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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

Say hi :) who are you what do you do? Hello! My name’s Clare McDonald and I’m a WordPress web design specialist.  I run my own freelance web design business and I am also the co-founder of GoWithThePro a membership which supports entrepreneurs and freelancers during the launch and early growth phases of their new businesses.  We specialise in digital marketing from social media management to content marketing and branding. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? Erm, no!  The internet didn’t exist when I had my first careers advice chat!  My background is in the humanities. I have a degree in English Literature and History and my initial career was in publishing advertising sales.  I worked on the launch of a major consumer website in 1998 which started my love of the web. I was one of the first people in the office to have an email account (dial up of course!) and in 1999 I had my first training about the dark art of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). When my daughter was born, I freelanced for a few years in a variety of jobs including for an SEO agency and as a project manager and copywriter for a web design company.  I quickly realised it was easier for me to liaise with the client and make the changes than wait for the web developer to do them. I’ve been building websites for about 18 years, but everything changed when I discovered WordPress and just how much was possible.  My first client still probably has the biggest site I’ve ever built so it was a very steep learning curve but I loved every moment. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I’m very lucky that I work from home, so I don’t have to worry about the cold and the dark!  Working from home doesn’t work for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it when you’re just starting out because it’s so important to have social interaction at work. The sheer variety of my day makes me (not quite jump out of bed) sit down and enjoy my working day.  At the moment I’m working for a variety of clients including creating the digital version of two university publications, a French brewery, a company who has created stylish and comfortable hospital clothing and a brewing machine manufacturer.  No one day is the same as another! You meet so many different people and learn so much about different industries that you are constantly finding out new things and challenging yourself to try new solutions to convey their messages. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? This is really important for us at GoWithThePro because we have seen time and time again people struggle with what we call “overwhelm” and also “Imposter Syndrome”.  Overwhelm is the feeling that you have too much to do and no time to do it, so you start to panic and that usually means you achieve even less. Imposter syndrome is also interesting because it’s the feeling of doubt, that one day you will be “caught out” and people will realise you’re not actually any good at your job.  This can apply to people at any age too, we all remember being at school and thinking you’d fluked an exam or assignment. In reality we know deep down it’s because we knew what we were saying but it’s often hard to believe positive things about ourselves. A really good way of dealing with this is to write it down.  Make lists. If you have a million and one things to do, write them on a piece of paper and then go through and deal with the straightforward tasks.  Once they’re gone you can focus on the ones which are more demanding. I find my most productive days are the ones where I give myself shorter to-do lists so I don’t feel overwhelmed by all the jobs.  As a freelancer you are completely in control of your time so it’s important to be strict with yourself. It’s a skill you have to learn! It’s also important to step away sometimes.  The school run was always a good problem-solving time for me.  I was away from my desk, there were no notifications, so I could think things through.  I solved many a problem walking to and from school! Taking a walk and clearing your head (or even just getting up from your desk in the office and standing outside for five minutes) can work wonders! Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? That’s a really good question!  There are a few people I admire like Emma Thompson and JK Rowling who are not afraid to speak their minds and champion women in all walks of life.  The obvious answer is Ada Lovelace as a woman working with computers but there’s nobody I would point to and say, yes, her. Perhaps I’m lucky that I’ve always worked with great women! I will say that I have a card stuck to my desk with a quote from George Eliot; “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”.  I’ve had it for years and for me it became a reality when I turned 40 and started this new career! What advice would you give to your 18 year old self? Enjoy yourself!  Work hard but don’t worry about choosing the course of your life.  Things change, people change, circumstances change and you go with it.  Things happen for a reason. It might seem like a shitty reason sometimes but it usually works out in the end! Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Bit biased here but keep your horizons broad.  Pursue art or music or literature too if you enjoy it.  