Just remember: we learn and we grow and change throughout our lives, so if your majors do not feel right, change it, and if you can’t afford to start over, speak to the careers office.
What do you do?
My current job, in a nutshell, mainly entails the compilation, implementation, monitoring and auditing of post-mining land rehabilitation plans and strategies, assessments, and compilations of alien and invasive species management plans. My job also involves the identification and understanding of best practices and different, cost- effective rehabilitation and AIP management strategies.
What value do your degrees bring to your career?
I was introduced into the discipline of Invasion Biology (studies focusing on alien and invasive species) during coursework in my honours year. I then went to work in research that focused on invasive species in South Africa, working on the first National Status Report on Biological Invasions while I was at SANBI. I decided to do my MSc, of which my thesis also focuses on new plant invasions in South Africa. And now, I am working in an environment which focuses on rehabilitating land after various land uses, including various mining activities and the implementation of managing alien invasives.
What advice would you give to current students?
University isn’t just about school work – you need to be able to make time to have new experiences which may or may not be linked to your actual degree. Don’t be afraid to intentionally take time out from studying and experience the cities outside of your school environment. This does so much good for your mental health and academics, compared to sitting around with your face shoved in a textbook or looking at a screen.
Do not be afraid to change majors or courses if it feels like what you are doing is not vibing with you. We are expected to know and choose what we want to do with our lives when it comes to education and employment, and while some people know from the get go, others do not immediately know what direction they want to take in life. A good number of people, and friends of mine, have not used their degrees once in their lives since graduation.
Just remember: we learn and we grow and change throughout our lives, so if your majors do not feel right, change it, and if you can’t afford to start over, speak to the careers office. There are so many funding opportunities available in various streams that we never know about, because we choose to struggle alone.
Have your extracurricular activities whilst studying helped you in your career?
I took up hiking as an extracurricular activity during my undergrad at UCT, and I was exposed to so many amazing natural environments via Zoobots and my master’s – these continuously fed my interest of working in the industry of nature conservation. I managed to develop a lot of my plant identification skills through hiking and camping, as I ran away from the Botany course in second year after hearing that it was pretty hard and I did not want to struggle through it!
I have been using these skills in my work ever since I started working. Experiencing interactions with native, rare and special plants, medicinal and economically important plants, and alien and invasive plants makes it so much easier to know and understand them, in terms of their ecology and management, than when you are just reading about them in textbooks, papers, or online.
How do you see your industry evolving in the near future, specifically in Africa?
I see the industry taking on more rigorous mitigation and adaptation measures to the Climate Change crisis, in terms of policy and implementation strategies, since more and more countries in Africa and Asia are experiencing an increased number of climate catastrophes. Better late than never, I suppose!