Design And Development Engineer, Lutron Electronics
Nigerian transplant Ekom Uko likes balance. As an international student looking for a college where she could earn her electrical engineering degree, she wanted something that wasn’t too large, but not too small either. So, she chose Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
“The reason I went to Lehigh was because I was looking for a college that wasn’t too large but was a reasonable size. A college where I could walk out and see familiar faces on campus, but a space big enough with a lot of opportunity to make an impact and grow,” she explained.
After graduation in 2014, the theme of achieving balance persisted.
She accepted a position at Lutron Electronics Inc. in Coopersburg. Best known for the invention of the dimmer switch, Lutron is a name long associated with advancement, innovation and collaboration.
“If people are looking for a big company that still has a small-scale feel, something similar to a family or community atmosphere, well, that’s Lutron! Sometimes it’s easy to think that you are in a startup company because of the way we interact and the visibility you get to the product development cycle, but we are a growing and very established company with a lot of resources,” said Ekom, who currently also serves as a recruiter for the company.
When Ekom looked for a place to set down roots, she also sought symmetry.
She chose the City of Bethlehem. Founded by Moravians and known internationally as Christmas City USA, the small city offers two quaint downtowns and myriad small boutique shops offering goods ranging from fine chocolates to art from local artisans.
“I wanted a place where I had access to the city, but far enough that I didn’t have to deal with the issues of the city. I love the Bethlehem feel, the small town, but big city-type atmosphere, “ she explained. “I walk down Main Street, and run into familiar faces all the time. There are also a lot of activities to do in this area from hiking to painting, and I get to enjoy it all. I never feel swamped or concerned that I cannot do what I would like to do because of traffic.” Ekom added.
Coming from a big city in her home country of Nigeria, Ekom understands the hustle and bustle of a big city and its advantages such as diverse culture and cuisine. In Bethlehem, she sees a bit of that too, and it’s growing.
“There’s such a push for art and culture in this area. I have noticed an influx of little restaurants or shops of different cultures and that’s fantastic! There’s a Ghanaian restaurant that opened up in North Bethlehem and because I’m from West Africa, I love that. We have Indian, Thai and Malaysian restaurants scattered around the area. Really, you will find whatever you’re looking for here. I love the mix of all the different cultures,” she said.
For those times when she just wants to get away and get back to nature, there are spots for that too.
“If you’re someone who likes the outdoors and outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, kayaking or hiking the Appalachian Trail, you can do that here as well! And the best part is that you can find these activities 20 minutes away,” Ekom said.
Again, for Ekom, her love of the Lehigh Valley comes from its serendipitous balance.
“I love that mix of … it’s not just one thing. I don’t think the Lehigh Valley is just known for one specific thing, but it’s known for a lot of different things that it has to offer,” Ekom explained.
“If you’re looking for a place that can offer you a lot of opportunities to engage with the community, but also offers the flexibility of pulling back and retreating when you needed. The Lehigh Valley is a great place for that.”
Live like a local
Date night spot: A dinner at Zest would be a perfect place for a Date Night. It’s new, has good food and has a great view overlooking Bethlehem.
Favorite restaurants: Torre Stations Cafe, Aqui Es, and Thai Thai II
Why She Stayed After College: I love the Bethlehem feel, the small town but big city vibe. It’s small enough that you’ll see people you know from work or church when you walk down Main Street, but big enough that there’s a lot to do in the area.
Favorite Evening Activity: Anything with friends, whether it’s dinner at the Promenade Shops, hosting a bonfire, going to any of our great festivals like MusikFest or Celtic Fest.