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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Tatiana Eaves and I am a Science Writer and Communicator. For me, this has translated into a lot of different roles. My day job is on the editorial team of Science Advances , one of the journals within the Science Magazine family, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I also write scientific articles for a few other publications. Today, that primarily includes Ricochet Science, a science education website published with McGraw Hill. Additionally, I work for the United States Geological Survey’s program, the Refugia Research Coalition (RRC), in scientific outreach and design.  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 always knew I wanted to be a scientist, I just never knew what type. Ecology particularly fascinated me, I loved learning about the connections that exist within the natural world. I knew that for the rest of my life I wanted to learn more about the organisms around me. But, when I lived the life of a field ecologist during an internship I had at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, I realized that my favorite part of the science was getting other people who were previously disinterested, interested in my work or my organisms (caterpillars in this case). Also, I loved too many organisms to narrow it down to one field of research, so I didn’t. I started working on the Refugia Research Coalition after I applied for what was more of a science communication internship with the Virtual Student Federal Service and got it (and was hired part-time after the internship ended). Simultaneously, I applied for a job working as the first and only science writer for an up-and-coming journal Modern Treatise. I’ve always had a creative background in art, photography and writing, so these were really easy roles for me to fit into. Everything else just snowballed from there.  3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I really love that I have the opportunity to experience so many things in one day. I read scientific research for a living. My goal when I was a young, pre-scientist was to learn something new every day and I have since accomplished that. Now, I get to stay up to date on the current hot research topics in fields like Ecology, Marine Biology, Biochemistry, Physics, Medicine, Robotics, etc. Then, when I come home I am able to work on my projects within the Refugia Research Coalition and write articles on important scientific matters in a way that makes sense to the average person. I’m living my dreams in and out of the office.  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 am a nature person. I absolutely love sitting outside and feeling surrounded by trees and reminding myself that nature stops for no one. The flowers and the trees don’t care if I meet this deadline or talk with this person. Everything moves slowly, at its own pace, and is so much bigger than our little human microcosm that we persist within. That relaxes me. I like to hike, wade in rivers, close my eyes, and exhale the stress of the city away. Ridding myself of all the small problems that we always believe are so large and encompassing.  5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I have many role models. I feel as if it is important to surround yourself with inspiring people, people that make you want to better yourself and that you not only look up to but that also support you and push you to be better. Especially for women in the scientific community. I am lucky enough to have met and have been supported by wonderful women. The first person that comes to mind is Toni Lyn Morelli, my supervisor at the Refugia Research Coalition. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is extremely intelligent, passionate, caring, and full of innovative ideas. Toni Lyn is such an influential ecologist and a wonderful friend to me. She has presented me with so many opportunities that have really aided me in figuring out where I wanted my path in science to lead.  6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I would have told myself to be careful who I choose to befriend in college. I was always a science girl but I wanted the fun college friends. They were only a distraction and always discouraged me from doing my work and pursuing my academic passions. They wanted me to go out all the time instead. This might sound terribly cliché for those of you in college now, but it really had an impact on how well I performed in school and how much I got out of it. I felt as if studying really hard was uncool, that I had to be faster or more discrete with my studies and hangout all the time to be accepted. I still performed well because I loved the subjects, but on the subjects I found most challenging, I didn’t put forth enough effort to learn them properly. Again, make friends that support your passions and want to see you succeed in life. I didn’t learn this until a bit after college how important a good community is for your career in science/mental health.  