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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

Name: Bathabile Mpofu Role/Occupation: MD at Nkazimulo Applied Sciences Country: South Africa Bathabile Mpofu is the Managing Director at Nkazimulo Applied Sciences and the creator of the science kit, ChemStart. ChemStart was designed to help young people become scientists by giving them a chance to perform science experiments themselves, to better understand the practical component of their lessons, thus preparing them for science careers. As part of the package, the company also does science experiments at schools to get young people excited about science. As a young girl, Mpofu had aspired to become a doctor, however the secondary education offered to her could not adequately prepare her to meet this aspiration, “Imagine how it feels like to come to the knowledge that your future as you imagined it, is never going to happen and it’s not your fault? You are capable but are disempowered?... Thousands of learners go through this experience every year! That is not right,” she recalls. Ultimately, she studied a BSc majoring in Chemistry and Biology and then worked as a technician at the university. As a technician, she came across many students who experienced struggles similar to her known, this mobilised Mpofu to action and she founded her own company and developed ChemStart. “High school didn’t prepare me for tertiary education to learn to become a doctor, but now I have an opportunity to prepare and help others become the scientists they aspire to be through ChemStart... ChemStart makes science come to life and prepares learners for tertiary education,” she explains. Mpofu admits that running a business is difficult but she wouldn’t have it any other way, “because I am doing something I believe in, in something whose vision I crafted myself, I always work towards achieving it. I am not under compulsion but driven by passion.” She envisions that one day “a graduate of medicine [will say] that ChemStart contributed in their journey of becoming a doctor.” Her advise to young woman hoping to enter the STEM field is to utilise the power within, “the power to change one’s life for a better future lies within each person and if we dream about what we want, be willing to take action that leads towards making the dream a reality…we can achieve anything we want to achieve.” Mpofu feels that the current South African climate is conducive to the advancement of women in STEM, this country “has so many opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers… I have had some opportunities presented to me which I’ve taken hold of, I’ve been celebrated for being in STEM… It is a land of opportunity for everyone, but men still progress further than women. I think work needs to be done on mindset and not just the opportunities.” Read more about our Geeky Girl, Bathabile Mpofu, who makes science come to live more than a ChemStart kit in an inspiring interview below.  1. Describe what your work entails.   At the company I developed a science kit called ChemStart. This kit is designed to help young people become scientists by giving them a chance to perform science experiments themselves, preparing them for science careers, and to better understand the practical component of their lessons. We also do science experiments at schools to get young people excited about science.  2. Describe your STEM journey.   I wanted to grow up and become a doctor but high school education didn’t prepare me for this. Imagine how it feels like to come to the knowledge that your future as you imagined it, is never going to happen and it’s not your fault? You are capable but are disempowered? I know how it feels because is exactly what happened to me. Thousands of learners go through this experience every year! That is no right! I ended up studying BSc majoring in Chemistry and Biology and I was fortunate to get a job at the university as a technician and got to see many young people going to the struggle like I did. When life dishes you lemons, you make lemon juice, this eventuality defined my new purpose in life. High school didn’t prepare me for tertiary education to learn to become a doctor, but now I have an opportunity to prepare and help others become the scientists they aspire to be through ChemStart. I started a company so I could do this. ChemStart makes science come to life and prepares learners for tertiary education.  3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?   I love the fact that I can fulfil my purpose in life through my job. Running a business is not easy though but because I am doing something I believe in, in something whose vision I crafted myself, I always work towards achieving it. I am not under compulsion but driven by passion. What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? The opportunity that I contribute towards helping young people fulfil their dreams. I imagine a day when a graduate of medicine says that ChemStart contributed in their journey of becoming a doctor.  4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space?   I have had some opportunities presented to me which I’ve taken hold of, I’ve been celebrated for being in STEM and the environment in this country is conducive and encouraging to women to advance in STEM. Whether women are able to use these opportunities is a different question.  5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field?    The power to change one’s life for a better future lies within each person and if we dream about what we want, be willing to take action that leads towards making the dream a reality…we can achieve anything we want to achieve. Right now SA has so many opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers 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”?   It is a land of opportunity for everyone, but men still progress further than women. I think work needs to be done on women’s mindset and not just the opportunities.  7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career?   The moment I realised that my struggles and challenges I faced in my journey have helped me find my purpose in life. In Jan 25 th , 2015 I had that eureka moment where I said “I‘ve found my purpose in life”  8. How do you maintain a work-life balance?    Honestly this is hard, I have learned to ask for help as much as I can and then share the success with others. There is no-way I could do all this on my own.  9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you?    Oprah…she decided at a young age that she will be who she has become. After achieving all that she remains humble and is passionate about building other people.  10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found?   www.nkazisciences.co.za www.facebook.com/nkazisciences   Twitter Handle:  @BathabileMpofu Bathabile Mpofu 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
