Feeding the world through technology

Salma Farouque works for the United Nations’ World Food Programme, which assists around 100 million people each year. An engineer in the field of communication technologies, the Flinders University graduate manages the deployment of solutions to make sure teams delivering vital humanitarian support stay connected – even in the most challenging locations. 

What enticed you towards engineering?

When I was finishing high school I was considering the myriad course options available to me at university. I had a natural inclination for science and maths in school, and engineering popped out as a career option that could match my interests. I was excited by the idea that engineers solve all sorts of problems through the application of science but at the same time it is a very human-centric discipline.

I also spoke to people who were engineers to understand what a career in engineering looks like and that helped to clarify that it would be a good choice for me.

What would you consider your greatest success in using your skills to solve an engineering problem?

When I look back at my career I would have to say that using my engineering skills to contribute to solving some of the world’s most challenging humanitarian issues would be my greatest success.

My work has taken me around the world where I have spent time living and working in Australia, Uganda, Jordan, Egypt, Fiji and Italy and this has broadened my perspective in so many ways. I largely work in project teams, and as you progress in your career you encounter wins and losses in terms of project success. I take all of these situations as learning opportunities, helping me progress to become a better decision maker resulting in better outcomes, and greater impact in my work.

How do you attack a big challenge, or what do you do when the answer or way forward is not clear?

When I think about it, I would say that I attack big challenges in the same way I attack small challenges – with a level-head and pragmatism (that may be my engineering training at play!). Consultation with others is important when the way forward is not clear because as an individual I approach things from one perspective, whereas when you consult others you can uncover ideas or new ways of looking at a challenge that you may not have thought of.

What words of wisdom would you share with your high school self?

I would tell myself to get involved in different things. Academic excellence is one aspect of yourself, but your hobbies, community work, sport, reading and other things you get involved with are also very important.

The world can seem to be a stressful place these days and it’s hard for some young people to see their career path ahead of them, so it’s great to have diverse interests through which you can understand yourself better and what might be the best choices for you. Also, if you have your heart set on something, try to do some work experience (even if it’s not connected with school) with someone in that field – it really helps to clarify if your expectation matches reality.

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