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Don’t let anyone tell you what you are or are not capable of in this life. ANYONE can be a scientist if they put forth the effort and love the subject area enough. You will experience prejudices and sexism, it will happen. How you deal with it is the most important. Challenge people with preconceived misconceptions and instead of attacking the attacker, ask them why they feel a certain way or have made a certain comment. It will make them explain their sexism and not many people can survive that. Network Network Network. I’m not going to say a career in science is all about who you know, but it doesn’t hurt! Go to all events (even if you’re introverted, a lot of scientists are). Just having someone who’s seen your face before is important. Go to conferences, meetings, and presentations; make yourself seen in your scientific field. If you want advice on how to get to conferences, because some are expensive going the traditional route, please don’t hesitate to contact me I would love to help.  8. How do you measure your success? If I help someone to learn or care about something in the life sciences or in environmental policy that they either didn’t know anything about previously or had little care in, I feel accomplished. If my writing makes a difference to someone or I help someone in their career further themselves I am happy. I have simple wants I think. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? I post links to all of my publications on my website EcologistSays.com and you can learn about the journal I work on the editorial staff for at advances.sciencemag.com. The Refugia Research Coalition is ClimateRefugia.com. 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?   My website can be found here: EcologistSays.com . I am also on twitter @EcologistSays and instagram @A.virosa
Name: Dr Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye Role/Occupation: Project Director, Vaal University of Technology, Dihlare Remedy Pty Ltd. Country: South Africa Dr Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye is the Project Director, Vaal University of Technology, Dihlare Remedy Pty Ltd. At Dihlare Remedy, they are a bridging knowledge and innovation gap that is related to the product development and commercialisation of Traditional Medicine. The main aim is to  make African Traditional Medicine easily accessible and recognised alongside mainstream healthcare. Qwebani-Ogunleye is one of the pioneers in South Africa who are involved in the development of quality control protocols for traditional medicines and the development of herbal formulations based on indigenous knowledge gained while working alongside the community. Qwebani-Ogunleye says that being part of something bigger than herself motivates her, “Traditional Medicine  is only beginning to be acceptable as an alternative health system in South Africa...Research, innovation and commercialization will increase the potential of African Traditional Medicine management and treatment of priority communicable and non-communicable diseases.” Qwebani-Ogunleye's journey started with her love for mathematics, “my adolescent afternoons were spent preparing for the Maths 24 School Challenge … My passion for maths, along with my family’s support, culminated in me representing my school at a national level at the Maths 24 School Challenge.” Her passion for science started after she read about penicillin and how it was discovered by chance, “I started to imagine myself in the lab and wearing safety glasses and in search of a cure for something,” she explains. She would later get an opportunity to represent South Africa at a youth science event in Vienna, Austria; where she would meet young scientists from all around the world and rub shoulders with Austrian and South African dignitaries. This she believes set her on her path to being a scientist. Her arrival at the University of Cape Town (UCT) was a bitter sweet experience. Sweet because she was able to see and learn new things; and bitter because of the realisation of the lack of science laboratory facilities she was exposed to at high school. Most of her colleagues were well acquainted with the tools in the laboratories, tools which until then she had only seen as a picture in a textbook,  “I had never seen a microscope before, let alone touched one or used one. I spent the whole of the first year trying to catch up with the rest of my classmates…” She completed both her undergraduate and Masters degrees at UCT, followed by a PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand through a studentship with CSIR. She then worked at CSIR for 6 years, TUT for 2 years and is currently based at VUT, during which she volunteered in many projects that involved the youth, “the youth is the hope of our nation and I would like to continue to add my positive contribution in youth empowerment,” she elaborates. Qwebani-Ogunleye has thus far enjoyed her experience as a woman in the STEM space, despite many viewing her position as a problematic juxtaposition, “I am an African woman in an African country where modern ideas fight with the traditional for space in an ever-changing society… I choose to see it as an opportunity. I have looked for opportunities within my challenges.” She feels that one of the most significant parts of her career is gaining the vast knowledge that the traditional health practitioners have with regards to indigenous plants. “It is remarkable and laudable. They might not know the scientific name/ English name of the herbs but when you speak in our vernacular with them you start to appreciate the wisdom that has been passed from generation to the next in our communities,” she elaborates. Qwebani-Ogunleye feels that perhaps gender discrimination is not out of intent but rather out of ignorance, “the challenge is that gender equality is seen as a nice to have than a human right. To drink fresh water, to breath in clean air, to go to school or to apply for a job without prejudice are all fundamental rights.” Her advice to young girls is to do pure mathematics at high school as she finds that there are a number of girls “interested in Science after matric only to find out that they enrolled for maths literacy while at high school. You do have great potential and can be what you aspire to be if you are willing to put the effort and ask for help when necessary it is possible.” She believes that Africa is a land of opportunity and that is progressing in STEM where research integrity, research morality and ethics are observed and practiced. She is grateful for the Biodiversity Act of 2004 and the type of informed consent allowed in country in terms of research, “it shows that we are ready to protect what is ours while also being globally relevant.”  