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Priya Shukla. I am a PhD student at UC Davis studying the impacts of climate change on the seafood we grow along the California coast. I also write about the oceans and climate change in a digital column on Forbes Science. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I took a long and windy path here. When I was applying to college, I was planning on pursuing a career in biotechnology and while nursing dreams of becoming a theatre actor! Halfway through my undergraduate career at UC Davis, I took a general geology class called "The Oceans", where I discovered that the oceans were imperiled by climate change. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I tacked an Oceanography minor onto my Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Management. But, I didn't jump straight from this class into my PhD! In fact, after college, I worked for an environmental consulting firm and taught high school for a year. I then went to San Diego State University, where I received my Master's after studying how climate change affected underwater kelp forests. I then worked for public education and marine policy organizations and managed a research group before returning to UC Davis to begin my PhD last fall. After my Master's I became deeply passionate about connecting the science I was doing with the people who either benefited from it (like communities that depend on fishing for income) or could do something with it (like our congressional representatives). And, one way I figured I could do that was by by writing, which is why I spend a small part of each month publishing articles about breaking science news! 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Wow - this is a hard question for me because so many things get me excited! But, I have to say that there are two things: [1] I absolutely love learning new things and a PhD is such a good way to do exactly that. You get spend several years at the cutting edge of science, discovering new things, and learning so many different skills along the way. [2] I love thinking about who my research could one day help. I study the effects of climate change on seafood in California, where seafood is considered a luxury item. However, California is on the frontlines of climate change and is oceanographically similar to parts of the world where seafood is an economic and nutritional necessity. Therefore, understanding impacts in California could be beneficial for communities elsewhere in the world that don't have access to the same financial or educational resources that we do here. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I love doing yoga - not only is it great exercise and source of stress relief, but I also use it help cure my writer's block! I remember I was on a tight deadline to submit a major grant back in 2014 and I was struggling to figure out how to bridge two concepts in one of my essays. I took a break from my marathon writing session to go to a yoga class and the inspiration came to me halfway through my class. And, I did end up receiving the grant. :) 5. Who is your role model? As a woman of color in the marine sciences, I don't see very many faces like my own. So, learning about Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson was a revelation for me. Not only did she help organize the March for Science a couple years ago, but she founded her own organization, the Ocean Collectiv, to bring together scientists, policymakers and community members to develop justice-oriented solutions for problems that coastal communities are facing. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I am so proud of the work I do, but I do wish I could remember to just enjoy the incredible life I get to live. I've gotten better at "stopping to smell the roses", but it's something I'm still working on. I downloaded the "1-second every day" app in November for this reason ... and am finally starting to use it 3 months later! 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? [1] When it gets challenging, you know you're doing things right. If it's easy, it doesn't stay fun for long. So, when the going gets tough, keep at it but don't be too hard on yourself. [2] Take time to figure out what you don't like. You often have to do a lot of tasks that don't appeal to you before you find the ones you do enjoy! [3] Think about how you can help people with your talents. If you're an engineer, for example, what could you build/develop that could help someone in need? Or, is there someone in your community who is also interested in engineering but doesn't have the same resources? 8. How do you measure your success? When I started my PhD, I made an academic & non-academic bucket list to make sure I would use that time to learn skills that I would one day be capable of doing the kind of work that Dr. Ayana Johnson does. So, I've taken to active steps towards checking off those boxes! 9. Where can we find out more about your work? Check out my website and my online blog! 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? You can follow me on Twitter: @priyology!
