Blackademic Womxn

Celebrating Blackademic Womxn: Nthabiseng Mosena

November 24, 2021

Another feature to celebrate another inspiring womxn in academia. Nthabiseng Mosena came onto my radar after she commented on one of the posts I had shared on Instagram; and naturally I was curious to get to know her story. I reached out to her and asked to feature her as a #WCW, and she agreed. I sent her some interview style questions to get a better, more shareable picture of who she is, and her journey in academia and life.

Here is how that went.

What are your qualifications and from which institutions?

  1. Bachelor of Architecture- Wits University
  2. Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) – University of Sheffield( UK)
  3. Master of Science (Engineering Project Management) – University of Leeds (UK)
  4. Master of Business Administration- just completed my first year at Wits Business School.

What were the top 3 highs on your postgraduate journey?

I’ve had the privilege of doing postgraduate studies in two countries, one being my home base currently.

Abroad, my highlights were being in a class of diverse students and diverse thinkers from all corners of the world. (I’ve also made friends across the globe). It’s an incredible experience and environment to learn in. Being in a highly ranked British university means you are exposed to lectures of formidable standard. Another important high was getting to a point in my academic journey where I understood what I wanted to specialize in, choosing the right masters programme to align with my career goals and furthermore working on a dissertation topic that’s close to my heart and could possibly solve a problem in my industry.

Locally, my highs have included:
The amount of business acumen I’ve learnt from my MBA studies is something that would have taken me years to learn in the workforce.
I’m exposed to a high caliber of colleagues which include top managers, business owners, CEO’s , directors, high achieving entrepreneurs and people who are thriving in their careers. To be around people with such drive and ability to work hard automatically pushes you to strive for greater.
Being closer to my support system has really made this journey special for me.

What were the top 3 lows on your postgraduate journey?

  • As someone who values family with my whole heart, being far from my family was a lot more difficult than I had ever imagined it to be. My family and I are very close so being so far away was an emotional and mental battle.
  • Culture shock: I had had the privilege of traveling to many countries abroad long before I went to study abroad. But touring overseas and living overseas are two different dynamics. I had to adjust my lifestyle accordingly. The experience forces you to step outside your comfort zone. i.e. everything seemed so expensive and in my head I always always converting the pound to the rand. 😂😂
  • The academic standard was extremely high so I had to work harder and more strategically than I ever had to. I battled in the beginning with the intensity of my course so I had to change my entire approach to tackling the degree. Being around academic excellence in my class intimated me at first. I was shocked at the capacity at which my colleagues performed and at some stage struggled with imposter syndrome.

What advice would you give to your younger you, now?

  • Relax!!! 😂😂 life will turn out exactly how it’s meant to. Stop trying to control the narrative and just enjoy being young!
  • You deserve to be everywhere and everything you worked hard for. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
  • Don’t believe the lies that your mind tells you about failure. Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s part of the journey and in fact, it makes you a lot stronger.
  • Everything isn’t meant to be done alone. Ask for help!!!
  • Prioritize the quality of people you have in your corner. It makes the world of a difference.
  • Don’t do too much online shopping during study breaks 😂😂 It’s a trap! Rather use the money to travel and clear your head.

How has your postgraduate career impacted your life today?

  • The commonality between two of my master’s degrees is that their difficulty has undoubtedly built my character, my integrity, but has also humbled me in many ways.
  • It has definitely granted me opportunities to understand the intricacies of project management from the feasibility phase of complex projects all the way to the execution phase.
  • It has helped place in positions, projects and conversations that would’ve been otherwise difficult to reach at my age.
  • It has accelerated me into leadership role within a formidable mining company.
  • My current MBA degree is equipping me with critical business, management and soft skills. It is developing in me a toolbox of applicable quantitative skills such as adaptability, leadership, problem solving, critical thinking, communication and the fundamentals of running a successful organization.

How do you deal with the challenges that come your way?

  • I pray a lot, be it through wins or challenges. At times when I’m overwhelmed with challenges I take those burdens into prayer. It grounds me and helps me think rationally.
  • Mindset is everything! I’m a firm believer that when you change your thinking, it changes your ability to make decisions and in turn you change your life. I have learnt not focus and marinade on a problem for too long but to rather come up with solutions to change its course.
  • I’ve got an incredible and loving support system. My family and loved ones are always so willing to hear me out, guide me and help me with practical solutions. They encourage me to get up after each blow that life hits me with.
  • Because I understand that challenges are part of the journey and that there is no success without trials and sacrifices, I’ve learnt not to respond to challenges from an emotional standpoint but rather ask myself “ what is this challenge trying to teach me about the situation and about myself?”

Do you feel the responsibility of obtaining your postgraduate degrees goes beyond just you? i.e. Who/what else rests on it, besides your own advancement? And how do you deal with that pressure (if it feels like pressure)

Yes, indeed. For as long as I can remember, It’s been a goal of mine to be actively part of infrastructure development on a large scale in South Africa. While navigating through my career I quickly became aware that there are very few black professionals in leadership positions in my industry. These spaces lack the representation of not only black but female counterparts. Positions of power in engineering, construction and property sectors are still dominated by white males. I understood the importance of obtaining my postgraduate studies so that it could possibly accelerate and elevate me into certain roles, where women of colour also have opportunities to make decisions about the infrastructure development of this country. An influential place to be is a place where one can contribute to decision making and that usually happens at top management level.
Sometimes people shy away from certain fields because they see no representation. But someone has to take that path in order to create opportunities and foster an environment that will be welcoming for black youth. The problem isn’t that young black people aren’t educated, therefore black talent isn’t lacking in abundance but it is seriously lacking in recognition and support.
Women of colour face insurmountable cultural and social barriers to career progression, including perceptions of a women’s potential, a lack of formal support or organizational policies to help them progress. I, too, struggle with the emotional tax of being a black women in corporate. As a woman aspiring to greater leadership roles my aim is to represent on a management panel where organizational changing decisions are made and here, carry out conversations about talent spotting, gender glass ceilings, overlooked in promotions, lack of leadership support, mentorship opportunities and career guidance for black females.

I don’t look at obtaining my postgraduate degrees as pressure because I’m not trying to be superwoman but having a seat at the table will enable me to make my contributions to uplifting women of colour.

Interview ends.

I hope you have been as inspired as I have today. I love to see black womxn flourishing and I am looking forward to having more conversations such as these, with beautifully minded individuals such as Nthabiseng Mosena.

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