1. What does your everyday work entail?
My everyday work entails managing and running Reydiant whilst looking after my daughter. Reydiant is currently a one woman company, I do everything from product formulation, manufacturing, packaging, social media presence and sales.
2. What career path led you to your current work?
I studied Biotechnology at the UWC and then proceeded to complete my BSc. Honours and BSc. Masters in Biotechnology. My MSc. Project was based on looking for novel antimicrobial compounds from the South African marine environment. These compounds included isolating bacteria and fungi from South African Tunicates and extracting the bioactive compounds such as antibiotics, antifungals etc.
After struggling to find a job, I applied for an Internship with the National Research Foundation (NRF) and was placed at Kapa Biosystems in the Research and Development (R&D) department. Once my internship year was over, my contract was not extended and the job search continued. During my internship year, I had formulated therapeutic and aromatherapy baby products for my niece and had branched off into creating 3 lines of natural products. When my contract ended I decided that I would focus on growing my company while I continue looking for work in the STEM industry. The research I had done during my MSc. aided in my approach of researching and formulating my skincare line.
3. How did you decide to move into this career path? -was it a certain person or moment which initiated it all?
Biology / Life Science was always my favourite subject at school and I enjoyed watching shows like CSI, it really interested me. When I was in Grade 10 someone from the Education department came to our school and gave a talk on Life Science – this is when Biotechnology and its associated careers were introduced to me. The talk focused on DNA and genetics which fascinated me. A year later we visited a Science Center which contained an exhibit dedicated to the process of DNA extraction. A demo was carried out using oats which amazed me. I decided that I wanted to study Genetics and pursue a career in Forensic Science.
I applied for molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was accepted into the GEPS program. I failed my first year and then took a year off to decide if this was still the correct choice for me. I applied for Medical Bioscience at UWC in 2008, but later realised I wanted to be in the Biotechnology stream. In my final year when applying for Honours, my focus had shifted and I wanted to pursue Bio-Fuels, so I did my Honours on a Bio-Fuel project. I wanted to change the world and reduce our dependence on Fossil Fuels and reduce Carbon emissions. However, I was unable to pursue this project for my MSc. as it was no longer a project at the laboratory I was in. I shifted focus and decided to join the new project that was starting based on Novel Antibiotics.
It was the moment when my back was against the wall and I had no prospective jobs lined up, that I decided I would have to create my own opportunities. I focused on my business full time whilst applying for jobs.
4. Was there ever a time that you recall wanting to change paths & what convinced you to continue on your chosen path?
After a few years of running my businesses, I had my daughter. Once I thought she was old enough I started looking for jobs again. Running your own business is difficult and our current economic climate makes it even more difficult to sustain a business and a livelihood. I am definitely considering joining the workforce again whilst running my company on the side to supplement my income. I haven’t grown my business as much as I thought I would have by now; however, my business did take a bit of backseat when my daughter was born.
5. Give us a brief description of a normal/extraordinary 24hours in your life. (You can choose one 😋)
A normal day in my life would entail checking emails, recording orders, making the products for the orders, and entertaining and home schooling my daughter simultaneously. When business is slow like now during the COVID-19 pandemic, I focus on my daughter and ways to engage with my customers on social media and email. I also spend time researching the natural skincare market and formulating new products. I enjoy engaging with other female entrepreneurs and supporting them where I can.
6. Name something which excites you about your field of work.
What excites me about my field of work is twofold. The first is customer feedback - I am always excited and humbled by the feedback my customers give; it allows me to know that my products are helping them and making life easier for them at times. The second aspect that excites me would be reading up on the latest research being done during the COVID-19 pandemic and the strides that fellow scientists are making.
7. What has your experience been like being a women in STEM?
When I was working in industry, I generally had a positive experience, the company I worked for had an amazing corporate culture and women empowerment was a priority.
8. Do you find that there are still barriers within the STEM field?
I am sure there still are, however, I don’ recall experiencing it first-hand.
9. Did becoming a mom change how you experienced your field of work?
Becoming a mom changed my life, it shifted my priorities and made me slow down and realise there’s more to life than just work. On any given day, I generally choose to prioritise my daughter over other tasks, except where it can’t be avoided, for example if I have a business event I need to attend. I am fortunate to be able to spend these formative years with her and although currently my business just covers the bills; I am satisfied and grateful because I get to spend my days with my daughter.
10. How do you think organisational spaces could be improved upon in order to better support women in STEM?
Firstly, they need to bridge the pay gap, secondly they should start valuing their female employees and creating spaces and opportunities for them. I also feel that women in STEM and all industries should be supported when returning from maternity leave. Breastfeeding mothers should have a place where they can privately and comfortably pump. I know of STEM organisations that allow mothers to come back from maternity leave and work half day if they choose to - this kind of support goes a long way.
11. What do you hope to achieve within your career, whether in the short/long term?
For the current path that I’m on I would like to grow my business and empower women within my business, the way in which I am currently empowering women is by offering them their own work from home opportunity to be sales agents and I also offer soap making classes for women who want to start their own soap making business.
12. Would you encourage your little one(s) & other young girls to move into a career similar to your own & why?
I’ve had this conversation with my husband many times. I’ve always said if STEM is her passion I would encourage her, but I want her to be aware that a University degree is not the be-all and end-all in this world. I would definitely encourage her to work hard and study hard and encourage her to study further. However, I would like her explore the world and I would encourage her to explore the possibility of being an entrepreneur. In South Africa, we have so many graduates sitting at home or working in retail and call centres because there aren’t jobs for them, I do not want this for my own daughter. So whilst I’ll encourage her to study further and explore her passions; I would also encourage her to look at owning her own business with the support she needs.
13. What's your favourite mom&kiddie activity?
Imaginative play and painting
14. Please could you give fellow STEM moms some advice on how to navigate the challenges within our field.
Believe in yourself and your ability, go after what you want and make yourself seen. You are worth more to your company than you think AND you are valued by your family.