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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

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
1. Say hi :) who are you what do you do? Hi, my name is Dr. Tracy Fanara, and I work to extend humanity’s time on earth.  I run a research program at Mote Marine Laboratories where we perform experiments, develop technology, and design strategies to protect public health and water quality. My expertise is in sustainable design, so working to restore the earth's natural water cycle through innovative engineering.  Right now, my focus is on Florida red tide, a native, harmful algae species that has a toxin causing harm to aquatic live, but also to humans due to its ability to aerosolize (attach on to sea salt particles); with winds, these toxins move onshore causing respiratory irritation in healthy individuals, but for those with asthma or other respiratory diseases, this can be very serious.  I work to develop technology to protect public health during these events. 2. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? When I was nine, I learned about a place near where I grew up which had been dumping grounds for industry hazardous waste.  I was told how the toxins leached into the soils and groundwater migrating from the site. People unknowingly built houses and schools on the contaminated land, and people got sick.  From this I saw how everything is connected and how our impacts to the environment, impact our health. Then I learned that unsafe drinking water was the leading cause of child death worldwide.  So when I heard about a career where I could find ways to clean water, make sure everyone has enough food, protect people from natural disasters, and also design and build things, I wanted in! I wanted to be a superhero, so I became an Environmental Engineer. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Luckily, I’m in Florida, so we don’t have many cold mornings, but even if we did, I love being at my lab!  I work with other scientists that want to make the world a better place by protecting wildlife, humans, and our natural resources.  I learn something new every day, and teach someone something every day. 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 found that the best medicine for my stress is exercise.  Normally, I try to do something active every day, but there are many days recently with the state of emergency that Florida was in due to the red tide bloom, that I could not find time.  I learned quickly how important it is to make time- for exercise, and for friends and family. I doubt myself often, and it’s a good thing because it tells me that I’m constantly pushing myself to go outside of my comfort zone and to grow. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I have so many role models.  Each of my friends inspires me to be better in a different way, whether it’s being kind, generous, brave, confident, loyal, hard working, funny, etc.  My parents were role models to me growing up- hardworking, creative, ambitious, and caring. There are many public figures too- ones that have broken stereotypes, stand up for what they believe even when it’s not popular, those that have a voice for those without one, and especially those that overcome obstacles and never give up. There are role models all around us, if we look for the good in the world/  They are the bright lights which lead us on our path. 6. What advice would you give to your 18 year old self? Stop taking life so seriously.  Study, but don’t over study- balance is the key to a clear mind on test day.  You are never too old for your dreams… or for water balloon wars (for example). You don’t have to plan out the rest of your life; let life be a journey, and if you always work hard and treat those around you with compassion, those unexpected turns will lead to a place much better than your plan. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Don’t give up...if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Keep up with math throughout grade school and take Calculus before college Accept challenges, accept your failures, accept help when needed 8. How do you measure your success? I measure my success by what I am working to accomplish - what are the broader impacts, and will they make an impact on people’s lives or the environment? 9. Where can we find out more about your work? You can visit my website ( www.inspectorplanet.com ), Mote Marine Laboratory Environmental Health website, or check out my social media where I keep updated information about projects! 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter:  @inspectorplanet Instagram:  @inspectorplanet Facebook: Dr. Tracy Fanara LinkedIn: Tracy Fanara, PhD
The eKasi Tech Fest and Gaming Expo, simply referred to as the ‘eKasi Tech Fest 2018’ was held from the 18 – 20 October 2018 at Soweto’s Dlamini Multi Purpose Hall. The festival combined both gaming and technology into one event, managing to cater to the needs of gamers and technology enthusiasts.   A major objective of the event was to bridge the digital divide and enable township communities to participate in the 4th Industrial Revolution in order to ensure all round sustainable development at present and in the future. It stands as the first and only township gaming festival aimed at addressing innovation and economic potential in a township setting. The eKasi Tech Fest is an initiative by the Innovation Village (i- Village) Foundation NPC, based in Soweto; born out of a need to create a platform that would bring together diverse thinkers with a multitude of skills and talents and enable these thinkers to connect and network with one another. The festival brought together a range of people such as esteemed industry leaders, policy makers, innovators from underrepresented communities, township entrepreneurs, incubators,  students and young people interested in entrepreneurship, gaming and eSports brands as well as avid gamers. Over the three day event, numerous relevant platforms were hosted including informative panel discussions, exhibitions and the Gauteng Gaming Community Cup. The exhibitions allowed attendees to explore the latest developments in technology, whilst exhibitors, mainly start-ups were given a platform to engage with influential people and the community with the aim of commercialising their products and services. A wide range of educational and entertainment video games were also shown on relatively new platforms such as Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR); platforms such as these were probably not accessible to many before this. The informative panel discussions focused on issues of transformation of township economy through technology. Some of the discussion topics include developing a vibrant township economy, cyber bullying, understanding eSports, game design