1. What does your everyday work entail?
If I were to explain it very simply: I work with the Capital Investments team which assesses whether a project or transaction adds value to the sustainability of the business. My work requires an understanding of the Value Chain, Economics and the overall Business Model and how they all work in cohesion to bring about profitability and sustainability. My everyday work entails reading and understanding a large amount of project detail and then interrogating the data available in order to make a sound investment decision.
2. What career path led you to your current work?
I studied Chemical engineering at the University of Pretoria. I started out as an engineer in training, worked in the synthetic fuel industry as a production section leader. I commissioned a few large projects, performed project front-end loading and later the justification of business cases as a business analyst. I moved on to managing a portfolio of projects as a business unit portfolio manager and after 12 years; I find myself starting out in a new position as a senior investment assurance specialist.
3. How did you decide to move into this career path?-was it a certain person or moment which initiated it all?
I was awarded a bursary to study Chemical engineering in my matric year, so I decided to use the opportunity. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to study, so it came at the perfect time and nudged me along in the right direction.
Projects fascinated me from the get-go, and I knew I wanted to eventually work on larger projects. I had a mentor early in my career, who advised me to first gain experience in a range of fields in order to work on projects. The experienced gained would assist in becoming a more well-rounded individual.
4. Was there ever a time that you recall wanting to change paths & what convinced you to continue on your chosen path?
Yes. Quite often. Being a female in a male-dominated environment made it difficult to have a sense of belonging. Instead of opting out, I decided to use the opportunities available to move as often as I could in an effort to gain as much experience in the different fields of the industry. I always tried to stay close to projects as that was my main interest.
5. Give us a brief description of a normal/extraordinary 24hours in your life. (You can choose one 😋)
My husband and I are both full time working parents. Our daughters are 3 years and 6 months old. My baby wakes up around 4 times during the night and my toddler was potty trained recently, so she also wakes me when she needs to go to the bathroom. So between the three of us, I survive on minimal sleep.
We wake up early to pack lunches, do the school run, and then we’re off to work.
My work day usually entails a large number of meetings to discuss upcoming mergers, acquisitions, divestments and projects. There’s also the fair share of reviewing of final documentation, before the information is compiled with recommendations to the investment committee before the capital is approved.
Then we brave the traffic home and then it is dinner time, bath time and bed time. The girls both go to bed at 18:00, so it’s quite a rush to fit everything in, but these are the joys of parenting and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. They give me a bigger purpose, knowing that they are dependent on me and hopefully that I am a role model to them... one day 🙂 I am grateful to have a very supportive husband; who is with me on this journey every step of the way.
6. Name the one thing which excites you about your field of work.
I have a direct input and can add value by ensuring the company’s money is spent/invested in the correct opportunities.
7. What has your experience been like being a women in STEM?
Let be honest, it gets tough within the Production environment in particular. It’s still a predominantly male-dominated environment. All the challenges I faced were directly related to being a woman in a space dominated by male opinion; with a pure lack of respect for my presence there. I realised, I had to stay the course to come out on the other side and I am glad I did. I believe all the challenges I faced early on in my career, have helped to shape and form me and have definitely made me stronger. I hope that this also serves as encouragement for other women who intend to follow suit.
8. Do you find that there are still barriers within the STEM field?
I think your experience is largely dependent on the company for which you work as well as the specific STEM field you are in; but there are definitely still some barriers present. I experienced these barriers to a greater extent within the production environment and in the commissioning environment rather than in my current field of work.
9. Did becoming a mom change how you experienced your field of work?
Definitely! It increases your responsibility and you have an obligation to balance all aspects of work and life which can’t always be separated.
10. How do you think organisational spaces could be improved upon in order to better support women in STEM?
By assisting women to create networks and to learn from each other’s experiences. We don’t all have to brave each challenge on our own. We can learn from each other with guidance and coaching. I think mentorship circles could add a lot of value to every woman’s experience in the STEM field.
11. What do you hope to achieve within your career, whether in the short/long term?
I am happy where I am in my career, for the short term. We decided to start a family later in life. I've recently returned from maternity leave and started a new position. In the long term I would like to keep a balance between my career and my family life. With two small children I would like to invest in them as much as possible and create footsteps for them to follow in.
12. Would you encourage your little one(s) & other young girls to move into a career similar to your own & why?
I will make sure I advise and coach them on all the opportunities available, but I will encourage them to follow their interest and passion. When I was younger I didn’t know about all the possibilities available and I think creating awareness from a young age is very important.
13. What's your favourite mom& kiddie activity?
Definitely baking cookies and cake with my toddler and drinking coffee with her in her doll house. With the baby, bath time is very special 🙂.
14. Please could you give fellow STEM moms some advice on how to navigate the challenges within our field.
Every challenge is an opportunity learn. There are many of us out here. Reach out! Create a network with whom you can discuss your challenges. Chances are there have been lots of women before you who also faced the same challenges. We can learn from each other’s experiences.
I think Kamie has done an exceptional job in creating awareness and bringing everyone on this group together. Advice is literally at your fingertips. Use it! 😎