Edith Mugehu is a molecular plant breeder. Mugehu has always loved agriculture and opted to take agricultural science subjects at high school. However, Mugehu's journey has not been without hurdles, “I had to struggle to get my degrees due to economic handicaps but because of my desire to become a better version of myself I persevered until I acquired my education,” she recalls.  Mugehu thoroughly enjoys her job, “I get the chance to manipulate nature and apply scientific principles. Through my work I am given a chance to create plant life through scientific techniques which without would have been impossible.” Being a molecular plant breeder affords Mugehu an opportunity to enjoy nature both directly and through a microscope, “I count myself very fortunate to be able to be part of a hidden universe of microbial and molecular life which is unknown to most people.” Mugehu believes that if your work involves something that you love it will be easier to meet your goals and targets, “my work comes naturally to me and this allows me to be as innovative as I can so that I can fulfil expectations without infringing on my personal life,” she explains.   Mugehu co-leads a 30-person research service team which includes both project design and project facilitation. Her work involves the evaluation of genetic diversity among sugarcane accessions; the establishment and evaluation of a germplasm molecular profiling technique; the coordination of the molecular biology laboratory for the sugarcane industry and the supervision, scientific support and mentoring of undergraduate students as well as providing classical and molecular plant breeding support to the industry’s research and development portfolio.  Mugehu major career milestone involved her establishing the first ever molecular laboratory for the Zimbabwe Industry in 2016. This was something which had never been established before and contributed immensely to the Zimbabwe Sugarcane Breeding Program. Mugehu has faced her fair share challenges in the STEM field as a woman, “as a woman in a male dominated sector it is extremely difficult to convince a potential employer that you are just as capable as your male counterparts... yet I have managed to emerge as the more efficient and reliable person in each circumstance,” she explains. Her advice to young women entering the STEM field, “be brave and never lose yourself by trying to be a man. You and your authentic self are enough... You do not need to be masculine... your brilliant mind is adequate and never accept less than that.” Her overall opinion of STEM progress on the continent is positive, “Africa is the richest continent in terms of natural resources and more women rising and coming together to utilise these resources. Gradually the stereotypes and myths associated with women and careers will be deleted. The proportion of women in STEM will increase.” Read about our Geeky Girl, Edith Mugehu in an inspirational interview that’s sweeter than sugar cane.  1. Describe what your work entails. Co-leading a 30-person research services team including project design and facilitation Evaluation and establishment of a germplasm molecular profiling technique Evaluation of genetic diversity among sugarcane accessions the industry’s gene bank Coordination and establishment of first ever molecular biology laboratory for Zimbabwe sugarcane industry Supervision, scientific support and mentoring of undergraduate students and Providing classical and molecular plant breeding support to the industry’s research and development portfolio.  2. Describe your STEM journey. I did not stumble into this career path because I have always loved agriculture. I took agricultural science subjects by choice in high school and from those early days I knew I would stay in that field. However, it hasn’t been easy. I had to struggle to get my degrees due to economic handicaps but because of my desire to become a better version of myself I persevered until I acquired my education. 3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? I have always been in love with nature and science. Each day I get the chance to manipulate nature and apply scientific principles. Through my work I am given a chance to create plant life through scientific techniques which without would have been impossible. I get to experience the intense and rich diversity of nature both through the naked eye and through the microscope. I count myself very fortunate to be able to be part of a hidden universe of microbial and molecular life which is unknown to most people. 4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? The challenges never stopped coming and they are still coming because as a woman in a male dominated sector it is extremely difficult to convince a potential employer that you are just as capable as your male counterparts. In many instances my employer has put more faith in a male than in me, yet I have managed to emerge as the more efficient and reliable person in each circumstance. 5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Be brave and never lose yourself by trying to be a man. You and your authentic self are enough to make it in the STEM field. You do not need to be masculine to be in STEM, your brilliant mind is adequate and never accept less than that. 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”? The future of STEM is female. More women are venturing into STEM disciplines and in turn uplifting other women to improve female retention in these disciplines. Africa is the richest continent in terms of natural resources and more women rising and coming together to utilise these resources. Gradually the stereotypes and myths associated with women and careers will be deleted. The proportion of women in STEM will increase. 7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? I managed to establish the first ever molecular laboratory for the Zimbabwe Industry in 2016. This is something which had never been established before and contributed immensely to the Zimbabwe Sugarcane breeding program. 