and development, pitching your game, shaping the future of education and most importantly, women in technology. A panel discussion, The Future of Women in Tech: Beyond Tech, was held to discuss the challenges that woman face, such as career opportunities, funding, resources and market access, in the context of the emerging technology industries in South Africa. This discussion was headed by Erika Denis, the regional head of media, music and film at the French Embassy. Programs such as Digital Lab Africa, offer women from any socioeconomic space a chance to make a place in the technology world. These programs enable township or rural women to develop their skills and to reach the same level as the other future leaders of this expanding technological industry. The event also focused on gaming as an industry, through the Gauteng Gaming Community Cup Tournament and there were many prizes to be won in gaming competitions. The Soweto Esports Community Cup Final in Pro Gaming FIFA & Tekken 7 was hosted for the first time. There was a Counter Strike (CS:GO) competitive match as well. In summary, the eKasi Tech Fest was a huge success as a celebration of innovators and job creators, specifically in terms of start-ups and in bringing a diverse group of people together, all while playing games and learning at the same time. *Images courtesy of the  eKasi Tech Fest and Gaming Expo social media pages. Written by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter @dhrutidd
Name : Dr. Thandeka Ngcobo Role/Occupation : Medical doctor Country : South Africa Age: 25 years old  Dr. Thandeka Ngcobo is a medical doctor currently employed by the Department of Health, completing the final year of her medical internship at Mafikeng Provincial Hospital in the North West province. Ngcobo matriculated from Umlazi Comprehensive Technical High School and was subsequently accepted at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine where she graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB).  During her two year internship, Ngcobo has been rotated to all the major departments within the hospital and thus has worked not only in general medical wards, but also in the paediatrics and neonatal wards, psychiatric wards, surgical wards, trauma and emergency area and presently at the obstetrics and gynaecology ward. Her tasks entail managing acute and chronic diseases in both outpatients and inpatients as well as assisting and performing various surgical procedures. After years of training, Ngcobo realised that her “primary role was not to necessarily prevent death but to improve the quality of life.”   As a young girl, Ngcobo always aspired to be a doctor. However her journey to realising her dream was not without obstacles. Whilst in high school she had to pursue a tough course called ‘double science’ which involved a combination of Physical Science, Life Science and Mathematics amongst other subjects.  However just before her final matric exams, she discovered that she was pregnant. Despite the shock, she preserved and work hard and was not only able to pass Grade 12, but also obtained 6 As and one B and became one of the top 10 matriculants in the Ethekwini District. Being a teenage mother while pursuing her medical degree was challenging,  “as the years went by I thought of quitting and pursuing another career but my love for humanity kept me in the medical field. I knew that this was my calling and that the world needs me,” she recalls. Ngcobo works long hard hours as South African public hospitals are usually very busy, but her “love for humanity and helping those in need motivates [her] to get out of bed every morning. Nothing is as heart warming as seeing [a] patient who came in being pushed in, and [seeing] them walking out of the ward, the happiness in a mother’s face who comes in with a lethargic baby and few minutes after resuscitation she sees her actively playing baby or the joy in mother who hears the first cry of her baby and they softly utter ‘thank you doctor’,” she explains.   Ngcobo says the happiest day of her life was the day she found out that she completed all the requirements for her degree, “I actually cried that day, my dream had come true, all my sleepless nights and hard work had paid off and I was ready to serve Africa diligently,” she recalls. Another golden moment in her career was her graduation day which was attended by her parents, “I was happy that they were there to witness the fruits of their labor, that though they never got the chance to study but they were able to attend a graduation ceremony.” The next milestone in her career is becoming a specialist in her desired speciality, Paediatrics.   She describes her experience as a woman in the STEM space as having been exciting yet challenging, “as women in science we almost always have to prove our capability and skills despite having gone through the same training as our male colleagues. I actually love the challenge though because it makes me what to do more and do better at all times,” she elaborates. Her advice to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is to choose a career that they are passionate about and not one that they’ve been pressurised into, “when you follow your passion then it does not matter how long it takes you to get there or the challenges you may come across, you will never give up,” she explains. She also shares some knowledge with regards to facing obstacles and hurdles on your career path,  “a wise man once said that calm oceans never make skilful sailors. So do expect some storms but always remember that the storm will pass and you are being prepared for the journey ahead.”  Ngcobo firmly believes that Africa is a land of opportunity but points out that Africans must always remember that they have the ability to break and make Africa, “our dreams and innovations will bring about growth in our continent… We must be the change we want to see and always strive for excellence,” she elaborates.  Read more about Geeky Girl, Thandeka Ngcobo, not just a medical doctor but also a doctor for the soul with her perseverance and passion for the field, in the inspiring interview below.  1. Describe what your work entails.    I am currently an employee of the Department of Health. I’m in my second year of my medical internship at Mafikeng Provincial Hospital in the North West province. After 6 years of training, going into the field meant that my primary role was not to necessarily prevent death but to improve the quality of life. Since this is my second year of working and almost at the end of it, I have rotated in all the major departments at our hospital. I have worked in the general medical wards, paediatrics and neonatal wards, psychiatric wards, surgical wards, trauma and emergency area and currently working in obstetrics and gynaecology. My work entails managing acute and chronic diseases in both outpatients and inpatients. I do ward rounds daily in the ward to ensure that our inpatients are properly managed, treated and discharge them when they are fit. I also assist and perform various surgical procedures in each department that I rotate in.   2. Describe your STEM journey.   