The main challenge according to Qwebani-Ogunleye is that implementation occurs at a slow pace as if change is evitable; and that we still require innovative ways to bridge the gender gap in STEM. Read more about our Geeky Girl, Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye, who combines the old with the new, the traditional with the modern on a daily basis in an informative interview below.  1. Describe what your work entails. In the last decade, the higher education institutions have embarked on seeking ways to be relevant to communities and have a social positive impact. At Dihlare Remedy, we are a bridging knowledge and innovation that is related to product development and commercialisation of Traditional Medicine. The objective is to  have African Traditional Medicine easily accessible and recognised alongside mainstream healthcare.  2. Describe your STEM journey. I have always loved maths at school. My adolescent afternoons were spent preparing for the Maths 24 School Challenge . My parents bought the Maths 24 kit and each Sunday my parents, brother, sister and I would play. My passion for maths, along with my family’s support, culminated in me representing my school at a national level at the Maths 24 School Challenge. Mr Mthithala, my Maths teacher at Bizana village primary school was excellent in maths and added to my interest in it. My passion for science began after reading about penicillin and how it was discovered by chance. I started to imagine myself in the lab and wearing safety glasses and in search of a cure for something. Soon after, I won an opportunity at the age of 14 to represent South Africa at a youth science event in Vienna, Austria. I met young scientists from all over the world and rubbed shoulders with South African and Austrian dignitaries. This set me on my life’s path. Arriving at the University of Cape Town (UCT) as a first year student brought with it pleasure and pain. Pleasure because I was at university seeing and learning new things, and pain because the reality of lack of access to a  science laboratory while in high school. While most of my classmates were acquainted with all the tools and materials in the different laboratories, many of these had up until then been nothing more than a word or a picture in a textbook to me. I had never seen a microscope before, let alone touched one or used one. I spent the whole of the first year trying to catch up with the rest of my classmates, staying at university until after five every day when they locked up. After my undergrad I proceeded to Masters at the UCT and then PhD at the university of the Witwatersrand through a studentship with CSIR. I worked for CSIR for 6 years, TUT for 2 years and now based at VUT. I have volunteered in a number of projects that works with the youth while as a student and now as a professional. The youth is the hope of our nation and I would like to continue to add my positive contribution in youth empowerment.  3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? To be among the pioneers in South Africa that are looking at developing quality control protocols for traditional medicines and developing herbal formulations based on indigenous knowledge while working with the community excites me.  Traditional Medicine  is only beginning to be acceptable as an alternative health system in South Africa and is a niche identified through the National Research Development Strategy (NRDS), the Department of Science and Technology Innovation Plan (TYIP) and the Bioeconomy Strategy. Research, innovation and commercialization will increase the potential of African Traditional Medicine management and treatment of priority communicable and non-communicable diseases. To be part of something bigger than myself motivates me.  4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? My experience has been great, I am enjoying learning, unlearning and teaching while on this journey. I am an African woman in an African country where modern ideas fight with the traditional for space in an ever-changing society. Many see this juxtaposition as problematic; I choose to see it as an opportunity. I have looked for opportunities within my challenges. The stereotypes, social norms and pull her down syndrome are a reality when it comes to gender equality. Sometimes I have observed that these are not out of intent but rather ignorance. The challenge is that gender equality is seen as a nice to have than a human right. To drink fresh water, to breath in clean air, to go to school or to apply for a job without prejudice are all fundamental rights. I had an opportunity to talk more about this and suggest solutions as a guest writer for We Can Leadership Institute and in my blogs  below are the links. http://www.we-can-leadershipinstitute.com/2014/10/ http://www.drtqo.com/Blog2.html   5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? Do not enrol for maths literacy at high school, do pure maths. I find a number of young girls interested in Science after matric only to find out that they enrolled for maths literacy while at high school. You do have great potential and can be what you aspire to be if you are willing to put the effort and ask for help when necessary it is possible.  