8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? When your career is centred around something you love it becomes easy to meet goals and targets such that you never have to struggle for time. My work comes naturally to me and this allows me to be as innovative as I can so that I can fulfil expectations without infringing on my personal life. I also make sure that my personal life does not spill over into my career by setting clearly timed and defined personal life goals. 9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? Myself. I always use myself as an inspiration. Every time I come across a challenge I look back at situation where I would have conquered and I get inspiration from that. I always push myself by reminding my present self that I can be a better version of my past self. 10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? https://www.techwomen.org/techwomen-mentees/edith-mugehu https://cs.lbl.gov/news-media/news/2018/cs-hosts-emerging-women-leaders/ https://owsd.net/member/mugehu-edith   Twitter Handle:   @EMugehu Edith Mugehu 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: Emily Gleeson Role/Occupation: PhD Student in Aerospace Engineering Country: Canada As far as Gleeson can remember she has always wanted to understand how things worked and enjoyed helping her parents build things. A visit to the planetarium as a young girl gave her a push in the STEM direction, “it unleashed my curiosity for space exploration and is the same time I decided I wanted to be an astronaut,” she recalls. At high school she gravitated towards the mathematics, science and computer courses and went on to complete an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University.  For two summers, Gleeson interned at an engineering construction company and worked on building hydroelectric power plants in the mountains of western Canada after which she accepted a position as project manager for a Mechanical Contractor. In the interest of expanding her growth opportunities, she later joined Procter and Gamble in logistics and business operations planning. After four years and much thinking, she decided to follow her dreams of space exploration by returning to graduate studies, after being out of the academic environment for over 6 years. She leapt into the Master of Applied Science program in Aerospace Engineering at Ryerson University and after achieving a high academic standing in her studies, she was encouraged by her supervisor and professors to join the doctoral program. Gleeson is currently part of the space systems research group and is working in a new area of study which involves developing advanced guidance, navigation and control systems for robotic spacecrafts for use in autonomous on-orbit assembly. The use of a robotic spacecraft to assemble a space station, possibly near the moon or Mars would allow for space habitats to be built on-orbit with no human intervention, making them more affordable and reducing risk of human life. “Every week is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, feeling brilliant and feeling like an imposter but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” she exclaims as she discusses her doctoral studies. Being able to contribute to the future of space exploration is what motivates Gleeson on a daily basis; “there are endless possibilities of what the future holds in astronautical sciences. It is such an exciting time to be in this field with the renewed interest in human space travel and the push to get to Mars,” she explains. Her experience as a woman in STEM has not been without hurdles; “there have been many times where it has been questioned whether or not I was qualified enough, especially when working above men who were more than twice my age,” she explains. But as a very strong willed individual, she made a point of proving herself and her abilities in any job by doing her very best. Prejudice also affected her sense of dress, “I struggled a lot with what to wear on the job site so as not to draw the wrong type of attention towards me. I would honestly dress like a man, loose jeans, golf shirt and steel toed boots,” she recalls. However her attempts at embracing a more masculine style were futile, “Not only did I still get attention for being a woman, I lost my confidence as well because I wasn’t being true to myself. I now realize you need to be true to who you are and stick to your values regardless of the environment,” she explains. Gleeson feels that encouraging more women to join the STEM space will normalise their presence and hence lessen the current biases and prejudices towards women in STEM. However in terms of career advancement, Gleeson has fortunately met with success, “I don’t think that being a woman ever held me back in that respect. I have always had managers who supported me and saw the potential I had to offer, regardless of gender.” Her advice to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is to just go for it, “you are smart enough and strong enough to do anything you put your mind to, it may not always be easy, and you will experience failure but learn from it and you will be so proud of yourself in the end.”  With regards to her opinion of the advancement of STEM in Africa as someone looking in from the outside, Gleeson believes that Africa can provide invaluable contributions to the growth of STEM fields globally through the “unique problems and perspectives used to solve them [challenges or difficulties] that differ from those [methods or solutions] in North America or Europe… Where there is a gap there is opportunity for growth and I think the entire world will benefit from growth and progress of STEM in Africa.”  