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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

Name:  Khanyisile Kgoadi Role/Occupation:  Researcher at the Immunology Division Country:  South Africa Khanyisile Kgoadi  is a researcher in the Division of Immunology, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) at the University of Cape Town. She investigates neuro-immunological mechanisms associated with detrimental effects of central nervous system tuberculosis (CNS-TB); which is the deadliest form of tuberculosis mainly affecting children and immune-compromised adults such as those infected with HIV/AIDS. Kgoadi grew up in Soweto where the HIV epidemic is the highest and witnessed the indignity and health deterioration experienced by people infected and affected by the disease, she was deeply moved by their plight felt and decided to help improve their health and life expectancy. She pursued studies in biological sciences and completed a BSc in Biochemistry and Human Physiology at the University of Johannesburg, followed by a BSc (Honours) and MSc in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria, where I conducted research that found potential metabolic biomarkers associated with HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral treatment (HAART). Kgoadi’s PhD research focuses on tuberculosis as those infected by HIV have a high rate of TB co-infection and mostly die from this opportunistic infection and she wishes to tackle both the diseases simultaneously. The far reaching effects of her work motivates her, “knowing that I am working towards contributing to finding health solutions to global health problems that will impact and improve people’s lives on a large scale keeps me excited about my job.” Her biggest dream is to run her own HIV-TB coinfection laboratory as a principal investigator within the next ten years. Kgoadi’s hard work and determination have always paid off and her efforts have been earmarked by professional milestones. Milestones which range from meeting and engaging with Timothy Ray Brown, “the Berlin Patient – first person to be cured of HIV” to being elected as an executive board member of South African Immunology Society (SAIS) and then receiving the 2015 South African Women in Science award (TATA Doctoral fellowship) and the 2016 Margaret McNamara Education Grant for empowering children and women through education and the list just goes on and on. However for Kgoadi, her biggest career milestone thus far has been “during my HIV/AIDS research, we were fortunate to discover potential biomarkers for HIV/AIDS that could be used for disease prognosis, this still stands as my eureka! moment.” Despite all that she has been doing Kgoadi manages to maintain a fair work-life balance which she attributes to time management; “when research life gets too hectic... I remind myself that I must take care of my physical well-being to keep fit, nurture my mental health and feed my spiritual being. You cannot pour from an empty/broken glass because both work and personal life are important.” Although she cannot describe her experience as a woman in the STEM space as having been smooth sailing due to the numerous obstacles, she still feels that it has been largely positive and rewarding, “I have been fortunate enough to be in the care of supervisors/mentors... that have been supportive of my career growth... having supervisors that not only trained me but also believed in me and trusted me has served as a huge boost to my self-confidence as a scientist.” She understands that many other women in STEM have not been as fortunate as her and have been demoralised, discouraged and denied opportunities. Kgoadi thus understands the value of what she represents, “it makes me proud to be a representation of #BlackExcellence as a woman scientist that is thriving in the early stages of her career, someone young African girls can familiarise with and be empowered.” Her advice to young girls is to “believe in yourself, surround yourself with positive people and take advantage of opportunities that support your dreams... the STEM field is always evolving thus making it fun and exciting. Hard work always pays off!” She foresees great things for STEM in Africa such as “women representation increasing and with them [women] assuming more influential and executive roles that will further transform the African continent into a pioneer of research in the STEM field... Through collaborations with other continents, Africa is in a process of taking the lead in solving problems that mostly affect Africa using the STEM field.” Kgoadi aims to change the world and help as many people as possible through her research, delve further into the interview below and allow this Geeky Girl's vision to change your day, to brighten your outlook. 1. Describe what your work entails. I am conducting my research in the Division of Immunology, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) at the University of Cape Town. I am investigating neuro-immunological mechanisms associated with detrimental effects of central nervous system tuberculosis (CNS-TB). CNS-TB is a severe and deadliest form of tuberculosis that can manifest as TB meningitis and it affects mostly children and immune-compromised adults such as those infected with HIV/AIDS. CNS-TB results in death and disabilities because it still faces challenges with diagnosis and treatment. I am mainly interested in understanding the interaction of dendritic cells and T cells, which are immune cells involved in the clearance of bacterial pathogens. This is in an effort to discover novel therapeutic interventions to treat TB meningitis. 2. Describe your STEM journey. I grew up in Soweto, South Africa where the HIV epidemic is the highest and witnessed the indignity and health deterioration experienced by people infected and affected by the disease, I felt compassionate and decided to help improve their health and life expectancy. I wanted to become a medical doctor by applying for an MBBCh degree in a quest to find a cure for HIV/AIDS because I was not exposed to the STEM field in high school. Only at university level when I was introduced to HIV/AIDS research did I find out about the STEM field because it presented me with an opportunity to achieve my dream. I pursued studies in biological sciences; a BSc in Biochemistry and Human Physiology at the University of Johannesburg, a BSc (Hons) & MSc in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria, where I conducted research that discovered potential metabolic biomarkers associated with HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral treatment (HAART). HIV-infected individuals have a high rate of TB co-infection, and they mostly die from this opportunistic infection. This is why my PhD research is in tuberculosis so that I can tackle both the diseases simultaneously. My STEM journey has been amazing thus far because not only has it yielded rewards for me but I also shared it with others and inspired and assisted them in joining, staying and flourishing in the STEM field. My STEM journey is ongoing and in 10 years I plan to run my own HIV-TB coinfection laboratory as a principal investigator. 