Shamim Nakigozi, 26, cuts a poise of a seasoned professional as she effortlessly pumps up on top of a truck.
She is small bodied by all standards but she carries within her a rare form of resolve to succeed where others have not.
Smarting in blue overalls matched with black boots and a head wrap, she goes about her welding with such ease, shielding her eyes with dark glasses that she occasionally adjusts to have a better view of the metallic bar she is welding.
She is a gem in her own way and just like me many seem to wonder why off all jobs she chose to be a mechanic, a male-dominated job.
Nakigozi works at the Ranger Motor Garage north east of Kampala in Mbuya off Kinawataka road as a welder.
“I looked (sic) for a job for two years and I could not find any,” the graduate of Project Planning from Makerere University, says, rolling off her mechanic and welding story that started way back in school but only became a source of income in 2016.
“I had always had passion for mechanics but I had never had an opportunity and when I got one, I did not give it a second thought,” she says.
While at campus, Nakigozi tried to venture into the mechanics world at a friend’s garage in Kiseka Market.
“I always wanted to get hands-on training in something. In fact whatever I studied in school I have come to realise was what my parents wanted and not what I wanted,” she says.
Mechanical work is perhaps a family thing and this is where Nakigozi could have drawn inspiration having grown up seeing her father, Ally Ssebagala, a professional engineer, do car and such other repairs at his Ssebs Auto Garage in Nakawa, Kampala.
However, her father was always reluctant to give her an opportunity to try out her first love.
“I would perhaps be a senior by now if my father had allowed me to join his garage around the time I was looking for a job. But he always told me if I wanted to become a mechanic it would have to be elsewhere and not in his garage,” she says.
Through social interactions and keeping close tabs with her friends at her father’s garage, she was able to link up with different male friends who would later give her different opportunities. However, the best in form of a mechanic job came at the start of 2016 .
“I started here [Ranger Motor Garage] somewhere in 2016. I had been hanging around to learn a few things. But one of the bosses, who could have realised my determination and interest, handed me an overall one morning and asked me to find shoes and the rest is now history,” she says with a suggestive smile of “I have arrived”.
At the Ranger Motor Garage, Nakigozi is the only woman in a sea of men, some of whom are still awed by the carefree attitude with which she carries herself.
Some of her colleagues, she says, make fun of her and others ‘have never got used to the fact that I work with them” even when she has ensured that she earns not only their trust but that of the clients as well.
“I have been consistent and I have won over the trust of many of them,” she says.
Just like many other woman, she says, men make passes at her some of which are executed in a crude and offensive manner. However she has learnt to ignore brushing some of them off with a warning or a tough face.
However, this has not been without challenges as some of her colleagues and clients continue to question her abilities.
“To date some of my colleagues believe I am in the wrong place and some of the clients who have never worked with me are always hesitant to give me their work,” she says.
This has reduced her resolve as she continues to work hard to enhance her skills that will not only help her to win the trust of her clients but propel her to better heights.
1 Marketing herself
Apart from welding and doing simple mechanical works, Nakigozi looks for potential clients through different channels and she is proud to tell potential customers of her abilities even when she is off work.
2 Guiding principle
What has kept me going that even with a bachelor’s degree, I do not look at how I am earning but focus on doing what I have passion for. It has taught me to appreciate even the smallest of things that I build in order to achieve more.
Many young people find themselves tied up into careers they are not passionate about just because they went to school and got a degree. I chose my path and I will never blame anybody for my failure. Of course I do not expect people to claim to own my success.