Gleeson experienced one of her major career defining moments when she was still part of the corporate world, “my eureka moment actually happened when I was on vacation, I was reading The Martian by Andy Weir on the beach and realized I would rather be stranded on Mars than accept a promotion at my current job – turns out that is not how everyone feels... Haha!” she exclaims as she remembers having to make the tough decision of becoming a student again. She is a big promoter of work-life balance, “I believe you do your best and most efficient work when you are happy and fulfilled in all aspects of your life so you can’t neglect either side of the equation.” To achieve this balance, she also applies the 80/20 rule, “If you can manage a healthy work-life balance 80% of the time, the remaining 20% of your time can be flexible to complete a deadline for work or take an extra day off if you feel you need it.” Read more about this space enamoured Geeky Girl, Emily Gleeson in an inspiring interview which will take you on an adventure to various planets of knowledge as she shares her journey with us.  1. Describe what your work entails. I entered the 3 rd year of my PhD in Aerospace Engineering last fall. I am part of the space systems research group at Ryerson University and I am working towards developing advanced guidance, navigation and control systems for robotic spacecraft for use in autonomous on-orbit assembly. This is a new area of study and is necessary as we look towards building a space station near the moon or Mars. The use of robotic spacecraft to assemble such a station would allow for space habitats to be built on-orbit with no human intervention, making them more affordable and greatly reducing risk of human life.  Additionally, I am involved in the attitude determination and control system team for two small satellites, one of which will be launching from the International Space Station soon.  2. Describe your engineering journey. My engineering journey has been an interesting one. Since I was very young, I loved to understand how things worked and always wanted to help build things with my parents. When I was ten I visited a planetarium and it unleashed my curiosity for space exploration and is the same time I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. Throughout high school I gravitated towards the mathematics, science and computer courses which led me to apply to engineering in University. I didn’t entirely understand what engineering was at that point, but I was told if I liked math and science it would be a good fit.  I did my undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University. During my undergrad I learned how to manage failure for the first time in my life and how to use it to improve myself and move forward. I interned at an engineering construction company working on building hydroelectric power plants in the mountains of western Canada for two summers which led me to accepting a position as a project manager for a Mechanical Contractor after graduation. After a few years, I was interested in expanding my growth opportunities which is when I joined Procter and Gamble in logistics and business operations planning where I stayed for 4 years before deciding to take the leap and follow my dreams of space exploration by returning to graduate studies.  Initially, I started in the Master of Applied Science program in Aerospace Engineering at Ryerson in 2016, which was terrifying after being out of the academic environment for over 6 years. However, with a lot of hard work and determination, I achieved a high level of academic standing and was encouraged by my supervisor and my Advanced Controls professor to consider transferring into the doctoral program. My transfer was accepted starting in the fall of 2017 and I have been working towards my PhD ever since. Every week is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, feeling brilliant and feeling like an imposter but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!  3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? The thought of being able to contribute to the future of space exploration is what keeps me dreaming every night and what gets me out of bed every morning. I learn something new every day in this field and there are endless possibilities of what the future holds in astronautical sciences. It is such an exciting time to be in this field with the renewed interest in human space travel and the push to get to Mars. I love what I do and am so proud to be a part of it.  4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? I have grown a lot as a woman in STEM since I first stepped into the workforce in 2010. There have been many times where it has been questioned whether or not I was qualified enough, especially when working above men who were more than twice my age. I have always been a very strong willed individual and I make a point to prove myself and my abilities in any job by doing my best work. Prejudice as a female in this industry doesn’t only come in the form of proving your capabilities. When I first started working I struggled a lot with what to wear on the job site so as not to draw the wrong type of attention towards me. I would honestly dress like a man, loose jeans, golf shirt and steel toed boots. Did it work? No. Not only did I still get attention for being a woman, I lost my confidence as well because I wasn’t being true to myself. I now realize you need to be true to who you are and stick to your values regardless of the environment. This is another reason why we need more women in STEM, we need to normalize having women present in all workplaces to remove this bias.  In terms of career advancement, luckily, I don’t think that being a woman ever held me back in that respect. I have always had managers who supported me and saw the potential I had to offer, regardless of gender. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is always the case but if you can, find a company that values equal and equitable opportunities for everyone.  