There is a lot of pressure on girls to succeed if they are in STEM but you also need to have an escape and time away from your chosen field. Support each other!  It’s hard enough to succeed in a male dominated world without competing against each other.  I work with four other incredible women so I promise it is possible (with the occasional bump in the road!). Trust yourself and your instincts.  Banish Imposter Syndrome and recognise your abilities and achievements.  There’s nothing wrong with saying “you know what? I had a really great day today and I’m really pleased with myself”. How do you measure your success? By how long my to-do list is?!  Seriously though I’m not sure I do.  I get so involved in projects I usually hate them visually by the end of it so I have to come back to them months later and think “that looks really good”.  We’re often too close to our own work to really measure how good it is. My “success” is probably other people looking at it and saying “that looks really good”! Where can we find out more about your work? Certainly not on my website!  I’m afraid I’m like the apocryphal builder whose house is a ruin; I’m a web designer who hasn’t touched her own site for years. You can find out more about GoWithThePro at https://gowiththepro.uk If you are a UCL Alumni you’ll soon be seeing my work too! Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? You can find me on: Twitter: @wexy8   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clarejmcdonald . LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clare-mcdonald-0897b7b1/ Please can you share a few photos with us, our young women love to be able to put a face to their role models!   One of my co-founders Cathy and I (on the left) doing a Facebook Live.  Cathy is a superstar and knows so much about digital marketing I am very lucky to work with her. This is the GoWithThePro Team! Finally, this is me on my 21st birthday about to embark on my “life” as we’re told it should be.  I’m a million miles from there but I did marry the man in the picture and we have two children so it’s not all bad (apart from the length of my dress)!
Say hi :) who are you what do you do? Hi! I’m Harshita Arora. I’m a young engineer and entrepreneur. I started programming when I was 13 and since then I’ve done engineering internships at companies like Salesforce and DoNotPay. I’ve created a dozen iOS apps, and one of them (Crypto Price Tracker) was acquired by Redwood City Ventures. I’m now interested in brain-computer interfaces and working on a mind-controlled drone. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I got interested in computer science and programming through my CS teacher in middle school. I didn’t know anything about computer programming until 7th grade -- so I certainly didn’t know that it was something I wanted to do. As a kid, I wanted to be a biologist. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Sunk-cost fallacy! See this: https://twitter.com/michael_nielsen/status/1062032179016818691 I think it’s a combination of sunk-cost fallacy (I’ve already been on a streak working towards this goal for the past x days, let’s not screw the discipline) and being intrinsically interested in the work and learning I’m doing. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I listen to music. I sometimes call up my parents or other close friends. I’d suggest reading Epictetus for people who are stressed very often. Stoic philosophy will help. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I admire Patrick Collison a lot -- I think he’s the most intellectually curious person I know. And he’s also very optimistic and kind! He’s the CEO of Stripe. In my field (brain-computer interfaces), I admire Ed Boyden a lot! He’s a neuroscientist at MIT who’s done important work in optogenetics and expansion microscopy.   What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? I’m still 17 years old! But if I were able to give advice to my younger self, I’d tell her to read even more books :) Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?   Get solid foundations in math and science, as well as in the field you want to work in (for example, CS, biotech, etc). Read a lot! Learn to code, even if you don’t think you’d want to work as a programmer. Most STEM fields today use software and knowing how to do basic things like writing a script, writing an algorithm to perform some computations, etc, will be very valuable. Also read this: https://patrickcollison.com/advice  How do you measure your success? I ask my mentors for feedback. That’s the most reliable source to avoid personal biases :)  Where can we find out more about your work? Twitter: https://twitter.com/aroraharshita33 My blog: https://harshitaarora.com/ Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Sure! My Twitter:   https://twitter.com/aroraharshita33 My LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/harshita-arora11/   Happy to connect!