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”? Africa is the land of opportunity and growing in STEM. The research integrity, research morality and ethics are observed and practiced. I am so happy of the Biodiversity act of 2004 and the type of informed consent allowed in South Africa as far as research is concerned, it shows that we are ready to protect what is ours while also being globally relevant.  Our challenge is that we implement at a slow pace as if change is evitable. We however still need more innovative ways that will close the gender gap in STEM.  7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? The vast knowledge that our traditional health practitioners have as far as our indigenous plants are concerned. It is remarkable and laudable. They might not know the scientific name/ English name of the herbs but when you speak in our vernacular with them you start to appreciate the wisdom that has been passed from generation to the next in our communities.  8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? By having a relationship with God, connected to myself, going to the gym and having a strong support structure.  9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you?   I do not have just one role model but a number of people that inspire me in different spheres. People who are committed to growth, progress, life-long students and pioneers of African literature. The likes of my parents: Prof PLO Lumumba, Prof Kgethi Phakeng, Eckart Tolle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chimmanda Adichie Ngozi, Prof Chinau Achebe etc. My family and extended family members have been very supportive in this journey, they have been my cheerleaders.  10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? Website: http://www.drtqo.com Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmYWY-F38Tg   Twitter Handle: @olathozie Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye 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?  I’m Emma, I currently work at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) where I help fund new innovations in biology, support scientists to find partners in industry and commercialise their research. Some exciting projects we have funded include Super Broccoli, which could help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease and the Gribble, which is a small crustacean which can turn waste wood into renewable biofuel and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  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 didn’t always know I wanted to be a scientist. I trained as a tailor after leaving school at 16, but unfortunately couldn’t find a job, so I returned to school to take my A-levels in the hope s of eventually becoming a manager in a shop. I initially studied biology, where something just clicked and I fell in love with genetics. I went on to study genetics at university and then worked in a range of STEM roles; everything from clinical trials to develop new treatments for the flu, to helping develop algorithms which look at a patient’s cancer genome to identify the most effective treatments. One of my favourite roles was at a start-up non-profit DNA repository, which acts as a central place for scientists to share genetic materials with other researchers around the world. My role involved managing the logistics of shipping biological materials in Europe, assisting in problem-solving researcher’s experiments, and traveling to visit scientists and collect samples around the world. It was wonderful to be part of a small organisation where I could learn lots of new skills and felt I was making an impact. In contrast to this, I have also worked in large organisations, where I was one of a group of scientists responsible for processing samples and carrying out biological tests. The work is very structured and scheduled, working from a standard protocol in cutting edge labs to process a large volume of samples, so there is a wide range of roles in STEM to suit different people. I have been lucky enough to work in Australia, America and around the UK, as STEM gives you skills which are in high-demand globally.  3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?   Personally, my motivation and fulfilment comes from helping others. I feel great satisfaction from being able to help someone with a problem; I enjoy speaking to other scientists, recommending available funding and support, learning about their research and promoting their scientific discoveries. I also feel job satisfaction when I’m able to make improvements in a process and have a lasting impact, as it is important to me to feel I’m making a difference and that my work matters.  4. What do you do outside of work? Hobbies or interests?   I have a variety of hobbies and activities I do outside of work, as maintaining a good work-life balance is important. I enjoy pottery and still do some tailoring. I’m a collector of random skills and hobbies at the moment, most recently having learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube. I love volunteering for science festivals and running science workshops for kids. I also enjoy speaking on panels representing women in STEM, and promoting scientific careers to young women through visits to local schools and mentoring students.  5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I didn’t have any STEM role models or mentors growing up, as none of my family went to university and I didn’t know any scientists, so determining a career path was more difficult. I tried out a lot of different STEM roles to find a good fit. I really wish I had a mentor who could have helped me explore career options and the opportunities available, as this could have made this process easier. I think that’s why I’m always happy to mentor young people who want guidance about careers in STEM, because it’s so valuable to have access to guidance and support from someone who has relevant experience and works in the career you are interested in.  6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?   