5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? If there is something in engineering or STEM fields that fuel your curiosity and passion, then GO FOR IT! You are smart enough and strong enough to do anything you put your mind to, it may not always be easy, and you will experience failure but learn from it and you will be so proud of yourself in the end. If there is a dream job you would love but think “how could I possibly get there?” just take it one step at a time, understand what qualifications you need and start there. You may find that along the way, your passion lies elsewhere or it will fuel your determination even more.  6. As a STEM woman, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? I am not a STEM woman in Africa, nor am I fully educated on the current STEM economy in Africa but I did not want to leave this question blank. Looking at it purely from a perspective of why it is so important to even have more women in STEM in that it will almost double the contributions and provide differing opinions and approaches to solving problems. There is so much potential in Africa to provide invaluable contributions to the advancement in many STEM fields with unique problems and perspectives used to solve them that differ from those in North America or Europe for example. Where there is a gap there is opportunity for growth and I think the entire world will benefit from growth and progress of STEM in Africa. Another reason why it is so important to have equitable access to opportunities and education for everyone.  7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? There have definitely been some defining moments throughout my career that has led me to where I am today. When you are in your early twenties and excited to finally be done school and in the workforce, making money it is very easy to get side-tracked from your passions and what a fulfilling career really means. It took me some time to really understand that money isn’t everything and that if you have a dream job and don’t do anything about it you will always feel like something is missing. My eureka moment actually happened when I was on vacation, I was reading The Martian by Andy Weir on the beach and realized I would rather be stranded on Mars than accept a promotion at my current job – turns out that is not how everyone feels... Haha! Leaving a great job with a multinational company to become a graduate student was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made but I am so proud of where I am today and am excited to see what the future has in store for me in this exciting field.  8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? I feel like I should be a spokesperson for work-life balance. It is probably the most important criteria for me when looking at jobs. I believe you do your best and most efficient work when you are happy and fulfilled in all aspects of your life so you can’t neglect either side of the equation. I make sure to make plans and commitments external to my work to keep me accountable for enjoying life outside of my studies. That being said, you can’t plan out your entire life so this is where the 80/20 rule is helpful. If you can manage a healthy work-life balance 80% of the time, the remaining 20% of your time can be flexible to complete a deadline for work or take an extra day off if you feel you need it. The important thing is to understand what makes you happy and stick to your values and principles. I am very clear at work that I value my life outside of my career. As long as you are doing your work to the best of your abilities, you can end your day feeling satisfied with your accomplishments.  9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? I can’t say that I have one role model in particular so I will give you a few examples of who and what inspire me. The first one will have to be Elon Musk. Yes he is very successful and smart and seems to have his hands in every new technology lately but what inspires me so much about Elon Musk is his unequivocal determination for pushing past the impossible. There is nothing that bothers me more than when someone say’s “that can’t be done, it’s not possible”. I like to think that there is always a solution, it just may not be an obvious one. Elon Musk has repeatedly proven this with his reusable rockets and the impressive performance of the Tesla vehicles.  The second one is women past, present and future, my list grows daily. There is so much strength and courage being displayed by women everywhere and I find it so inspiring. When I started my blog and started working on the Lady Boss section by asking former classmates for their stories I was overwhelmed by the reaction, respect and support everyone showed towards them. People are now reaching out to me to nominate their friends or colleagues who they think are great role models and it just goes to show that there are SO many amazing and talented women out there. Sometimes it’s hard to see other women in your field and not compare your accomplishments to theirs and rank yourself but I’ve been really trying to focus my attention on grouping all of the awesome women together. We really need to get out of the mindset of being the best woman in the room and help lift each other up to illustrate and normalize how many incredible women are all around us.  10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? I have a blog, Space Broaddity, ( www.spacebroaddity.com ) which is more of a creative outlet of mine. I intend to showcase more of my research in the future but currently I am using it as a tool to promote engineering and STEM careers and some awesome ladies who are leading by example.  Twitter:  @EmGleeson Emily Gleeson  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
 1. Say hi :) who are you what do you do?   My name is Tamsin Hodge and I’m a Product Owner working at the UK Hydrographic Office, which is part of UK digital government. I live in Somerset in the South West of England and am married, with a stepson, and have a chocolate Labrador dog.  My role is part of a team working with digital tools and technologies to create services to gather, process, store and serve up marine data from all over the world so it can used to help people manage, live and work within the marine environment.  The data we work with is geospatial, which means it’s three dimensional to capture the geographical location (north, south, east, west) and vertical depth and height of information about the world’s oceans, tides, marine life, coastlines and manmade structures such as offshore wind turbines and fish farms.   