Lady De La Via, Doing a World of Good

The AIChE Foundation recently met with Lady De La Via, Reliability Engineer at Schlumberger. In 2010, Lady graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in chemical engineering. During her academic career, she had the opportunity to travel abroad as a grant recipient of the AIChE Student Chapter/Engineers without Borders USA (EWB) program.

EWB builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip tomorrow’s technology leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. Each year, AIChE’s Societal Impact Operating Council sponsors AIChE Student Chapter/EWB teams from US universities that are engaged in projects in the developing world.

Lady spoke with Ayesha Mahmooda, Development Specialist at the AIChE Foundation and shared her travel journey and humanitarian work in applying chemical engineering principles through solutions to issues such as water supply.

Ayesha: What scholarship award did you receive from the AIChE Foundation? What opportunities has it allowed you to experience and or obtain?         

Lady: The AIChE-EWB-USA travel grant scholarship allowed our university chapter to travel to Bolivia to install both potable and irrigation water systems. We were able to help two communities have access to sustainable water resources.

Ayesha: Describe a challenge(s) you overcame while on your journey to pursue higher education. Please feel free to share any lessons learned and mentors who have helped with your professional development.          

Lady: Both my sister and I are first generation immigrants from Bolivia. Our parents always instilled in us the importance of a higher education. Not knowing the system, we managed to fall forward a number of times. The obstacles we faced when we were younger made us stronger and taught us to get back up, repeatedly.

Ayesha: What inspired you to pursue studies and a career in chemical engineering?      

Lady: Math and sciences have always been fascinating subjects while growing up. Chemistry was something that always just made sense to me.

Ayesha: What do you hope to achieve as a chemical engineer?

Lady: I aspire to make a meaningful, beneficial, and measurable impact in my community, either via educational or practical means.

Ayesha: If you were able to make an imprint in the world, what would this be?

Lady: It's been a few years since I've worked with an NGO, I hope to eventually return my career path to that. Water resources, in micro scale, have always intrigued me. Planning and eventually on sight troubleshooting are the things I enjoyed most from EWB.

Ayesha: Are there any other organizations and or volunteer activities in which you are involved? If yes, how has this shaped your career/career goals?          

Lady: I've been involved in EWB both as a college student and as a professional. As a student, I learned how to delegate, multi-task and always plan ahead. Both projects I worked on had road blocks along the way, this taught the importance of contingency plans. As a professional, I learned the importance of scope and perspective. The questions asked by students gave me invaluable alternative views on the issues at hand.

Ayesha: What advice would you give to the younger you?         

Lady: Good luck with P. Chem!! Maybe have a little more fun, and pursue your passions. As a student from a first generation background, sometimes I let school and the pressure engulf me. It's okay to ask for help and to have a day off. As an adult I still struggle with work/life balance but am learning, albeit slowly.

Ayesha: What do you want your legacy as an engineer to be?  

Lady: My career has taken a few sharp turns, the nature of working in oil & gas. I would like to return to NGO work and help those who haven't had the opportunities I have.

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