'Proud to Be' is the theme for this year's Black History Month. David Larbie is proud to be an engineer working for Imperial College.
David Larbie is proud to be an engineer in the Engineering, Energy and Environment Team within the Estates Operations Department at Imperial College.
“Black History Month is a good time to celebrate everyone’s differences in society and how we all come together to contribute to society.
"I moved to East London in 1988 with family when I was approaching my second birthday. I lived there throughout my childhood right through to my late twenties. I was born in Accra, Ghana, West Africa in 1986, but I don’t have any real memories there.
"One of the things I enjoyed about growing up in London was getting to know people from different backgrounds and cultures. I enjoyed playing football throughout my childhood. Initially an excuse to hang out with friends at the park near my home in Forest Gate. I played for my secondary school and various youth teams within the borough and often contemplated going down the sports career path.
"My secondary school was in Canning Town, I went there from the late 90’s to early 00’s. During my childhood my parents stressed the importance of getting a good education. I went through a lot of my younger years with a mind-set of wanting to do well in school, but like many, without any real idea what I wanted to do as a profession.
"I couldn’t vision a route into a profession with the subjects I enjoyed at school (maths and science) as there were no role models in my immediate surrounding with similar backgrounds that could provide me with that insight.
"I decided to continue studying after secondary school hoping I would stumble across a career path along the way. I studied the subjects I felt I had excelled in the most at school, maths and science, although I wasn’t too sure where or what it would lead to.
"I was lucky to have older siblings who had already paved the way to studying at University and helped me with the application process, which including clearing into an Engineering course at Queen Mary, University of London after deciding the courses I had chosen at the main application phase weren’t for me.
"It was only when I reached University that I started to see how it was possible to make a living in the science and engineering field. This was through the course I had chosen and speaking to classmates who were already advanced in their career path choice. I remember after completing my degree wanting to explore different career paths as felt like I didn’t fit the mould of an Engineer. I applied for many related jobs as I knew I would stand a better chance. Having worked in various part-time retail jobs as a student, I felt I could sell myself in customer facing roles as well.
"My main challenge when I was applying for some roles when I had very little professional experience was overcoming the sometimes perception of young black men. I worked in various roles including finance and administration within engineering companies.
"It was only when working temporarily in an administration role for what was known as London Probation Trust and working with Probation Officers who were passionate about their work that it inspired my confidence to pursue my passion.
"It was directly after this I joined Imperial. An ex-classmate from my degree course who was a building services engineer who gave me an insight into building services mechanical design, the area I wanted to pursue, which was invaluable when applying. I’ve now been here for eight years and really enjoy the technical aspects of the role and the interaction / interface with different disciplines within Estates.
"I am proud to be an engineer, especially at Imperial College and I would be proud to be a mentor for young people - one of my future goals is to do this for those aspiring in the STEM field, especially those from BAME.
"To those starting out I would say that no skills or experience is ever wasted, as they can be transferred into different professions.
"I would hope to help to define a roadmap for becoming an Engineer - something I feel I would have benefited from.”
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