My day to day work is very varied, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much, and it involves working with digital and technical specialists, such as software engineers, automated testers, solution architects and data engineers, and collaborating with users to design and build the digital marine geospatial data services they need.  The key part of my role is to ensure our team delivers value by achieving the outcome our users are seeking and provides a return on investment for the UK Hydrographic Office.   As well as being a Product Owner I co-ordinate and lead a STEM Ambassadors group at work, which has created a community of enthusiastic volunteers with a range of STEM skills and enabled us to establish an outreach programme designed to bring STEM to life for young people in the South West of England.  We do this through running free code clubs, supporting science fairs, giving talks about the work we do and our STEM jobs at schools and conferences and participating in careers fairs.   Our group is part of the accredited STEM Ambassadors scheme and we gained national recognition in the STEM Inspiration Awards only a year after getting started, which is amazing!  2. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?   From a very young age I always loved science and the natural world, and enjoyed reading, writing stories and exploring new things.  I didn’t have a fixed idea on what I wanted to do for a career at school so I kept my options open and when I was 14 I chose science subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and Maths and humanity subjects (English, History and Geography) for my O level exams, and aged 16 opted for Biology, Chemistry and English Literature for my A Levels at college.  I hadn’t thought about going to university as no one in my family had ever gone before and I didn’t think I was good enough, but my college friends who were all applying encouraged me to, as did my parents, and aged 18 I chose to do a joint Chemistry and Biochemistry degree at Swansea University with a vague idea of going into some sort of scientific writing role.  The degree appealed to me as Biochemistry was a relatively new subject at the time and the course was solely focussed on studying plants, rather than animals, which meant there would be no experimenting on live animals, and there was lots of emerging thinking at the time about the plant ecosystem, environment and plantlife discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest.  I also liked the way Biochemistry focussed on the holistic approach of how things and systems work together.  After gaining my degree I wanted to professionalise my writing skills and managed to pass an entrance exam to earn a place from the National Council for the Training of Journalists to study for professional journalism qualifications at Highbury College in Portsmouth.  A year later, and with a couple of work placements under my belt at regional newspapers, I discovered that I really enjoyed being a journalist and I was good at it.  I loved the variety of the work, the range of people you got to meet and work with, the fast pace of the deadlines, seeing your work published and being able to use my scientific analytic mind to understand and explain complex issues in articles so that people could understand them.  I worked as a journalist, and then as a News Editor running a news desk of teams of reporters and photographers, on weekly and daily newspapers in the regional press in the South West of England for a little over 10 years.  At the same time I ran a series of successful fundraising campaigns in collaboration with charities and our local community for much needed outreach cancer care nurses to support the terminally ill and mobile Life Education classrooms for children aged 5 – 10 to learn about sex education, drugs and alcohol in a responsible way to help them prepare for adult life.  I moved on from journalism aged 38 into a marketing and product focussed role to gain more experience of running campaigns, managing customers and portfolios of products, organising conferences and creating digital services, and studied part-time to gain a post graduate degree in marketing with the Chartered Institute of Marketing.  From here I joined the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton, initially working in the Corporate Communications department before taking on various roles in developing and delivering digital products and services to market.  I’ve been at the UK Hydrographic Office for 11 years now and I’ve had the opportunity to grow my experience and evolve my career over that time, which is how I ended up in the Product Owner role I have today.  3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?    I’m motivated by the space in which I work, which is technically complex and involves working collaboratively together with a wide range of people to draw on our collective experience to solve those problems together.   I really enjoy seeing my data services being developed to deliver something useful and ideas being turned into reality.  There is always something new to learn and understand, whether that’s feedback from users, a new problem to work through, or insight into the underlying ecosystem of our data platform code, databases, APIs, and user portals.  The voluntary work I do as a STEM Ambassador also makes me jump out of bed in the morning especially if we have an event lined up that day, or are planning for one, as it’s incredibly rewarding.  Knowing our work is contributing to learning more about our marine world, supporting the environment and marine economy is a key driver for me.    4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?   The best way I find to de-stress is to be outside in the fresh air, surrounded by nature either in my garden or somewhere in the beautiful Somerset countryside.  This helps me to rebalance and have the space to reflect and work things through.  If there is a stressful situation at work I go to a quiet, calm space to gather my thoughts and take some deep breaths or I reach out to ask for help from people I know and trust.  