Name : Sadhna Mathura Role/Occupation : Lecturer, Researcher and Academic Coordinator, School of Chemistry, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Country : South Africa Sadhna Mathura is a lecturer, researcher and academic coordinator at the School of Chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand. As a lecturer, she teaches chemistry to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. As an academic coordinator, she designs, prepares and develops course material & assessments, including teaching students how to conduct high-quality research and how to present their findings to the scientific community. And finally, as a researcher, Mathura pursues her own research interests, which focuses on understanding bilirubin chemistry as it pertains to neonatal jaundice. Jaundice in babies is potentially detrimental to brain development as bilirubin is neurotoxic. Her work addresses the need for better diagnostic methods. As a child, Mathura annoyed everyone with her questions. This behaviour prompted a relative to suggest that she should be a scientist considering the amount of questions she asks. Mathura didn’t know what ‘science’ was, but to an eight year old girl, the prospect of being paid to ask questions sounded brilliant! She began her ‘research’ on where and how she could do this for a living with the help of an  Encyclopaedia, which she refers to as the ‘Google of the 80s’ and found out all about science and the different STEM fields. Mathura completed matric at Tongaat Secondary in Kwa-Zulu Natal. After having saved enough money, she was able to send her applications to the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, where she completed her undergraduate degree, followed by her Honours and Masters degrees, specialising in Genetics (with Forestry) and Chemistry. Subsequently, Mathura moved to Johannesburg to pursue a Doctorate in Bioinorganic Chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Mathura was ultimately awarded the prestigious Claude Leon Fellowship to undertake postdoctoral research at Wits where she started to develop her current research interests. “I get to ask questions and be curious about the world around me every single day. I then get to teach other people how to be curious and ask questions. Why wouldn’t I want to get out of bed in the morning!?” says an ecstatic Mathura as she jokes about operating her household kitchen as a laboratory as well.  “I’m doing what I love, so it’s not a “job”. It’s a space where I can both derive and add value,” she adds. When she embarked on her PhD, she was the only female in the lab for the first couple of years; with time this has fortunately changed and the lab has many female science graduates and researchers. Mathura believes that, “It’s one thing to demand the support of an institution to raise the status of Women in Science, but it’s another thing when Women in Science actually support each other’s professional development.” She elaborates by citing a recent campus Women in Science event, which was eye opening and enriching in terms of meeting many women from different disciplines and learning from them, she states, “we need more of this.” Mathura has observed that many women, herself included have a tendency to shy away from owning their achievements; possibly because it might seem more appropriate if someone else asserts their achievements. Her advice to young women is to “celebrate your achievements… We need to look inward for validation, not outward. If you can’t own your achievements, then you can’t own your failures. If you can’t own your failures, then how can you grow and become better?” With regards to her opinion about the future of STEM in Africa, Mathura feels that “our people are fantastic at taking adversity and from it, creating opportunities... Africa as a continent has always been the land of opportunity.” She emphasises that academia is at a very interesting turning point at the moment as there is “this buzz around ‘Decolonisation of curricula’ and ‘Africanisation of curricula” and she is interested to see how it unfolds.  Work- life balance is important to Mathura as she feels it makes her a better scientist and so she is strongly committed to maintaining it,  her strategy involves trying “to balance the ‘left brain’ with some ‘right brain’ pursuits to fuel [her] creativity such as writing poetry, playing an instrument, painting etc.” Interestingly, Mathura shies away from having role models. She points out that she has two main reasons for this decision, “firstly, it’s easy to be disappointed by human fallibility… role models are human beings and human beings make mistakes... it’s hard to separate their mistakes from the reasons you looked up to them in the first place… Secondly, it doesn’t make sense… to follow someone else if you are trying to find your feet as a leader… So, instead of role models, I have role ideas . If I see a good idea... I watch, read, learn.” Feed your curiosity by reading more about a curious Geeky Girl, Sadhna Mathura, who couldn’t stop asking questions and subsequently found herself a STEM career to feed her curiosity.  Describe what your work entails My time is split between teaching, administration and research. As a higher education Lecturer, I teach Chemistry to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical course demonstrations, e-learning etc.. I prepare and deliver the appropriate lecture content for a particular cohort of students, e.g. Chemistry for Engineers. As an Academic Coordinator, I design, prepare and develop course material & assessments, including new methods of teaching. I also teach students how to conduct high-quality research and present their findings to the scientific community. And lastly, as a Researcher, I pursue my own research interests in order to contribute to the wider research areas of my department. My current field of interest aims to understand bilirubin chemistry as it pertains to neonatal jaundice. The liver breaks down old red blood cells, and helps to excrete that what cannot be recycled. Bilirubin is one of those waste products that is excreted. However, when bilirubin builds up faster than your liver can help to excrete, then your skin takes on a yellow colour (jaundice). In babies, jaundice is quite common and can be detrimental to brain development since bilirubin is neurotoxic. There is a need for better diagnostic methods which is where my work comes in. When I am not in the laboratory, I also put in energy into public engagement with Chemistry and the broader STEM field. I participate as a judge for symposia, I hold learning workshops and I guest-lecture at other institutions.  