USAP Alum Spotlight: Lesley Nyirenda

“The education I received at Stanford is invaluable, and will always be the rest of my life. The chance to also study in the USA, which is a world leader in many respects, was also an experience that has positively influenced my life and thinking in an immeasurable way. I owe all that to USAP. Also, I feel like USAP somehow plays a lingering role in making sure the desire in me to want to give back never dies – and I think giving (back) is the ultimate fulfillment in life.”

LESLEY NYIRENDA

Lesley Nyirenda (USAP ’08) is a Civil and Structural Engineer at Ascon Africa. Lesley Attended Milton High School before heading off to Stanford University where he earned a BSc in Civil Engineering with Dean’s Awards (’13), and then attended Leeds University where he received a MSc in Structural Engineering with Distinction (’18). Before joining Ascon Africa, Lesley worked in various positions including as a Site Engineer at JRG.

What inspired you to pursue your career goals, and have they changed over time?

I have always had a passion for engineering, and for structural engineering in particular. I just love infrastructure and the whole process involved from conception, through planning and design, right up to construction and commissioning. It is the latter aspect where you could say my career goals have changed over time, as my passion for building has been growing to match that of design. I feel like I have much to offer to both sides of the infrastructural coin (design & construction). 

In terms of projects, I have worked on quite a few very interesting ones locally. One of the more prominent ones was the design of the steel structures on SEEDCO’s new artificial maize seed dryer, which was officially commissioned by the president. It was quite a cool project. I also want to mention that I started a construction company a year ago and it has completed some cool industrial construction projects – I think that is why my passion for construction is growing.

What challenges have you faced, and what has kept you going in difficult times?

It’s generally a tough environment from an economical standpoint but also, perhaps more importantly, from a technical standpoint. The engineering field here tends to ‘move with the times’ at a slower pace. One finds themselves stuck between gaining invaluable experience from the more seasoned engineers while at the same time challenging the long-established way of doing things. It’s a delicate balancing act that one faces almost on a continuous basis. It’s hard to say what keeps me going through difficult times, especially when surmounting challenges has become so much a part of me that the act of “going in difficult times” becomes a subconscious act living life. In any case, engineering itself is a discipline of solving problems, which are to be expected always! So if I have to pick out what keeps me going perhaps in those difficult moments that jolt me out of my living-life-overcoming-problems routine, I’d say foremost is my family – I owe it to my parents before me and my children (well, one son) to reach greater heights or break barriers. I also always hold on to the fact that I am yet to reach the point in my life where I can make the greatest impact in the world – so I just need to press on to get to that point.

What role would you say USAP played in your journey?

The education I received at Stanford is invaluable, and will always be the rest of my life. The chance to also study in the USA, which is a world leader in many respects, was also an experience that has positively influenced my life and thinking in an immeasurable way. I owe all that to USAP. Also, I feel like USAP somehow plays a lingering role in making sure the desire in me to want to give back never dies – and I think giving (back) is the ultimate fulfillment in life.

What advice/words of wisdom do you have for Zimbabwean youth (USAP or otherwise)?

Carve out your own path and pursue it religiously and zealously. Do not be afraid to step out on your own. Let every day produce a better you, and may that better you be the one that serves others.

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