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? Knowing that I am working towards contributing to finding health solutions to global health problems that will impact and improve people’s lives on a large scale keeps me excited about my job. Science is a team sport, working with colleagues and collaborators paves the way for new ideas and solutions that lead to the success of the job. Getting out of bed in the morning is always a mission for me because I am not a morning person, however being an ambitious hard worker who is driven to achieve her goals of helping other people, keeps me motivated. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? It has not been smooth sailing because I had to overcome many obstacles. However, I can honestly say my experience as a woman scientist in STEM space has been good and rewarding thus far. I have been fortunate enough to be in the care of supervisors/mentors and some staff members that have been supportive of my career growth. I say fortunate because sadly I know and hear of other women scientists that have been demoralised, discouraged and denied opportunities by their supervisors. Having supervisors that not only trained me but also believed in me and trusted me has served as a huge boost to my self-confidence as a scientist. I am still learning and their support encourages me to do my best and reach for the highest accolades. The support system I have been receiving as a female scientist has extended beyond my family, friends, university , national organizations (NRF and SAMRC scholarships), government (DST award) to an international scale. God continues to abundantly bless my career as a woman scientist, I want these blessings to be extended to my fellow women scientist because they need it. It makes me proud to be a representation of #BlackExcellence as a woman scientist that is thriving in the early stages of her career, someone young African girls can familiarise with and be empowered. Advancing my postgraduate studies has come at a cost to my family, they are having to wait longer for overdue BLACK TAX returns. I am from a disadvantaged background and had to work part-time jobs to try escape financial stress. The STEM space granted me the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant for undergraduate and honours students. I love teaching because I enjoy sharing the knowledge and skills that I acquire. Tutoring biological sciences and physics, doing practical demonstrations and marking of tests/reports offered me a platform to engage one on one with hundreds of young STEM women and men that I was able to teach, guide, motivate, inspire and mentor. I do not think it is fair that women scientists get undermined a lot and challenged more to prove themselves than men scientists. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? It is important to identify what you love and the research field/topic you are passionate about because when challenges arise, these will serve as motivation for you not to give up. You need to believe in yourself, surround yourself with positive people and take advantage of opportunities that support your dreams. As an education and science advocate, I believe education is the key to success and young people should utilize both for career growth. Also learn to make investments and necessary sacrifices in order to have an excelling career in the STEM field. To achieve your dream, you will have to put in the hard work, commitment, dedication and be responsible. You must remember that the STEM field is always evolving thus making it fun and exciting. Hard work always pays off! 6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM in the continent? Is Africa “a land of opportunity”? The STEM field is growing in Africa and I foresee women representation increasing and with them assuming more influential and executive roles that will further transform the African continent into a pioneer of research in the STEM field. African countries are continuously expanding and improving their research institutions. These on-going efforts have lead to high quality research output that is shaping the global scientific communities. Through collaborations with other continents, Africa is in a process of taking the lead in solving problems that mostly affect Africa using the STEM field. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? I was so humbled and happy when I met and engaged with Timothy Ray Brown, “the Berlin Patient – first person to be cured of HIV” in 2017 at the 6th South African Immunology Society (SAIS) conference. And to top it up, not only did I win a prize at the conference for best poster presentation, in April 2018, I got elected as an executive board member of SAIS. During my HIV/AIDS research, we were fortunate to discover potential biomarkers for HIV/AIDS that could be used for disease prognosis, this still stands as my eureka! moment. Recognition of my efforts has always earmarked my milestone moments. I have been fortunate to be awarded the 2015 South African Women in Science award (TATA Doctoral fellowship) and the 2016 Margaret McNamara Education Grant for empowering children and women through education. It was overwhelming, amazing and an epic experience to have the 2017 President of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and more than 30 000 attendees of the Neuroscience 2017 meeting applaud us, the SfN Trainee Professional Development award winners (about 200 winners) after we were asked to stand. That was a PRICELESS experience at a world stage! In June this year I was selected as one of the 2018 Mail and Guardian Top 200 Young South African, I am super honoured and grateful to make this list of phenomenal young people. I consider these to be my key milestones and hopefully the ultimate one would be to establish a laboratory facility dedicated to eliminating HIV and TB in our lifetime. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? Time management is crucial for work-life balance. I am mostly cooked up in the lab, however I still make time to go out and engage in activities I love and enjoy outside academia. I find spending time with family and friends is very rejuvenating and actually feeds positively to my work. When research life gets too hectic and I barely have time to eat/rest/sleep, I remind myself that I must take care of my physical well-being to keep fit, nurture my mental health and feed my spiritual being. You cannot pour from an empty/broken glass because both work and personal life are important. 9. Who is your role model and who inspires you? In the past I used to limit a role model to someone I looked up to in the STEM field based on their accomplishments, but then I’ve since realised that I am actually inspired by several qualities such as high esteemed and ethical scientist, actively advocating for science and involved in public engagement. Anyone who embodies these qualities is my role model. I am more than my work, so my parents are my role models and inspiring individuals outside the STEM field. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? LinkedIn:  Khanyisile Kgoadi  Twitter:  @kaystarz Khanyisile Kgoadi interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at  dhruti@geekyreality.com  or find her on twitter  @dhrutidd
