In 1992 Dorothy Kabagaju Okello set a record as the first woman to attain a First class degree in a male dominated course – Electrical Engineering – from Makerere University in Kampala. And in May this year, Eng Okello still defied the odds to become the first female president of the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers Association. She beat two male contestants to the position.
She is a senior lecturer in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Makerere University. She is also the Director for Innovation at Resilience Africa Network which works to take the university to the community through procreating solutions to strengthen resilience of African communities.
She is a third born in what she terms as a large family that spent most of the time at Kawanda Research Station (now NARO) where her mother was a researcher focusing on developing new maize varieties. Her father is a professor at Makerere University.
She attended Kitante Primary school and Mt St Mary’s College Namagunga before joining Makerere University. She later pursued a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering as a Fulbright Scholar graduating in 1995. In 2004 she received Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering from McGill University, Canada as a Canadian Commonwealth Scholar.
“Our parents always emphasised that the greatest gift they could give was education and I am blessed to have fulfilled their dream,” she said.
“The young Dorothy was passionate about mathematics and solving problems which is what engineering is about,” she adds.
She has been married for the last 18 years and has three children. A regular churchgoer from the days of Sunday school, she has since grown to serving as a church warden at All Saints Cathedral in Kampala.
Her advice to young women and girls: Don’t be in a rush. Stay at home until when you must leave – it the safest place for you.
Dorothy Okello’s Liteside
Any three things we don’t know about you?
I am a shy person but as an Engineer, it is hard to see it in me because I am always out there solving problems.
I am also a private person who for instance prefers not to disclose my parents. I believe that it is my decision to be a public person so my family should not be dragged into the outcomes of this choice.
Some people think it is my husband who is the engineer because of the title. May be it is because at home I choose to be Mrs. Okello and not to flash my titles at anyone.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It is something we all work towards achieving. For me it is family time where we can get to the floor and shake a bit together.
What is your greatest fear?
Harm to my children. Aside from that, my mindset is that there is a problem for every solution.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I don’t really do much exercise yet it is always on the list of every New Year’s resolution.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Failure to take responsibility for their action, especially, people in positions of power.
Which living person do you most admire?
My parents and all people who go out their way to do what they believe in. They might not be popular but they mean a lot me.