Describe your STEM journey. It’s a fairly uncomplicated journey, I’m afraid. As a child, I annoyed everyone with my questions. So, a relative had said that it looked like I was going to be a scientist with all these questions. I didn’t know what ‘science’ was, but to an 8 year old, the prospect of being paid to ask questions sounded brilliant! So I consulted the ‘Google of the 80s’ (an Encyclopedia!) and read all about science and the different fields. On deciding which ones appealed to me, I promptly began to “research” where and how I could do it for a living. I learned that I had to take certain subjects in school, get certain grades in order to enter the learning institution of my choice and so on. So I completed my matric at Tongaat Secondary in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), I saved up money to send my applications through to what is now called University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg. I completed my undergrad, Honours and Masters degrees there specialising in Genetics (with Forestry) and Chemistry. This was in collaboration with the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR). I subsequently moved to Johannesburg to read for a Doctorate in Bioinorganic Chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). I was later awarded the prestigious Claude Leon Fellowship to undertake postdoctoral research where I started to develop my own research interests. Now I am employed at the School of Chemistry, Wits University where I teach and conduct research.  What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? I get to ask questions and be curious about the world around me every single day. I then get to teach other people how to be curious and ask questions. I get to solve problems in a lab by collaborating with some really brilliant people who have great ideas. Why wouldn’t I want to get out of bed in the morning!? Being a scientist is so much a part of me that, much to my partner’s horror, I even operate our kitchen like a lab! Doing what you love is important because when things get challenging (and everything gets challenging at some point), it’s your passion that carries you through to the other side of that challenge. I’m doing what I love, so it’s not a “job”. It’s a space where I can both derive and add value.  How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? When I started off my PhD, I was the only female in my lab for the first two years or so. Now, it’s really encouraging to see so many female science graduates and researchers. It’s one thing to demand the support of an institution to raise the status of Women in Science, but it’s another thing when Women in Science actually support each other’s professional development. I was really encouraged to attend a Women in Science event on campus recently. It was supportive to see women from so many different disciplines who are doing great things in the world, but more importantly to learn how they were doing it. We need more of this.  What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Celebrate your achievements. I’ve noticed many women (myself included) have a tendency to shy away from owning their achievements, almost like it’s gauche to say ‘I did that’. It’s as though it’s more “appropriate” if someone else says you’ve done well. We need to look inward for validation, not outward. If you can’t own your achievements, then you can’t own your failures. If you can’t own your failures, then how can you grow and become better? If you view your unique journey as one big learning experience, then it becomes easier to grow from your mistakes rather than taking it personally. Also, learn to play a musical instrument or paint or something artistic- it does wonders for your creativity. Creativity is your fuel for scientific discoveries.  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”? Historically, I think Africa as a continent has always been the ‘land of opportunity’ when it comes to STEM; some of the fundamental mathematics and science concepts began here. So I’d say we’re pretty consistent when it comes to being leaders in these areas. I think our people are fantastic at taking adversity and from it, creating opportunities. What’s interesting now, is this buzz around ‘Decolonisation of curricula’ and ‘Africanisation of curricula’. I’m interested to see where we go with this. Interesting times…   Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? You know, when I started to answer this question, I began to list accolades and various things that I had achieved. But I think my true ‘Eureka!’ moment was when I was about 19 years old and I found the guts to knock on my Lecturer’s door to ask for vacation work. On my first day of work, it was as though I stepped into a different world where nothing else but the work mattered. When I saw these people getting excited (but like really excited !) about things they couldn’t even see, I said to myself, “I want a piece of that!”