Name:  Dr. Anjali M. Rajadhyaksha BS in chemistry and PhD in Molecular Biology Faculty (Professor and Scientist) at Weill Cornell Medical School, Cornell University Achievements  My biggest and most enjoyable achievements are being a neuroscientist and mentor, a mother and a supporting partner to my husband. Finding a balance between my goals for my career and home allows me to live life to the fullest. Dr. Anjali M Rajyadhyaksha is the daughter of Dr Kudchadkar, the famed first Indian woman scientist to secure a science PhD from a foreign university. GGR had covered the interview with Dr Kudchadkar https://www.geekyreality.com/blog/stemstories-shanti-scientist-south-africa/ Interviewed by:  Interviewer is Lavanya, a High School STEM student in Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai. She wishes to major in Engineering. She is happy and proud to pursue STEM and is passionate about propagating STEM among girls What motivated you to take up the science stream? Was it something you always wanted to do? It was during my 9th and 10th standard in Mumbai that I realized that I was naturally drawn to the sciences compared to the arts. I recall as a child I didn't read as many books as my friends or my sister did. However, when I did read books outside of what was required in school, I always chose biographies of scientists. I enjoyed the exploration aspect of science and the ability to discover new things. After receiving a basic degree in Chemistry what persuaded you to take up scientific research instead of medicine which most girls tend to lean towards? I never considered medicine, as out of the science subjects, biology was my least favorite, a subject one should like if going into medicine. This is amusing now, as my research is in a field of biology, neuroscience. I didn't enjoy biology because as taught in school it required a lot of memorization that I didn't enjoy. Chemistry, Physics and Math involved problem solving that I enjoyed, something one does in scientific research, even biological sciences. I also would like to mention that I was very lucky to have a mother who is a scientist. Even though when I was younger I didn't think about a career in science and academia, I know that her career and her love for science and math influenced me. Can you tell us of a particular moment in your career which is especially special? While I was doing my PhD I remember one moment when I was looking under a microscope to see if my experiment had worked, which was to visualize a protein in cells that a nobellaureate had discovered many years before. When I actually saw this with my own eyes, I was fascinated that what I had read in textbooks does indeed exist in our own cells. This made me want to discover new things about the human body at a cellular level and stay in research. I continue to feel this way every time my students bring me data of their experiments often times, new discoveries. I also had another 'significant' moment during my career when I started interacting with patients, especially kids that were suffering from illnesses that had no cures. This made me want to dedicate my science to understanding diseases to be able to develop treatments. At Cornell University and outside, who do you mentor? In my university, I mentor medical students, PhD students, postdoctoral research fellows, and some undergraduate students, many of them girls. Occasionally I mentor high school students that do research in my lab. Having guided several science students, have you observed anything of special merit in STEM girls? In general, I find that girls these days are highly motivated to learn and educate themselves in whatever field they chose. They feel comfortable to push themselves and word hard towards their goals. Girls in STEM are pursuing careers that were previously male dominated, and becoming highly successful in their fields. This is very nice to see. Any advice you would like to share with STEM girls? Don't be afraid to pursue your dreams even if it is in a STEM field that not many girls choose or there are smaller number of girls in that particular career. If you believe in something, go after it. Don't be afraid to work hard. It is the only thing that is in our hands. Find mentors from whom you can receive guidance as needed. There are many around us that love to help. Any advice you'd like to give your 18-year-old self? Don't worry so much about what others are saying you should do in the future, or have not done well in school or grades. Listen to parents, teachers and other elders as they often have valuable advice but feel okay if you don't agree with some things they say and feel okay to follow your heart instead. Also don't be influenced by what society dictates is right or by dogma. Think for yourself and then make your own decision about what is right. Don't worry. Everything will work out if you follow your heart and be respectful of colleagues and friends. Where can we find out more about your work? On the Weill Cornell Medical website ( http://vivo.med.cornell.edu/display/cwid-amr2011 ). You can also google me (Anjali Rajadhyaksha) and find papers I have published on google scholar.
Name:  Apiwe Hotele  Role/Occupation:  Technology Commercialization Specialist at SARAO, Founder of the Enlighten tutoring app and the IMBASA programme Country:  South Africa Apiwe Hotele  works as a technology commercialisation specialist at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). Her duties involve introducing new products made at SARAO to the market as well as initiating development projects in the Northern Cape, where the famous MeerKAT telescope is located. One of Hotele's biggest achievements was designing and building the multi-sensory monitoring system for the MeerKAT telescope’s oil-immersed and liquid-cooled grid supercomputer; she said that “seeing the system work and knowing that I built it from scratch is quite an accomplishment for me personally.” Surprisingly, Hotele never considered computer science as a career path, “ I did not even know it [computers] existed. I used to see computers but I did not know the theory behind them”. Initially, she aspired to be a medical doctor, however due to the poor educational facilities in her disadvantaged community, she was unable to qualify to study medicine. Her dreams were shattered and she was depressed. Incidentally at that point when she would fetch water from the communal tap she would meet students with similar grievances due to the lack of appropriate educators and she reach the realisation that she was not alone, “from that day onwards I made a promise to myself that I would improve the mathematics and science situation in disadvantaged communities.” She would always wonder, “how could I ensure that students from rural areas receive quality tutoring in mathematics and science?” And then she found a solution and created the Enlighten app, an online tutoring application that offers remote tutoring services to disadvantaged communities in mathematics and science. She still gets excited whenever she thinks about it, “I cannot explain how I feel every time I think about this, the technology is designed specifically for their needs.” Hotele's biggest motivation is her six year old daughter and she works hard to ensure that her daughter grows up in an enriching environment, “I would fail as a mother if my daughter