How I obtained my current position:
A combination of opportunity, enjoyment, effort, and luck.
How my qualifications relate to my work:
My post-doc work is basically an extension of my PhD. So most of what I did during my PhD I’m doing in my current academic position.
Skills that have contributed to my success:
I don’t think I’ve reached any form of success, and hope I never do. If one has reached ‘success’, one is at risk of not growing and developing, I think. Besides, somewhat related to that is the consideration that one’s definition of success is (should) always be changing. But skills/characteristics that have kept me on a path towards ‘success’ are keeping an open and positive mind set, adapting to situations, effective time management, reviewing my thinking and understanding of things, maintaining good working relationships, being somewhat opportunistic, and lastly, 120% effort in everything I do, even the small things.
Half of my day I try to allocate to research work, this includes reading, writing papers, data analysis, presentations, science translation etc. 20% of the time I’m meeting with students or lecturing, and 20% of my time I’m meeting with colleagues, or/and organisations outside UCT. The remaining 10% I keep open for administration, corridor chats, and other random stuff.
Best & most challenging parts of my job:
I feel privileged that my work involves knowledge accumulation, i.e. reading papers, attending talks, meeting different people to discuss things, and knowledge creation i.e. brainstorming, writing papers, conducting research, analysing data, creating presentations, attempting to translate science. Another perk of the job is all the international travel, and with that the global and local impact of one’s work. The most challenging part, I think, at the moment is managing my time effectively to be as productive as possible.
Involvement at UCT:
I played 1st and 2nd team rugby at UCT throughout my MSc (2 years) and PhD (3 years) studies. As part of a career workshop for high school scholars at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, I presented (and still do) a talk on pursuing a career in Science. During my studies I also engaged in tutoring, facilitating and supervising of students. I’m currently also part of the UCT Health Science Post-Doctoral Committee and UCT Health Science Transformation Committee.
How did I make use of the Careers Service?
I was always fond of the workshops the Careers Service offered where one gains insights into the skills required by professionals not part of your academic training. Moreover, the events organised by the Careers Service for PhD students looking for a career outside academics were particularly useful for knowing what’s out there for doctoral graduates.
Getting a competitive edge while at UCT:
I think as a student it’s all about building the CV, so your time should be engaged in activities that will provide the bricks for this. This usually involves a fair bit of volunteering or unpaid work. The key is working on projects that will benefit you down the line. For example, assisting on a research project and then having your name on the author list of the published paper will give you a competitive edge when applying for Honours, MSc, or a PhD.
About approaching your own career development journeys:
Read. Read. Read. Never stop learning. Think. Write. Act. Fail. Read. Read. Read. Write. Act. Fail some more. Share your knowledge. Don’t underestimate the power of situations, and relationships. Keep an open and positive mind set. Adapt to situations. Be opportunistic. Give 120% effort in everything you do, even the small things.
Advice for graduates entering the world of work:
Question your knowledge and understanding, identify your prejudices and biases, and look beyond what can be seen.