I wasn’t very academic at school, so I never imagined becoming a scientist. I honestly believed that you needed to be a genius to study at university, because I never knew anyone with a degree. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that you just need to find a topic you are interested in and work hard at it and you will find success. Grades are important but they are not everything, especially when you start working, as skills and work experience are just as valuable. I also wish I had learned more outside of school or from other sources like online or books, because at school my enjoyment of a subject was heavily influenced by the teacher and their teaching style, and at the time I didn’t realise there was other ways to learn. I now read lots of non-fiction books about a wide range of topics in science, I just wish I had discovered them sooner!  7. Top tips for girls starting out in STEM?   I would recommend anyone starting out in STEM to just ignore the haters and negative people and just do what you love. Don’t be scared to change courses or jobs if it’s not a good fit, it’s not a failure as you always learn something from every role you try. People don’t tell you that you will get dozens of rejections before you receive an acceptance, and it can really knock your confidence, so stay positive. Don’t be put off applying for jobs if you’re not 100% qualified, and don’t be scared to ask for a promotion and recognition for your achievements.  8. How do you measure your success?   I think success means different things to different people. Success for me is when I’m able to use my problem-solving skills to overcome a challenge, stretch my abilities, learn something new and push myself to achieve something. Hopefully, my work will help other people or make a lasting difference.   9. Where can we find out more about what you do?   You can find out more about BBSRC and UK Research and Innovation here: https://www.ukri.org/ I’m very active on Twitter and discuss a wide range of topics in different fields of science, I also post about forgotten women in STEM. I’m very happy to answer questions or provide support to anyone considering a career in STEM, so feel free to contact or follow me on Twitter @GeneticCuckoo .
Name :  Hlulani Baloyi Role/Occupation : Digital Analyst Country : South Africa  Hlulani Baloyi works as a digital analyst in a consulting firm, fulfilling the role of a full stack developer mostly working on client’s projects. Thus far, she has worked in banking, insurance and the telecom space, in an effort to bring about digital transformation for clients.  There are several factors that excite her about her field, but the three key factors that she feels are most important are inspiration, the love of what I do , and the urge to leave a legacy behind . “The tech space is filled with experts that are dedicated to impact the world to be a better space through digital abilities and being in this space and the realization that you are part of something bigger continuously revives the love of what I do every single day,” she explains.  Baloyi's journey started when she graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a Diploma in Information and Communication Technology, majoring in Technical applications. She then joined Geekulcha and became aware of the gender disparity between males and females in the ICT sector. After some research, she came across Girl Rising, a global initiative that helps teach women how to code and tackles the gender gap. Baloyi would later become the South African ambassador for Girl Rising. But she did not stop there, under the same umbrella she co-founded a women in tech organization called Raeketsetsa ( we are doing it ourselves ). Raeketsetsa focuses on sustaining young women who are already part of the tech-space. Baloyi also later became an Intel ambassador for their #SheWillConnect initiative; an initiative designed to help women all over become computer literate.  Some of Baloyi’s other career highlights have included being awarded a Google Africa Challenge Scholarship, being headhunted to work for IBM, bring awarded a certificate after attending a Girl Code hackathon for women empowerment at BoxFussion as well as being featured in a number of prestige publications and IQ Videos with Intel.  When addressing her experience as a woman in STEM, she considers herself to have been fairly fortunate “to work in spaces that embrace diversity, however, due to the fact that the space still lacks  a lot of women, it continues to be a space filled with intimidation.” She emphasizes the need for relatable role models in the tech space for women and recalls that “this has been one hardest things to find as a young woman in tech.”  