Growing up I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor. I matriculated in 2010 at Umlazi Comprehensive Technical High School and I was accepted at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine where I studied Medicine. Six years later I graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) Pursuing a career in Science was not an easy journey for me. In High School I had to choose a package known as double science where I had to do Physical Sciences and Life Sciences combined with Mathematics amongst other subjects. In my matric year I fell pregnant and discovered about the pregnancy just before my final exams. However, because I had always been a hard worker I managed to pass my Grade 12, obtained 6 As and one B, managed to become one of the top 10 matriculants at Ethekwini District. Becoming a teenage mother who was not willing to give up on her dreams was challenging. I had my baby during my first year at University. Difficult as it was I managed to pass my first year. Medical school is no playground. As the years went by I thought of quitting and pursuing another career but my love for humanity kept me in the medical field. I knew that this was my calling and that the world needs me.   3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?    Firstly I must admit that my job is a lot of work. We work long hours and South African public hospitals are usually very busy, more than often I have to wake up the following morning still tired from the previous day but the thought of my patients, knowing that they are waiting for their doctor motivates me to look forward to each day. My love for humanity and helping those in need motivates me to get out of bed every morning. Nothing is as heart warming as seeing your patient who came in being pushed in, and you see them walking out of the ward, the happiness in a mother’s face who comes in with a lethargic baby and few minutes after resuscitation she sees her actively playing baby or the joy in mother who hears the first cry of her baby and they softly utter “thank you doctor”   4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space?   My experience as a woman who chose a career in science has been an exciting yet challenging one. It is no secret that not so long ago most careers in science were male denominated and as a matter of fact in most parts of the world, patients still prefer consulting a male doctor and in some parts of the world female doctors are less recognized. As women in science we almost always have to prove our capability and skills despite having gone through the same training as our male colleagues. I actually love the challenge though because it makes me what to do more and do better at all times.   5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field?   It’s always important to choose a career which you are passionate about and not a career your family or friends love. When you follow your passion then it does not matter how long it takes you to get there or the challenges you may come across, you will never give up. A wise man once said that calm oceans never make skilful sailors. So do expect some storms but always remember that the storm will pass and you are being prepared for the journey ahead.   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”?   Yes, Africa is a land of opportunity but we as Africans must always remember that we have the ability to break and make Africa. Our dreams and innovations will bring about growth in our continent so we should never stop dreaming and coming up with new ideas.  We must be the change we want to see and always strive for excellence.   7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career?   Yes, the day I logged into student central to view my marks and read the words “Degree completed” was one of the happiest days of my life. I actually cried that day, my dream had come true, all my sleepless nights and hard work had paid off and I was ready to serve Africa diligently. When graduation day finally came, that day was for my parents, I was happy that they were there to witness the fruits of their labor, that though they never got the chance to study but they were able to attend a graduation ceremony. The next milestone I’m looking forward to is becoming a specialist in my desired speciality which is Paediatrics.   8. How do you maintain a work-life balance?   When I am at work I always give my best and in my spare time I always ensure that I enjoy that time away from work and engage in activities which make me happy. Spending quality time with my family is important to me as it recharges my soul. I’m also very passionate about community development so outside of work I also partake in various community projects. I must admit though that finding the balance between work and life is not easy as most of my time goes into my work. I sometimes have to miss family gatherings and can’t always attend my daughter’s school functions but I’m lucky to have a family who’s supportive and understand the nature of my work.   9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you?   My first role model is my mother. She’s the most intelligent and strong woman that I know and I’m so fortunate to have been raised by her. The one person who inspires me is Dr Thandeka Mazibuko. She’s the founder of Sinomusanothando Community Development. Born and raised in the deep rural KZN, her main area of focus is in oncology. She believes that Africa united can fight and beat cancer. She fought tooth and nail to ensure that she improves the quality of life of our cancer patients especially in KZN, it wasn’t an easy journey for her but she never gave up and few years ago she relocated to New York to sharpen her skills and gain more knowledge. I was privileged to work with her as a volunteer in her organization during some of my years as a medical student. I’m still inspired by her till today and she is doing marvellous things in New York. I am looking forward to the day when she will return to South Africa to help us against fighting cancer.   10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found?   On my Facebook page - Dr. Thandeka Ngcobo , on my instagram @dr_teedkfuze or on the organizations I work with, mainly Godisanang Youth Empowering Foundation and Ngcobo Empire   Twitter Handle: @DrTeedkfuze Instagram: @dr_teedkfuze LinkedIn: Dr. Thandeka Ngcobo   Thandeka Ngcobo  interviewed by Dhruti Dheda Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter @dhrutidd
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