. By the time I had completed that project at the end of my contract, I knew all about that feeling and I was hooked! I signed up for lab work every vacation after that. I think once or twice, I even did the work for free because the training was far more valuable. It’s one thing to learn about what interests you in theory, but it’s a whole other ball-game to submerge yourself in it practically. That vacation work cemented my resolve to pursue this career path.  How do you maintain a work-life balance? I have an incredible partner who grounds me and keeps me centred. When I feel overwhelmed, I ask for help, and then I delegate. I try to balance the ‘left brain’ with some ‘right brain’ pursuits to fuel my creativity such as writing poetry, playing an instrument, painting etc. Having a work-life balance makes me a better scientist, so I try to commit to it as I would to anything else.    Who is your role model? Who inspires you? This is probably going to sound strange, but I try not to have role models and for two reasons. Firstly, it’s easy to be disappointed by human fallibility; remember, role models are human beings, and human beings make mistakes. When they do, it’s often hard to separate their mistakes from the reasons why you looked up to them in the first place; then you either want to change yourself or them to fit a perception. It feels like a waste of energy and I also don’t want to put that kind of pressure on someone! Secondly, it doesn’t make sense to me to follow someone else if you are trying to find your feet as a leader. How do you find your unique truths and talents if you’re looking to someone else to provide those? Having said that, it doesn’t mean I operate in isolation. I am constantly learning new ideas from the world around me. Ideas can change, be shaped, improved upon and so on. It also means that a good idea can come from anywhere and anyone. So, instead of role models, I have role ideas . If I see a good idea, I say to myself, “Hm, now that’s a great idea! I wonder how they do that?” and then I watch, read, learn.  Where can more information or insight into your work be found? LinkedIn: ResearchGate, OrcID. Twitter Handle: I’m afraid that I do not have a Twitter account (nor Facebook)! I’m a bit of a social media hermit haha! Sadhna Mathura 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: Soji Zimkhitha Role/Occupation: PhD candidate in Agriculture, Animal Science (University of Fort Hare) Country: South Africa Soji Zimkhitha is a PhD candidate in Agriculture, a department under the Animal Science division at the University of Fort Hare. Zimkhitha’s work focuses on Meat Science, in particular Red Meat Classification in South Africa. Her research involves finding ways of improving red meat classification to meet current consumer meat consumption trends. Zimkhitha loved Agriculture since high school, although only a handful of people chose to study the subject and  “were always teased... being referred as garden girls and boys”, she recalls. However this did not lower her self-esteem as it was her favourite subject. She pursued a BSc and MSc in Agriculture (Animal Science) at the University of Fort Hare from which she graduated with Cum Laude for both. Zimkhitha is currently in her final year of study with her PhD being funded by National Research Foundation and Meat Industry Trust. Thus far, she has published several scientific research papers and has presented her research both locally and internationally in various countries including Germany, France, Thailand, Ireland and Namibia. The accolades for her work do not stop here. Zimkhitha  achieved a merit award for being the best Animal research student in country (2014); the bronze medal for a meritorious MSc dissertation and relevant publications in the field of animal science (2016) and has been selected as one of the Top 6 most qualified young scientists in South Africa to attend the 68 th Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany (2018). “Finding solutions through research is what excites me,” says Zimkhitha and each morning, “I wake up determined of finding out alternative solutions to existing problems concerned with meat consumption especially in the midst of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,” she emphasises. Her long term goal is to improve the SA meat industry until it is a competitive country in global  meat markets. Zimkhitha feels that it’s not easy being a woman in the field of Agriculture and says that “as much as the sponsors are investing so much on ‘women in science’... at the end of the day we [women] sit at home with our degrees unless you trade for a job either with sex or money.” Hence many female students enrol for postgraduate studies as it was their only option after trying so hard to find employment. Zimkhitha believes that science is neither “for men nor for women, it’s for those who want it, all you need as a woman to succeed in science is a victorious mind-set.” She feels that Africa can do more and the continent has many resources and skills, but maintains that the main problem is that “Africa likes to trade its wealth to developed countries instead of innovating itself with the land full of opportunities it has.” In terms of work-life balance, she spends 65% of her time on work and 35% on her social life and to Zimkhitha “this is balance because at the end of the day I need to work to have