Blog > STEMStories

#STEMStories: Bathabile, Managing Director, South Africa

Name: Bathabile Mpofu

Role/Occupation: MD at Nkazimulo Applied Sciences

Country: South Africa

Bathabile Mpofu is the Managing Director at Nkazimulo Applied Sciences and the creator of the science kit, ChemStart. ChemStart was designed to help young people become scientists by giving them a chance to perform science experiments themselves, to better understand the practical component of their lessons, thus preparing them for science careers. As part of the package, the company also does science experiments at schools to get young people excited about science.

As a young girl, Mpofu had aspired to become a doctor, however the secondary education offered to her could not adequately prepare her to meet this aspiration, “Imagine how it feels like to come to the knowledge that your future as you imagined it, is never going to happen and it’s not your fault? You are capable but are disempowered?... Thousands of learners go through this experience every year! That is not right,” she recalls.

Ultimately, she studied a BSc majoring in Chemistry and Biology and then worked as a technician at the university. As a technician, she came across many students who experienced struggles similar to her known, this mobilised Mpofu to action and she founded her own company and developed ChemStart. “High school didn’t prepare me for tertiary education to learn to become a doctor, but now I have an opportunity to prepare and help others become the scientists they aspire to be through ChemStart... ChemStart makes science come to life and prepares learners for tertiary education,” she explains.

Mpofu admits that running a business is difficult but she wouldn’t have it any other way, “because I am doing something I believe in, in something whose vision I crafted myself, I always work towards achieving it. I am not under compulsion but driven by passion.” She envisions that one day “a graduate of medicine [will say] that ChemStart contributed in their journey of becoming a doctor.”

Her advise to young woman hoping to enter the STEM field is to utilise the power within, “the power to change one’s life for a better future lies within each person and if we dream about what we want, be willing to take action that leads towards making the dream a reality…we can achieve anything we want to achieve.”

Mpofu feels that the current South African climate is conducive to the advancement of women in STEM, this country “has so many opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers… I have had some opportunities presented to me which I’ve taken hold of, I’ve been celebrated for being in STEM… It is a land of opportunity for everyone, but men still progress further than women. I think work needs to be done on mindset and not just the opportunities.”

Read more about our Geeky Girl, Bathabile Mpofu, who makes science come to live more than a ChemStart kit in an inspiring interview below. 

1. Describe what your work entails. 

At the company I developed a science kit called ChemStart. This kit is designed to help young people become scientists by giving them a chance to perform science experiments themselves, preparing them for science careers, and to better understand the practical component of their lessons. We also do science experiments at schools to get young people excited about science. 

2. Describe your STEM journey. 

I wanted to grow up and become a doctor but high school education didn’t prepare me for this. Imagine how it feels like to come to the knowledge that your future as you imagined it, is never going to happen and it’s not your fault? You are capable but are disempowered? I know how it feels because is exactly what happened to me. Thousands of learners go through this experience every year! That is no right! I ended up studying BSc majoring in Chemistry and Biology and I was fortunate to get a job at the university as a technician and got to see many young people going to the struggle like I did. When life dishes you lemons, you make lemon juice, this eventuality defined my new purpose in life. High school didn’t prepare me for tertiary education to learn to become a doctor, but now I have an opportunity to prepare and help others become the scientists they aspire to be through ChemStart. I started a company so I could do this. ChemStart makes science come to life and prepares learners for tertiary education. 

3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? 

I love the fact that I can fulfil my purpose in life through my job. Running a business is not easy though but because I am doing something I believe in, in something whose vision I crafted myself, I always work towards achieving it. I am not under compulsion but driven by passion. What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? The opportunity that I contribute towards helping young people fulfil their dreams. I imagine a day when a graduate of medicine says that ChemStart contributed in their journey of becoming a doctor. 

4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? 

I have had some opportunities presented to me which I’ve taken hold of, I’ve been celebrated for being in STEM and the environment in this country is conducive and encouraging to women to advance in STEM. Whether women are able to use these opportunities is a different question. 

5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? 

 The power to change one’s life for a better future lies within each person and if we dream about what we want, be willing to take action that leads towards making the dream a reality…we can achieve anything we want to achieve. Right now SA has so many opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers

6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? 

It is a land of opportunity for everyone, but men still progress further than women. I think work needs to be done on women’s mindset and not just the opportunities. 

7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career? 

The moment I realised that my struggles and challenges I faced in my journey have helped me find my purpose in life. In Jan 25th, 2015 I had that eureka moment where I said “I‘ve found my purpose in life” 

8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? 

 Honestly this is hard, I have learned to ask for help as much as I can and then share the success with others. There is no-way I could do all this on my own. 

9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? 

 Oprah…she decided at a young age that she will be who she has become. After achieving all that she remains humble and is passionate about building other people. 

10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? 

www.nkazisciences.co.za
www.facebook.com/nkazisciences 

Twitter Handle:  @BathabileMpofu

Bathabile Mpofu interviewed by Dhruti Dheda

Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter @dhrutidd