I’m lucky to work with some awesome people, and I have built up a strong support network at work and in the wider digital community via online social channels such as Slack and Twitter.    5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?   I don’t have one role model, although there are plenty of people I admire and others who have helped to influence and shape me into the person I am today.  As there are very few women in tech roles like mine it’s difficult to find or get access to role models.  That’s why I’m so passionate about being a STEM Ambassador to proactively be a role model myself and encourage greater diversity in STEM careers to help redress the balance. 6. What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?    Take time to reflect and appreciate the things you’re good at to balance up the thirst for knowledge to learn new things, which can make you doubt yourself.  Learn to pace yourself and don’t try and do everything all at once. And finally, don’t let anyone tell you who you are or what you can and can’t do – only you know the answer to that.  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?   Keep your options open when making key decisions about subject choices at school and college. STEM subjects are the key to so many careers and jobs that you may not even have thought about so don’t dismiss doing science or computer studies because you think it might be boring. Take up opportunities to meet with people who are working in STEM careers so you can find out what it’s really like and you’ll be better able to find out what interests you and what options there might be for you. You don’t have to have your career all mapped out. It’s OK not to know.  You and your career will evolve overtime so try things out, do what you enjoy and don’t be afraid to try new things.   8. How do you measure your success?   I measure my success by thinking about what I’m looking to achieve, set myself a goal, check whether I’ve managed to achieve it or not and reflect on what I have learned and what I can improve on. This is a technique I use for my personal and professional development as well as my products and digital services and STEM Ambassador group.  It helps to write your goals down and keep a journal as this acts as a prompt to reflect on the past and prepare to look to the future.  9. Where can we find out more about your work?   You can find out about what it’s like to work in a STEM career at the UK Hydrographic Office here https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-hydrographic-office/about/recruitment and we blog about our work here: https://ukhodigital.blog.gov.uk/   10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?   I would love to connect with young STEM women – you can follow me on Twitter, add me in on LinkedIn or read my blogs on Medium: Twitter: @tamsin_hodge LinkedIn: Tamsin Hodge BSc MCIM CSPO Medium: Tamsin Hodge  
1. Say hi :) who are you what do you do? My name is Elisabeth, I am 39 years old and I work for Multiconsult, one of the leading engineering firms in Scandinavia. I have a MA in Technology, Science and Society. After I graduated, I first worked for a small entrepreneurial company focused on climate change policies but after a few years, I started to work with renewable energy in Multiconsult. It is a very inspiring field to work in. 2. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I am not one of those determined people you sometimes meet in business. However, I always knew I wanted to work somewhere where I can contribute to sustainable development in some way. My parents both worked for the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and we lived for a short time in Zimbabwe when I was younger.  I think that is where I found my passion for Africa. I am very fortunate to have found a company where I can combine these interests. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Contributing to development of clean energy and sustainable development through my work gives me a sense of purpose. I also love to learn and in an engineering company, there is always something new to learn. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I have many awesome colleagues who share my passion for sustainable development. If I am having a bad day, I can usually walk around the office and get inspiration from some of our projects around the world. I also recently started meditating with the Calm app and it has significantly reduced my stress levels. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? My grandmother. She loved to learn, and was a keen reader. She grew up in a time where women did not have many opportunities for higher education but she continued to educated herself through her reading. 6. What advice would you give to your 18 year old self? Do the international student exchange program – Living in another country will build your confidence, develop your cultural sensitivity and help you understand a wide range of life circumstances. Also, dismiss the notion that there are things you should and should not do because you are a woman. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? First and foremost, congratulations on being a STEM girl! My main tip is build your network. It is important to meet, talk and collaborate with people doing similar things and that share your passion. Knowing people can open many doors. Secondly, get involved in your company and learn as much as you can. You can sign up as union representative, be in the Christmas party committee or participate in other initiatives that will get you noticed. Thirdly, one tip that I am currently pursuing myself – find a mentor. 8. How do you measure your success? To me success is being a good person. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? Our company website is www.multiconsultgroup.com , and we post frequently on linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/company/multiconsult/ 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? I would love to connect with young STEM women – follow me on twitter or add me on linkedin  Twitter:  @lokshall LinkedIn: Elisabeth Lokshall
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