the life I desire,” she states. Zimkhitha says she strives to be a better person everyday and if  “I cannot stand in front of the mirror and tell myself ‘I am proud of you, Zimkhitha for the person you have become and are still striving to become’, then no matter what other people say or do in trying to inspire me won’t work, inspiration has to be within you, and it has to be your everyday garment.” Bite into this meaty interview below with the very determined, focused and hardworking Geeky Girl,  Soji Zimkhitha. Describe what your work entails. My work focuses on Meat Science, in particular Red Meat Classification in South Africa. In my research I am trying to find ways of improving the South African red meat classification to meet the current consumer trends in meat consumption which are influenced by socioeconomic and cultural diversities.  Describe your STEM journey. I have always loved Agriculture since high school hence I decided to pursue a career in it. Although few of us in High School (4 out of 52 students in my class) studied Agriculture and were always teased and being referred as garden girls and boys it did not really bother me or lower my self-esteem  as it was the subject I mostly enjoyed. I studied my BSc and MSc in Agriculture (Animal Science) at the University of Fort Hare which I graduated for both with Cum Laude in 2014 & 2016 respectively. I then enrolled for PhD in 2016 and I am currently doing my final year. I was sponsored by the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality for my BSc, DAAD for MSc, National Research Foundation and Meat Industry Trust for my PhD. I have published four scientific research papers and have presented my research in various research collaborations and conferences locally and internationally in countries which include Germany, France, Thailand, Ireland and Namibia.   What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? Finding solutions through research is what excites me, every morning I wake up determined of finding out alternative solutions to existing problems concerned with meat consumption especially in the midst of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases that are currently escalating and associated with meat consumption. I am so keen to helping the meat industry satisfy the consumer while also ensuring food security through communal or smallholder farming. My long term goal is to improve the SA meat industry to being a competitive country in meat markets globally.  How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? Being a woman in Agriculture is not that easy, especially considering the high unemployment rate in our department of Agriculture in South Africa. In as much as the sponsors are investing so much on “women in science” and are being given more attention academically, at the end of the day we sit at home with our degrees unless you trade for a job either with sex or money. Hence other students had decided to enrol for postgraduate studies, not that they wanted to but because it was their only option after trying so hard to find employment. Some women who have managed to secure Jobs in Agriculture had to compromise their being for success and it’s so devastating. Even at Universities you would find lecturers taking advantage of Female students (in general). This is mostly experienced by South African female students unfortunately.  What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Science is not for Men nor for Women, it’s for those who want it, all you need as a Woman to succeed in Science is a Victorious mind-set, let no intimidation by men give you a complex inferiority state of mind and being, women can do more than expected.  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”? Africa can do most, there are a lot of resources and skills in this continent and all it needs is a chance to do small things in a great way. Africa likes to trade its wealth to developed countries instead of innovating itself with the land full of opportunities it has. We need to work well together as the African continent, we need to have the same goal to achieve a secure continent in all spheres.   Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? I had been awarded a merit award for being the best Animal student in South Africa in 2014, Bronze medal for a meritorious Masters dissertation and relevant publications in the field of animal science in 2016, Been selected among the Top 6 most qualified young scientists in South Africa to attend the 68 th Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany in 2018  How do you maintain a work-life balance? Focus and determination on my priority of being a successful woman in Agriculture makes it easy for me to have a work-life balance. I spend 65% of my time worrying about my work and 35% on my social life and to me this is balance because at the end of the day I need to work to have the life I desire.  Who is your role model? Who inspires you? I always find it hard to answer this question, well I do not have a role model, I am my own role model and I wake up every day with an earnest  to be an improved person than yesterday. If I cannot stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that “I am proud of you Zimkhitha for the person you have become and are still striving to become”, then no matter what other people say or do in trying to inspire me won’t work, inspiration has to be within you, and it has to be your everyday garment. At the end of the day everyone can be your role model because everyone has something you like about, but no individual has everything that inspires you, but you have the power to package every little piece of inspiration within self and become your own role model.   Where can more information or insight into your work be found? Linkedin:  Soji zimkhitha Twitter Handle:  @zimmysoji Soji Zimkhitha 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