has to face the same problems I faced because I could not do anything about them.” Another source of inspiration to her are the many opportunities now available that were previously withheld from people of colour during Apartheid; she feels that “one thing that our freedom fighters left us with is access, we have access to things they did not have access to. It is our duty to carefully choose what we do with this access and to ensure that we open doors wide enough for future generations to enter freely.” Hotele likens being a woman in STEM to being on a rollercoaster ride with alternating good and bad days and feels that as such your responsibilities extend beyond your workspace to society as a whole, “other women look at you and admire you, some look at you and think “well do you really think you can do it?” Then you get men who are generally okay and men who judge you and think you are trying to prove a point. You constantly have to prove yourself merely because you are a young black female engineer/scientist.” Her thoughts with regards to women entering the STEM field is that “there is still a long way to go, but women are coming together from all parts of the world to create an environment that accommodates females, so please do not be discouraged by the environment… it's not about how long it takes to get to the finish line, it’s about the process of getting there… Walk your journey with pride and never compare yourself with others.” She initiated #Breakingthestereotype at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an annual event focused on motivating young female scientists and engineers. Through this event, Hotele aims “to dismantle the mind set that science/engineering is for an elite few. Science is for hard workers, ambitious and dedicated people. It has nothing to do with gender or colour.” Without a doubt she believes that Africa is a land of opportunity and she personally feels that “the continent is making a steady progress but… we need to move faster, there is a lot to be done. The fourth industrial revolution is here!” She also shares her thoughts on the four areas that Africa as a continent needs to focus on namely, data scientists and data analysts, education technology, agriculture and entrepreneurship. These points were discussed in further detail during the interview. Read further to engage more closely with ‘Geeky Girl' Apiwe Hotele's ideas as she shines her telescopic vision on the world of STEM, a vision possibly more inspiring than the one provided by the famous MeerKAT telescope which she helped to construct. 1. Describe what your work entails. I work as a technology commercialisation specialist at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). My job involves introducing new products produced at SARAO to the market as well as initiating development projects in the Northern Cape, where the MeerKAT telescope is located. Prior to that I worked as science processing developer where I built a novel multi-sensory monitoring system for monitoring an environmentally ruggedized container for the MeerKAT telescope’s oil-immersed and liquid-cooled grid supercomputer. I am passionate about science education as well as creating awareness in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry and motivating students from previously disadvantaged communities to pursue careers in mathematics and science. I am the founder of Enlighten Tutoring, an online tutoring application that offers remote tutoring services to disadvantaged communities in mathematics and science for Grades 8 to 12. I initiated the IMBASA programme together with the Science Data Processing Team at SARAO. The aim of the programme is to motivate students from disadvantaged communities to not only pursue careers in mathematics and science but also to provide academic and financial support to these students. 2. Describe your engineering/STEM journey. Growing up computer science was never in my mind, I did not even know it existed. I used to see computers but I did not know the theory behind them. Growing up I wanted to be a medical doctor, however my dream was shattered in January 2010. I did not have a constant mathematics and physical science teacher from Grade 10- 12 due to this my physics marks were not that great, so I did not qualify to study medicine. This was really depressing for me; coincidentally during that time when I would fetch water from the community tap, I would meet students who would complain about how difficult maths was and how they wanted to quit physics because they did not have educators in those subjects. Suddenly, I realised that I was not alone. There were many other students going through what I was going through - and worse. From that day onwards I made a promise to myself that I would improve the mathematics and science situation in disadvantaged communities. 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? I wake up every morning because I have a six year old daughter, it is my role as her mother to ensure that she grows up in an environment that allows her to grow and prosper. I would fail as a mother if my daughter has to face the same problems I faced because I could not do anything about them. I am excited that times have changed, it is no secret that there is a lot of inequality in South Africa because of apartheid, one thing that our freedom fighters left us with is access, we have access to things they did not have access to. It is our duty to carefully choose what we do with this access and ensure that whatever we do we open doors wide enough for future generations to enter freely. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the engineering/STEM space? A rollercoaster ride, some days are better than others while some are worse. There is still a lot of patriarchy in our society, the mind set of both males and females still need to be transformed. It is more difficult for me because I am right at the bottom, the order is as follows: white men,black men, white women and lastly the black women. All of these people are stepping on top of you, sometimes black women step on top of black women so it's still a bit messy. Being a female scientist/engineer goes beyond your work space to your society and your personal life. Other women look at you and admire you, some look at you and think “well do you really think you can do it?” Then you get men who are generally okay and men who judge you and think you are trying to prove a point. You constantly have to prove yourself merely because you are a young black female engineer/scientist. In 2016, I represented women in science at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) University of Cape Town (UCT) branch, where I initiated #Breakingthestereotype, an annual event focused on motivating young female scientists and engineers studying at the institution. My aim is to dismantle the mind set that science/engineering is for an elite few. Science is for hard workers, ambitious and dedicated people. It has nothing to do with gender or colour. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the engineering/ STEM field? It takes one person with a dream, passion and perseverance to change the world. It is time for us to come up with solutions and not point fingers. In the words of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” As far as the STEM field is concerned there is still a long way to go, but women are coming together from all parts of the world to create an environment that accommodates females, so please do not be discouraged by the environment. The journey is lengthy and hard; perseverance and patience are key. Obstacles are ingredients of success, it's not about how long it takes to get to the finish line, it’s about the process of getting there, the strength and courage you get by getting there. Walk your journey with pride and never compare yourself with others. 6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? Definitely, there is no doubt Africa is a land of opportunity, personally I think the continent is making a steady progress but I feel we need to move faster, there is a lot to be done. The fourth industrial revolution is here! Personally, I feel there are four areas we need to focus on as a continent:  A.) We need data scientists and data analysts:  In order to achieve this we need to ensure that learners have a good foundation in mathematics and science. This sadly links back to our education system which needs to change not only for mathematics and science but for other fields as well. B.) Education technology:  We need to start looking at ways to integrate or fuse the traditional teaching method with technology. We have started doing this already but we need to do more. C.) Agriculture:  We have so much land and a lot of emerging farmers that lack business skills and need access to markets. We need to work on this fast. D.) Entrepreneurship:  We need to foster entrepreneurship from a young age, students in high school or tertiary education need to think beyond just an invention or just research to include how they can make a change in society and profit through their invention. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? There are quite a few milestone moments in my career but two stand out. When I designed and built the multi-sensory monitoring system for monitoring an environmentally ruggedized container for the MeerKAT telescope’s oil-immersed and liquid-cooled grid supercomputer. Seeing the system work and knowing that I built it from scratch is quite an accomplishment for me personally. The second one is the online tutoring app Enlighten. Ever since I completed Grade 12, I’d always wonder, how could I ensure that students from rural areas receive quality tutoring in mathematics and science? I have the solution, the Enlighten app. I cannot explain how I feel every time I think about this, the technology is designed specifically for their needs. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? Well this is one aspect of my life that I am still failing at, I focus too much on work and forget to live and enjoy life. I aspire to go to the gym even though I've already paid the monthly membership fees. I have not mastered the art of balance yet but because I have started thinking about it, I will start changing it. Ideally, I would like to spend more time with my family and loved ones and I also want to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing and not on what I have to do. 9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? My parents inspire me, they both came from disadvantaged backgrounds and they managed to be successful educators. I am also inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist for female education. She stood up for what she believed in. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? http://ysa.mg.co.za/2018/apiwe-hotele/ http://enlightentutoring.co.za/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/apiwe-hotele-42193688/ https://apiwe2012.wixsite.com/website https://www.biznews.com/good-hope-project/2017/09/22/aphiwe-hotele-ska-computer-servers-liquid-oil/ Facebook:   Aphiwe Patience Hotele Instagram:   apiwe_hotele Apiwe Hotele interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda  is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at  dhruti@geekyreality.com  or find her on twitter  @dhrutidd
You’ve heard the expression “career ladder” right? If you’re a girl in a predominately male profession, there’s something you can get to help you step up that ladder. Or, even a method of putting a foot on the first rung, as an early career move. Why not get a mentor? Why not get a mentor? Think about it. If you can communicate with someone further up the ladder, it brings all sorts of benefits. This includes tips and insights to help you to achieve the next steps. They may even open some doors for you. Sometimes it's about building your confidence too. Our Geeky Girl Reality report in 2016 found that getting a boost to your self-belief is invaluable. As is access to positive role models – women who have successfully forged ahead in STEM fields. So, getting a mentor who's a successful female in your area of interest could be doubly valuable. How do you find a mentor? It may mean playing the numbers game; approaching a few likely candidates and seeing which one responds positively. A great tool for identifying your “hit list” is LinkedIn – it’s a sort of social networking site for business. You could set up your own profile page and connect with appropriate contacts. We’re on it, so don’t forget to connect with the Geeky Girl team! Networking is also a great way to meet potential mentors. Are there conferences, networking groups or trade bodies that would welcome you as a guest, student member or even a full member? Use these opportunities to approach likely candidates to be your mentor. Or ring and email people who feel have the right credentials.   How to get a “yes” Be ready to communicate clearly, whether it’s a message on LinkedIn or a personal approach at an event.  Use a brief introduction to yourself, then deliver a carefully worded, polite and succinct request for some of their time. Be realistic. The higher up your target, the less chance they’ll give you regular slots in their diary. So, the form this mentoring takes is up to them, though you can make suggestions. At the very least, you may get a time slot to ask them questions, either in person or by email. Or they may be willing to meet you for a quick coffee. The best case scenario is that your mentor guides you towards internships or other work experience opportunities such as a chance to work shadow them or a colleague. They may even point you towards jobs that are recruiting! More tips on mentor “hunting” If you approach someone to be your mentor (particularly at an event) they may give you their time “on the spot”. It’s a good idea be always armed with searching questions, to uncover top tips and techniques for preparing for STEM gigs. What if they say no? Be ready with a quick additional question. Ask them if they can recommend anyone who might be your mentor. Or request that they pass your details on to colleagues. Making your way up a STEM career ladder doesn’t have to be lonely if you have the right mentor. And you always have the Geeky Girls team cheering you onwards and upwards! -o- Geeky Girl Reality shares career tips to help young women kickstart their careers in STEM and relevant fields. Make sure to view the available 'gigs"  on our site: internships, scholarships, and other entry-level opportunities.