Some of the key lessons that she would like to share with young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is to nurture relationships and networks; to ask for help when you required, as there are people who are ready to help; to pay it forward and to be weary of Imposter Syndrome. It “will constantly knock with hope to remind [women] that they are incapable, I urge them to by all means to confront this syndrome by constantly reminding themselves that they are enough, and more than anything, they are more deserving.” She also iterates that the STEM field is about solving real everyday problems and this will mean that women will constantly face challenges due to the nature of this field, “may they tackle challenges with pride knowing that they are part of a bigger picture,” she elaborates. In a recent African continental tour that involved five African countries and with the aim of understanding how other parts of the world approach their daily life, Baloyi visited co-working spaces that incubated tech entrepreneurs. She describes this experience as been mind-blowing, “beyond me sharing my experiences this became a learning journey where I was afforded an opportunity to learn from others. I, in the process also got to observe the landscape of Women in Tech space in all the spaces I visited, while there’s still a long way to go, there is hope.” She feels that there is a need to encourage a united front as Africans as this will provide an opportunity to learn from each other, “as a continent we are still in a growing phase and this means that women have a greater part to play in making sure we have the Africa we are dreaming of and love.”   Read more about our Geeky Girl, Hlulani Baloyi, a digital analyst who will force you to analyze your position and make a difference, through her hard work, determination and visionary spirit, in an interview below.  1. Describe what your work entails.   I currently work as a Digital Analyst for a consulting firm, my role is that of a full stack developer spending most of my time client-based working on client’s projects. I have since worked in banking, insurance and the telecom space, along with other developers bringing about digital transformation for clients 2. Describe your STEM journey.   I graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2014 with a Diploma in Information and Communication Technology (majoring on Technical applications), I joined Geekulcha and soon realized that there is a gap between males and females in the ICT sector. I then started doing research and came across Girl Rising. I am now the ambassador for this global initiative and helps teach women how to code and helps tackle the gender gap.  Under the same umbrella I then co-founded an women in tech organization called Raeketsetsa ( we are doing it ourselves ) which focuses on sustaining young women who are already in the tech-space. In 2014 I became an Intel ambassador for their #SheWillConnect initiative which is designed to help women all over becoming computer literate.   3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?   Several factors excite me in my field and the three key factors that I’d point out are inspiration, the love of what I do , and the urge to leave a legacy behind .  The tech space is filled with experts that are dedicated to impact the world to be a better space through digital abilities and being in this space and the realization that you are part of something bigger continuously revives the love of what I do every single day and I am encouraged to even continue making sure that the generation that comes after me doesn’t get to struggle in the space because we would have paved a way for them. I am encouraged every single day to pay it forward.   4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space?   I have personally been fortunate enough to work in spaces that embrace diversity, however, due to the fact that the space still lacks  a lot of women, it continues to be a space filled with intimidation.  I’m a strong believer that everyone needs a role models that are relatable to them in the spaces they find themselves in, this has been one hardest thing to find as a young women in tech.   5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field?   Some of the key lessons I have learnt and would use as advice is: pay it forward Nature relationships and networks Ask for help when you need help, because there are people who are ready to extend their hand to help And that I am enough, and I need to love me more since this is important for my contribution to a better surrounding Imposter syndrome will constantly knock with hope to remind them that they are incapable, I urge them to by all means to confront this syndrome by constantly reminding themselves that they are enough, and more than anything, they are more deserving. Lastly, STEM fields are about solving real day to day problems, this on its own means that you will constantly face challenges, may they tackle challenges with pride knowing that they are part of a bigger picture.   6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”?   I have recently done an African continental tour that consisted of five African countries and the aim for this was for me to understand how other parts of the world approach their day to day life, in the process I also got to visit the co-working spaces that incubates tech entrepreneurs and the experience was mind-blowing because beyond me sharing my experiences this became a learning journey where I was afforded an opportunity to learn from others. I, in the process also got to observe the landscape of Women in Tech space in all the spaces I visited, while there’s still a long way to go, there is hope. Through this experience I have learned and realized the need for us encourage a united front as Africans which I would encourage every young African to consider, because this on it’s own will provide an opportunity to learn from each other which is really important. As a continent we are still in a growing phase and this means that women have a greater part to play in making sure we have the Africa we are dreaming of and love.   7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career?   