Say hi :) who are you what do you do? Hello, my name is Camille Eddy and I am a Mechanical Engineering Student and veteran Silicon Valley Intern How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I decided I wanted to be an astronaut when I was 12 and engineering was one of the paths you could take to be an astronaut. I was inspired by people like Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut in space, and Barbara Morgan the first teacher in space and my mentor, who were pioneers for what astronauts could be. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I know that I bring a lot of uniqueness and diversity to the teams I am on. My childhood and my journey through school are different from others and I like bringing new perspectives to old ideas. Sometimes even just showing up to a meeting or class is enough to send shock waves. That can be a burden or a blessing. But most days I take that as a blessing. I try to be confident and be myself wherever I go. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I got a very unpleasant message in my inbox the other day. This person raised up in me some doubt if I had made the right decision to move to a new community. This made me a little angry because it wasn’t the first time someone had doubted me in this way. When I got home a package was waiting for me and it was a book from a friend and they had written a very encouraging note. I knew this was a sign to sit down and appreciate the people in my life who support me. I sent my friend a message to tell them what had happened earlier and of course, they understood and listened to me. Let your friends help you! Reach out to others and it will help you get back on track faster and you can be making more forward progress! Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? My current role models are my academic peers. I always have more than one and learning how to learn is something I can learn to be better at through many examples. I tend to silo myself based on what I am doing at the time. Right now, in the school year, it is time to be an even better student than last year. When I go to my next internship I will shift and take on 2 or 3 new role models and be a better intern than the last year! What advice would you give to your 18 year old self? If you want to make your own path don’t let anything get in the way of you exploring as many different communities as possible. I wish I did even more networking and making new friends when I was 18. The networking I did later really helped me be who I am today. I can’t imagine if I had been this focused and open as an 18 year old how much different and better it could be. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Try something new every week See if you can master one of those things (especially small projects because you can learn a LOT versus a few things at time) Let everyone know the new things you have been learning about and trying. And don’t be afraid if that is a lot of different things.  How do you measure your success? I measure success by how well I am able to move in and out of different projects. I think mastery of MANY things is the most important skill I could have. I don’t seek to specialize in any one things because I am still young and I haven’t settled on one job over another. If I do get a job that is specialized, I want that to be the most intriguing, high minded specialty ever, like an astronaut!   Where can we find out more about your work? You can watch this video on the robotics team at HP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIeuWoB9wzg This was my very first internship and it shows the amazing team dynamic and learning I was afforded during this internship. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter:   @nikkymill Instagram:   @nikkymill LinkdIn:  camilleeddy  
Name:  Safiyyah Iqbal Role/Occupation: PhD Student at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand Country: South Africa Safiyyah Iqbal studied a Bachelor of Science at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she majored in Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, all of which sparked her interested in Palaeontology and Form and Function. She then completed her BSc honours and MSc in Palaeontology under the supervision of Prof. Kristian Carlson and Prof. Fernando Abdala. Iqbal is currently a PhD Student at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she is completing her doctoral studies in Palaeontology, under the supervision of Prof. Kristian Carlson, Prof. Fernando Abdala, Prof. Frank Kienhofer and Prof. Jonah Choiniere. Her research involves working on the Finite Element Analysis of Thrinaxodon liorhinus limb bones, which falls under the umbrella of cynodonts research. Iqbal considers herself to be a bit of a tech freak and loves working on computers. Her current research combines her love for computers and palaeontology and involves using microCT scans of the specimens that undergo certain loading conditions in order to infer why there is a change in gait. Her research