Name:  Lungile Hlatshwayo Role/Occupation:  Advanced Lead Reliability Engineer  Country:  South Africa I recently interviewed Lungile Hlatshwayo, the Lead Engineer for Reliability. Hlatshwayo was the first African in her field to make it into the prestigious Edison Program, she remembers when she first found out, “ I was on a bus home when I found out and I just cried partially because I knew this would then open doors for other Africans. The second reason was that it was a step closer to being a beast of an engineer which is one of my life goals”. And she is definitely a ‘beast’ of an engineer. Hlatshwayo works with locomotives and in her role as Lead Engineer she is responsible for the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) reliability case solutions management in the region. She projects, manages and drives solutions case management for all fleets across SSA region which includes South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. Her task as a reliability engineer is to ensure all customer pain points regarding the product are addressed. This would include investigating the complete design, performance related issues and any component failures. Hlatshwayo was first introduced to engineering in high school when she attended an open day in Monash Australia and was instantly fascinated by the vast world of engineering. After much research she decided to study mechanical engineering. She completed her undergraduate degree, a BSc in mechanical engineering from the University of Cape Town after which she started working as an intern in the Early Career Development Program. She was later accepted into a global engineering program called the Thomas Edison Engineering Development Program which resulted in her spending 18 months abroad working in different teams exposed to design, root cause analysis, project management, systems engineering, optimization and various analysis. She feels that being part of the program made her a better engineer, “Learning and engaging with experts, which were truly the best in their fields is one of the greatest things that could have ever happened to me”. She also completed a postgraduate diploma in Project Management as part of the program. This year she started studying towards a Masters in Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand and also spent five months in GE Power understanding and learning about the industry, all while reporting to her role as the lead engineer for Reliability. When asked what she loves about her profession, she admits “I’m a problem solver and innately I’m always looking for the best option. My job allows me to excel in my most natural state.” She has strong feelings about being a woman in the STEM space and feels that as a woman you have to always work much harder than your male counterparts to prove yourself, “It’s a social issue as well, people naturally respect men, it’s something we need to change in how we raise the next generation”. Hlatshwayo has a very positive outlook with regards to STEM in Africa, “I think Africa has a lot to offer in terms of STEM; there are innovators, creators of knowledge, people pursuing their PhD’s, unconventional engineers and generally more women pursuing careers that were previously out of reach in the country. I believe the more we encourage young leaders to take up STEM the greater the prospects of growth, the more we create exposure opportunities into the work we do, the more the growth”. Read more about this beautiful beast of an engineer conquering the field of engineering and locomotives in the interview below as this Geeky Girl shares some of her opinions and insights. 1. Describe what your work entails. I work with locomotives; our task is to ensure the customer has a world class product that allows them to streamline operations and increase performance. My task as a reliability engineer is to ensure all customer pain points regarding the product are addressed, this means investigating all design, performance related issues and any component failures also defined as reliability cases. In my role as Lead Engineer I’m responsible for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) reliability case solutions management in the region. I project, manage and drive solutions case management for all fleets across SSA region this includes South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. 2. Describe your engineering journey. Engineering was introduced to me in high school. I went to an open day in Monash Australia and I was just so fascinated by the field. My uncle at the time was pursuing his undergraduate degree, though he never completed it, he was the most innovative person I’ve ever known. I started doing the research then decided I’d study Mechanical Engineering. My undergraduate degree is a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cape Town (UCT). I started working at GE in 2015 as an intern in the Early Career Development Program. At the completion of that program I went onto a global engineering program called the Thomas Edison Engineering Development Program which led to me spending 18 months in India working in different teams exposed to design, root cause analysis, project management, systems engineering, optimization and various analysis. I feel like it made me a better engineer, we also had to complete comprehensive courses whilst on program which solved business challenges. Learning and engaging with experts, which were truly the best in their fields is one of the greatest things that could have ever happened to me. I also completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management whilst on program. This year I spent five months in GE Power understanding and learning about that industry and started my Masters in Engineering with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Post program, I’m now the Lead Engineer for Reliability in the region, it’s been a tough but rewarding journey. 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? I’m a problem solver and innately I’m always looking for the best option. My job allows me to excel in my most natural state. As an Edison everyday was a new challenge and a new learning experience; I felt amazing with every week, with every phase I conquered. As a reliability engineer I get to interface with the customer and solve their issues which for me is so important, it gives meaning to my work. I also love the fact that nothing is the same so there’s always a new challenge, new approaches to be looked into and new things to learn. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? Being a woman in the STEM space is not easy, you always must work much harder than your male counterparts. It’s a social issue as well, people naturally respect men, it’s something we need to change in how we raise the next generation. That said in the STEM space as a female you earn the respect through sheer hard work. On the other hand, because there’s so few women in this field there’s a world of opportunities which for me has been amazing and enriching. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the engineering field? It is important to always be yourself no matter how tough the challenge. I’m a fashionista. The common comment I get is that I don’t look like an engineer; for years I've tried to change this but its only when I embraced my true self that I was able to passionately drive my tasks. To aspiring young women entering the STEM field I want you to know that you can be beautiful, fierce, smart, geeky and still make your mark in the industry. With the right efforts you can be where you want to be in your own way… 6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? This year’s Mail and Guardian 200 young leaders supplement had the highest nominees in science and technology with a substantial number of women in this field recognised. I think Africa has a lot to offer in terms of STEM; there are innovators, creators of knowledge, people pursuing their PhD’s, unconventional engineers and generally more women pursuing careers that were previously out of reach in the country. I believe the more we encourage young leaders to take up STEM the greater the prospects of growth, the more we create exposure opportunities into the work we do, the more the growth. What the science and technology industry also does is progressively solve and create a better life for someone at grass root level. If we look at the world of the digital revolution and how that has changed our lives to date the results are exponential; behind that brilliance lies an engineer in that field. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? Hahaha, lots..The biggest one though was making the Edison Program as the first African in my business. I was on a bus home when I found out and I just cried partially because I knew this would then open doors for other Africans. The second reason was that it was a step closer to being a beast of an engineer which is one of my life goals. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? I make time for the things that keep me sane, so my relationships, studying, music, exercise and travel. When it’s time to work I WORK!!!! Sometimes sacrifice my weekends when I want to feel good by Monday. 9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? My role model is not an engineer but she’s just an amazing human and leader. Her name is Zeenith Ebrahim she was the GE South Africa GM and CEO. She inspires me because she’s a leader that believes in the potential of her team, her approach is strategic with so much passion, compassion and empathy. She also inspires me because she’s herself in everything she does and is driven and humble. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found?  http://www.getransportation.com/locomotive-and-services Instagram:  @lungiez Facebook:  Lu Hlatshwayo Lungile Hlatshwayo interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda  is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at  dhruti@geekyreality.com  or find her on twitter  @dhrutidd
Name:  Jeshika Ramchund PrEng Role/Occupation:  Civil Engineer  Country:  South Africa I recently interviewed Jeshika Ramchund, a senior engineer in the developments division at Bosch Projects in Durban, South Africa. Her work covers planning, design and implementation of civil engineering infrastructure. She fulfils a variety of roles in her current occupation from Programme Manager to Design Engineer to Design Team Leader. Being exposed to the technical field from a young age as her father worked in construction, her fascination with engineering drawings and specifications was immediate and long-lasting. She soon discovered that it was in the initial stages of a project that the most creativity could be exercised. She then made a firm decision to have a career in the built environment. As a student, Ramchund succeeded in securing a scholarship for study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). A vacation work opportunity turned into a fantastic start to her career with a full bursary and employment as a graduate engineer; the experience gained honed her technical skills and appreciation for the design process. She later gained project management experience by working on large and multidisciplinary projects across the country. She then completed the  Consulting Engineers South Africa's, Business of Consulting Engineering Programme  which put her in good stead to tackle the role of Acting Regional Head of Infrastructure and Technical Director for KZN. Her recent focus has been on the management of a private sector portfolio at Bosch, where she works alongside sustainability specialists to grow and evolve the conventional design process to incorporate technology, sustainability and innovation. Her journey on the promotion of engineering and consulting engineering began in 2008 in the KZN Branch of Consulting Engineers South Africa's Young Professionals Forum (CESA YPF). She went from being the Branch Chair of CESA YPF KZN to National Chair of CESA YPF South Africa and then onto Chairperson of the Group of African Member Associations to serving as a member on Federation of International Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) YPF. She has delivered presentations at several local and international conferences and congresses on the engineering profession and the consulting agenda. When asked what excites her about her job, she states that “Our roles [as engineers] may be small, but the potential of our impacts are huge. My work in civil engineering… improves the quality of life of people and the environment in which we live. Embracing technology, and developing engineering solutions that bring the imagination to life is what makes me tick.” Her experience as a woman in the engineering space has been largely positive, although she feels that “Engineering is still very male dominated. Ills such as sexual harassment, the pay gap and the ‘old boys club' are still a reality, but despite these challenges many women have defied the odds and changed these dynamics in the profession and industry. Over the years, I have had the privilege of learning from many dynamic and successful female engineers. It takes those who walk before us to improve the path for us to walk.” Her aim in consulting engineering is to create a safe space that encourages women in technical fields to converse on the successes and challenges faced, to discuss professional and personal coping mechanisms and to share ideas. Ramchund believes that it “is to not just [to] have the conversation at a tea party with other women, but the best way to encourage behavioural changes is to invite men to the table to listen, share and lobby with us for the changes we would like to see.” She has a very positive outlook on Africa and feels that “Africa is a land of opportunity. There are huge opportunities for the growth in the engineering space. The rate of technological development and innovation oozing from creative African youth sets the scene for the coming generations… This means that young women engineers can take their place, front and centre and lead Africa into the future.” She attributes planning ahead, making lists of the things she needs to do and leaning on her support system (her husband, family and friends are her biggest cheerleaders and enablers) as the means of maintaining a balance between her professional career and her role as a volunteer and ambassador of engineering and consulting engineering with her role as a wife and a new mother. Read further to discover an engineer’s journey from being a wide-eyed girl fascinated with engineering drawings to a woman who has climbed the mountain of engineering success and stands at the top reaching out to give other women a helping hand. Be inspired by this hardworking and determined Geeky Girl. 1. Describe what your work entails. I am currently a Senior Engineer in the Developments Division at Bosch Projects in Durban, South Africa. My involvement covers planning, design and implementation of civil engineering infrastructure with a background in water and wastewater. My roles vary from Programme Manager to Design Engineer to Design Team Leader on different projects. 2. Describe your engineering journey. My dad worked in construction and exposed me to his world of work from a young age where I was fascinated by engineering drawings and specifications. What frustrated me was that at the construction stage, there wasn't room for many creative or functional changes. I then learned about the various careers in the built environment and how by getting involved at the initial stages of a project, in planning and design, one could exercise the most creativity. I knew that a career in the built environment was what I wanted despite the very cyclical nature of the work. I was successful in securing a scholarship from the Construction Industry Education and Training Services (CIETS) for study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal commencing in January 2004. During my search for the university work experience programme during vacations, I was accepted for training by CBI Consulting Engineers (Pty) Ltd (now incorporated into Mott Macdonald). That vacation opportunity turned into a fantastic start to my career with a full bursary and employment as a graduate engineer in their Durban offices. It was the greatest opportunity to experience and be involved in water and sanitation projects that honed my technical skills and appreciation for the design process. I joined the team at ILISO Consulting (Pty) Ltd where I gained project management experience on large and multidisciplinary projects across the country. It was where I grew a deep appreciation for the complexity of engineering. I grew competence in performing critical functions in a consulting engineering business. I successfully completed Consulting Engineers South Africa's, Business of Consulting Engineering Programme. This set me in good stead to tackle the role of Acting Regional Head of Infrastructure and Technical Director for KwaZulu-Natal. When the opportunity to couple technical expertise with the project management experience on a large water and sanitation project that I had previously worked on arose, I knew that my career