Some of the highlight for me has been Awarded a Google Africa Challenge Scholarship Being headhunted to work for IBM Awarded a certificate after being appointed as a Girl Rising Ambassador for South Africa. Awarded a certificate after attending a Girl Code hackathon for women empowerment at BoxFussion. Featured in a number of articles which includes: women:   http://www.htxt.co.za/2014/05/21/young-developer-chosen-as-girl-rising-sa-ambassador/ . TechGirl: http://techgirl.co.za/2014/07/15/meet-official-south-african-ambassador-girl-rising/#prettyPhoto . Sunday Times: http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2014/07/20/sign-post-a-generation-of-it-girls-on-the-rise Intel IQ site: http://iq.intel.co.za/daring-to-dream-bigger/?linkId=9418012 . IQ Videos with intel : https://www.youtube.com/user/IntelSouthernAfrica .   8. How do you maintain a work-life balance?   I have overtime concluded that work life balance as defined in the books is a myth, I therefore have decided to make sure that I remain sane while doing what I do by traveling whenever I get a chance.   9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you?   I have quite a number of people I look up to as my role models, they directly and indirectly have played a huge role in who I am, and these are my role models: Mixo Ngoveni, Anne Shongwe, Thuli Sibeko, Nomso Kana, Ethel Cofie & Chimamanda Ngozi   10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found?   Please visit my website: www.hlulani.africa  Twitter Handle: @hlullyr INTRODUCTION: Hlulani Baloyi 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 Alexandra Good, I’m 21 years old and I live in Liverpool, UK. I’m a Product Design Engineer at a company called DefProc Engineering. My job mostly involves working on electronics-based product development and prototyping for businesses and individuals throughout the UK. In my free time, I love getting involved in charity work and experimenting with technology to work on my own projects. 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’ve always been passionate about charity work and humanitarian projects, but I didn’t think that I could make a career out of it, until I started working on my own projects in sixth form. Being able to combine my interests in technology and helping others really excited me, so I decided to study Product Design Engineering at university and did a 9 month placement as a Biomedical Engineer at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. I graduated with a 2:1 in 2018, and I worked as a freelance Product Designer and STEM tutor for Liverpool Girl Geeks for a few months. I now work as an Engineer at DefProc, where I get to work on projects that make a difference to the world around me - which suits me perfectly! Throughout my career, I’ve worked on a wide range of projects - including children’s prosthetics, VR-based assistance tools for sight impaired people, 3D printed explosive replicas to aid in mine risk education in Syria and Mali, British Sign Language to English translation equipment and devices to help elderly and isolated people make new friends in their community.  3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?   What gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that every day at my job is an opportunity to learn something brand new, which is really exciting to me. No two days are the same and there’s always a new challenge, so I never find myself feeling bored.  4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?   When I’m feeling stressed, it helps to know that I work in a very supportive environment. If I’m feeling overwhelmed I know I can always talk to the people I work with, and they’re always able to offer me advice and help me solve more difficult problems. I try my best to keep a positive attitude and make sure I don’t give myself a hard time if I find something more challenging than I expected. Outside of work, I like to relax by going for walks, spending time with friends and playing guitar. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? Some STEM-related role models that stand out to me are Alan Turing, Mae Jemison and Rose Will Monroe - also known as the real Rosie the Riveter (I even have a Rosie poster in my room!). Outside of STEM, my role models are Malala Yousafzai and Marsha P. Johnson, as well as the wonderful people around me, like my co-workers, my friends and my family. Even though they aren’t all in STEM careers, I am inspired by how hard they work to pursue their different passions.  6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?   If I could go back in time, I’d encourage myself to do more of what I enjoy. I was so preoccupied with choosing a university degree that would secure me a high-paying job that I didn’t realise that the answer was right in front of me until I started sixth form. I think if I focussed on pursuing what made me happy more than what would get me money, I could have saved myself a lot of stress!  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?   Look for companies and brands that have morals that match your own, even if they’re not ones that are big or well-known. Not only can this help you understand what type of career suits you best, working on projects that you’re passionate about will make your job much more fun! Find opportunities to network when possible, it might be intimidating to start with but there’s a chance you’ll discover an exciting new company or job role that you’ve never heard of. Try and get work experience (whether it’s volunteering, an internship or a part time job) that’s related to what you’re interested in. It’s a good way to work out if that career is right for you, and it helps you stand out from the crowd when looking for a job.  8. How do you measure your success?   When I want to measure my success, I look back on where I was at that point the year before. I’ve done this since I was about 15 and it always helps because a lot can happen in a year!  9. Where can we find out more about your work?   To find out more about DefProc Engineering, you can find us at our website: https://www.defproc.co.uk/ or you can follow us on Twitter: @DefProcEng  10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?   To find out more about me, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn My Instagram : alexandragood.design My Twitter: Alexandra Good My LinkedIn: Alexandra Good (BSc Hons)  
