matter how little the salary would be. I knew that it was time for me to move on. I believe that, in life, its either you move by yourself or something will move you, but you must move. In all, I was quite positive while jumping out. I couldn’t be lazy because I knew it was for a purpose. Your thoughts either have you excel or fail you in life.
After this career move, people constantly tell me how lucky to have taken this leap. I would agree with them but I never waited for the defining moment to happen because it is already happening. I believe that my positive vibes gave me the leap. Even though I waited for long before permitting myself to try my hands on a new venture. There was a silent voice that kept saying that I would impact more on people than what I was doing in banking.
Occupational health and safety officers may not be well paid as they should be in Nigeria but it is more fulfilling. I derive joy in interacting with people. This is a career that influences people and our environment positively.
In occupational health and safety, “be your brother’s keeper’’ is our watchword. Career success cannot be solely evaluated by your take-home pay, rather, it is your passion and personal fulfillment that matter.
Do you regret leaving banking?
I have never regretted my career switch for a second. I am more contented now than ever before. I look at a bigger picture ahead and I know that I have a whole life ahead of me so I aim higher in the industry. My mission is to take my space in this universe and make it count positively. First, I am a human, a unique being and a woman, so if I don’t play my role then I can’t resornate the voice I possess as a woman. I have refused to click on the switch of a backseat as expected by society or my male counterparts. This path has exposed me to other unharnessed potentials I never imagined such as HSE officer
It is all about self-development to compete in the local and international labour markets. More hands-on job experience is vital in growing up the ladder of success. I get distressed, sometimes, by the discomfort in the field but, with a clear vision, I am inspired to do more. There is no successful person in life with an easy past.
What does your job as a safety officer entail?
My job as a safety coordinator is tasking. Essentially, it has to do with people’s life, environment and also people’s means of livelihood. If something goes wrong with any of them, I would be responsible and so I must see that everything goes well and communicate effectively to the entire team.
From your personal experience in banking and your field now, do you think women are marginalised in the workplace?
I would like to go contrary to the popular belief that women are marginalised in the workplace. Remarkably, women all around the world are doing well in various fields, not with agitation but a complete sense of hard work. They are pushing beyond limits. I believe nobody is marginalised. You only choose where to be. It is either to take the lead or the backseat. It all starts with you trusting your inner voice, ideas, honesty, and your ability to find your way. I always believe that there isa space for everyone in the universe, so it is a choice to take up yours and make good use of it or fearfully forfeit it all because you don’t want to be teased by others when you fail.
The sky is wide enough for every bird to fly. I implore women to take a chance, stand up and take their rightful place. Nature abhors a vacuum.
We should always bear in mind that we are created for a purpose. Every woman should look inwards to find her unique potential and gladly live it to the fullest such that, in the long run, you will be happier you did, just like I am today.