would take on a different path. I have been at Bosch Project for just over 2 years and gained a wealth of experience in multidisciplinary and mega projects for the public and private sector. Recently my focus has been on the management of a private sector portfolio, my role in the team has been to work alongside our sustainability specialists to grow and evolve the conventional design process to incorporate technology, sustainability and innovation into the business as well as to improve internal processes and efficiencies. My journey on the promotion of engineering and consulting engineering began in 2008 in the KZN Branch of Consulting Engineers South Africa's Young Professionals Forum (CESA YPF). The core objectives of the YPF are to create awareness of the engineering industry and consulting engineering as a profession, to promote development of high quality professionals in the consulting engineering industry; and to address the issues that affect YPs in South Africa. My journey through the organisation has taken me from Branch Chair of CESA YPF KZN, to National Chair of CESA YPF South Africa, then onto Chairperson of the Group of African Member Associations (an organisation representing Consulting Engineers across Africa, of which CESA is a member) to serving as a member on Federation of International Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) YPF (an organization representing Consulting Engineers globally, of which CESA is a Member Association and GAMA is a regional grouping). I have been privileged to speak and deliver presentations at several local and international conferences and congresses on the engineering profession and the consulting engineering agenda from the perspective of the young professional (under 35 years old). 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? Engineering is such a vast field and covers every imaginable aspect of life across disciplines - civil, electrical, chemical, mechatronic, biomedical etc. Our roles may be small, but the potential of our impacts are huge. My work in civil engineering, delivering water and sanitation infrastructure for example, improves the quality of life of people and the environment in which we live. Embracing technology, and developing engineering solutions that bring the imagination to life is what makes me tick. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the engineering space? My experience in engineering has been very positive. I have had a series of mentors and sponsors who have advised, guided and motivated me on technical subjects, management and professional development areas. I have been fortunate to have been given opportunities beyond my experience and qualifications and this has helped to grow and thrive. I have found that if you show initiative and seize every opportunity afforded, success is guaranteed. Engineering is still very male dominated. Ills such as sexual harassment, the pay gap and the “old boys club” are still a reality, but despite these challenges many women have defied the odds, and changed these dynamics in the profession and industry. Over the years, I have had the privilege of learning from many dynamic and successful female engineers. It takes those who walk before us to improve the path for us to walk. I have a passion for empowering technical females in our industry to grow and share their knowledge and experiences with each other. In Consulting Engineering our challenges are different and we lack an accessible mechanism for women to converse on the successes and challenges faced, coping mechanisms and a safe space to share ideas. My aim is to create that space and encourage these conversations. The key is to not just have the conversation at a tea party with other women, but the best way to encourage behavioural changes is to invite men to the table to listen, share and lobby with us for the changes we would like to see. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the engineering field? A career in engineering is more than just a job, it is an opportunity to change lives everyday by just doing what makes you happy. There are huge opportunities for careers in engineering, consulting, contracting, municipal, academic, industry and manufacturing. There are also various paths that can be pursued to access a career in engineering. The key is to prioritize Mathematics and Physical Science at high school with the best possible results. This enables one to secure a place university as well as provides access to funding via scholarships and bursary programmes. There are many opportunities and initiatives that are aimed at women interested and studying toward a career in engineering, Geeky Girl Reality is one such grouping. Women are naturally multitalented and excellent multitaskers, imagine the impact that we make every day by just being us! Sheryl Sandberg, author of the book Lean In says, “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” 6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? I believe that Africa is a land of opportunity. There are huge opportunities for the growth in the engineering space. The rate of technological development and innovation oozing from creative African youth sets the scene for the coming generations. The infrastructure gap, youth unemployment and economic growth, is pivotal to realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals ( http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html ) and the African Unions’ Agenda 2063 ( https://au.int/en/agenda2063 ). This means that young women engineers can take their place, front and centre and lead Africa into the future. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? Each time I successfully complete an infrastructure project, I have a “mini-Eureka” moment. I was recently selected as one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans to watch. This has been such an honour. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? I try to balance my professional career, my role as a volunteer and ambassador of engineering and consulting engineering and my role as a wife and a new mother by planning ahead, making lists of things I need to do and leaning on my support system whenever I feel myself being overwhelmed. My husband, family and friends are my biggest cheerleaders and enablers. 9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? I am inspired by many people for various reasons, as I fulfil various roles in my life. I admire Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Sheryl Sandberg and Melinda Gates for their work towards women empowerment. I aspire to be and to promote that women can have it all. I admire Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet for their philanthropic efforts and using their wealth for meaningful causes. Within the engineering sphere, I am inspired by a past generation of engineers, who despite the challenges that apartheid imposed on black people who wanted to study engineering in South Africa, still followed their passion, became successful and technically competent engineers. They went further to start and grow consulting engineering businesses that provided much needed infrastructure to South Africa post-1994, much of which was aimed at the previously marginalized populations, providing a platform for employment creation of thousands of technical employees over the years. These incredible engineers continued to stay involved in growing the engineering profession, having led Voluntary Associations such as CESA and SAICE in the capacity of Presidents etc. They inspire me to be the best engineer that I can be as a way of life, rather than as a job. No high-profile person is without controversy, and by the virtue of being in the public domain one open’s themselves up to that kind of scrutiny. However, the overriding benefit is their ability to do good and change lives in an extraordinary way, that inspires us to do in an ordinary one. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found?  My Civil Engineering work at Bosch Projects:  http://www.boschprojects.co.za/ Consulting Engineering in:  South Africa with CESA:  https://www.cesa.co.za/ypf Africa with GAMA:  http://fidic.org/node/7946 Internationally with FIDIC:  http://fidic.org/YPF Ramchund can be contacted at:  Email:  ramchundj@boschprojects.co.za Twitter & Instagram: @JeshikaRM LinkedIn & Facebook: Jeshika Ramchund Jeshika Ramchund interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda  is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at  dhruti@geekyreality.com  or find her on twitter  @dhrutidd  
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