1. Say hi :) who are you what do you do?   Hello! My name is Sophie, I am a researcher and science writer with experience in healthy aging, patient engagement, and scientific research. My articles regarding the intersection of technology and healthcare, including how innovations transform the management of chronic disease for diverse populations, have been published extensively, most notably appearing in PBS Next Avenue, Forbes, MarketWatch, Brandchannel, Pfizer Get Old and other media outlets. I have a bachelor’s degree in bioinformatics, a master’s degree in public and community health and a graduate certificate in gerontology.  2. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?   As a young girl, I was an avid reader. I had a budding interest in science and became inspired by my mother’s love of science and healthcare. She started and operated a community pharmacy for several years, where I became exposed to different views of health including patient engagement, health promotion, and preventive medicine. After I graduated with my master’s degree, I launched Global Health Aging, a web-based publication featuring news, research and policy implications on healthy longevity. The website is listed as a resource for research on aging and age-related diseases by the Dahlgren Memorial Library at Georgetown University Medical Center. Global Health Aging has also been nominated twice by Wego Health for the 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2017 Patient Leader Hero Awards. I am very fortunate to have a diverse background because of the different paths I’ve followed and opportunities that have presented themselves to me since graduation.   3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?   Contributing to valuable research that impacts science and public health gives me a sense of purpose. I am passionate about improving healthcare through research, innovation, and collaboration, my latest report explores the social and financial costs of millennial dementia caregivers. Also writing for various media outlets such as Salon, Brandchannel and PBS Next Avenue have been a dream come true.  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 am a proud bibliophile! I de-stress by reading, my favorite genres are fantasy, science fiction, and even cookbooks. I also curate my book account on Twitter, where I share my love of books and movies. In times of doubt, I try to remember my past successes and read inspirational quotes, I especially love this quote “You are worth so much more than your productivity.” My family and close friends also offer the best motivational talks. Self-care is essential, my goal is to make it a priority and never take it for granted.  5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?   My future self. I’m inspired to do better each day physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I must also mention my mother. Her example and mentorship had a huge influence on the formation of my career goals. She encouraged my fascination with science, I still have fond memories of her explaining chemical reactions and equations at the dinner table. Thanks to my mother, chemistry was and still is one of my favorite subjects.  6. What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? Work smart as well as hard because it will pay off in the future. Realize that your challenges and struggles are temporary although it may not feel so. Always remember to confide in family members and close friends, they are your biggest allies. And finally, there are many paths to your dream, so believe in yourself and embrace your unique gifts. Remain committed and practice patience to achieve your goals, ignore the negative.  7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?   First and foremost, it’s awesome that you’ve chosen the STEM field! Find allies within and outside your field. For the longest time, my closest allies were colleagues in other fields like social work, international business and nursing. They were my cheerleaders in difficult and challenging times. Find a mentor. Mentors can help you develop your career. I’ve had mentors at different times in my career, it makes a big difference. A mentor can also encourage you to join professional organizations that are relevant to your field. Volunteer your time, energy or skills. This can help with building your network and connecting with people who share your passion and purpose. A couple of initiatives include The STEM Squad and Her STEM Story. Personal branding (marketing yourself and your career as a brand) is also important as you build your STEM career. 8. How do you measure your success?   I’ve realized that success is relative. The most important lesson is to learn to give yourself grace and celebrate your achievements, whether few or many. Everyone is on a journey and it's uniquely their own. Here are some of my favorite inspirational quotes that show what success to me is.  “Have courage and be kind.” “Be the change you want to see in the world.” “Different paths in life are not always the wrong path.” “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”  9. Where can we find out more about your work?   https://soinspiredhealth.com/   https://globalhealthaging.org/   10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?   Yes! I would love to connect with young STEM women. I’m active on Twitter @sophieokolo
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