advances the techniques used in Palaeontology and is non-invasive as fossils are precious. At present , Iqbal can be described as a Functional Morphologist specialising in digital analysis. When asked about her experience as a woman in the STEM space she says that “there are challenging days where you have to stand strong and know that you worked just as hard as the next person and deserve to be in the position that you are in.” She also emphasised having a strong support system and believes it to be “a bonus to any experience or trial that you need to overcome be it as a scientist or just as a female.” Her advice to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is to “never give up no matter how hard the journey may be or obstacles you face. Always remember where you started, where you are and where you need to be.” In her personal experience, she is always filled with courage when she recalls her parents’ tears of joy and the huge smiles when her name was called for the reception of her degree. Iqbal considers the milestones in her career to be the precious moments where everything makes sense and seems like a blessing or reward for all the hardships she has had to overcome. As a religious individual in a science environment, Iqbal believes that having “full faith in the Almighty, knowing and appreciating everything from a creation point of view makes managing [her] personal life and career easier”. At times, especially around deadlines, when the balance is threatened, having parents and friends who encourage and motivate her helps to maintain the balance. Read more about Safiyyah Iqbal, a hardworking humble Geeky Girl, who combines the old with the new, palaeontology with computers, as she works as a Functional Morphologist specialising in digital analysis.  Describe what your work entails. I am working on the Finite Element Analysis of Thrinaxodon liorhinus limb bones and more broadly cynodonts. I am a bit of a tech freak and love working on computers. My current research involves microCT scans of the specimens that undergo certain loading conditions in order to infer why there is a change in gait. My research advances the techniques used in Palaeontology and is non-invasive as fossils are precious. I am now a Functional Morphologist specialising in digital analysis. Describe your STEM journey. I started studying for my Bachelor of Science at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2009, where I majored in Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and thus became very interested in Palaeontology and Form and Function. I completed my BSc honours and MSc in Palaeontology under the supervision of Prof. Kristian Carlson and Prof. Fernando Abdala. Currently, I am completing my PhD in Palaeontology, under the supervision of Prof. Kristian Carlson, Prof. Fernando Abdala, Prof. Frank Kienhofer and Prof. Jonah Choiniere. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? That I could make a difference in science. I could be a motivation to other Muslim female scientists. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? There are challenging days where you have to stand strong and know that you worked just as hard as the next person and deserve to be in the position that you are in. But having a strong support system is always a bonus to any experience or trial that you need to overcome be it as a scientist or just as a female. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Never give up no matter how hard the journey may be or obstacles you face. Always remember where you started, where you are and where you need to be. Think of the end result. Personal experience: seeing the tears of joy in my parents eyes and the huge smiles on their faces as my name was called for my degree. 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 personally think any land is a land of opportunity, it lies within us. I do hope that the growth of women in STEM becomes exponential. As a female, we are capable of anything. We are mothers, sisters, daughters and well establish career individuals. And all this can be done as long as we see our potential and go for it. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? Milestones...moments where everything makes sense and the blessing/reward for all the hardships are given...Most definitely. How do you maintain a work-life balance? I am a practicing Muslim female in science who has full faith in The Almighty, knowing and appreciating everything as from a creation point of view makes managing my personal life and my career easier to manage. Sometimes the balance does go off, especially around deadlines but having my parents and friends who always encourage and motivate me always help to balance the stressful life. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? Both my parents have always been my role models that have greatly influenced me. Growing up with their teachings from our Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) and watching them go through everyday life inspired me to be like them. Proving that I should never give up and always strive to my full potential. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? My MSc is published on Wiredspace.wits.ac.za. I am currently completing two more publications. And feel free to contact me for any information at safiyyahiqbal@gmail.com Twitter: @Safz_Rapunzel Safiyyah Iqbal  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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