Alumni Spotlight: Lilian Maboya (South Africa)

Lillian is …..

I really don’t know how to answer that question. Just leave it blank. [Laughs!] OK, I’m a 23-year old from Limpopo. I am a sister and a daughter who is passionate about environmental sciences and renewable energy.[spacer/]

What are you currently busy with?

I am finishing up my honors degree in environmental sciences and geography at the University of Cape Town and will start working for GE in October of this year. I’m joining the Early Career Development Program in the Power and Water Department. GE has been in southern Africa for a few years now and are looking to launch a renewable energy program here and I’m going to be part of the team that makes that happen. I fell in love with renewable energy when I did my first internship with a renewable energy company so I’m excited to do work that I’m passionate about. I think there is so much potential in this sector that is not being tapped into.

What were your motivations for doing what you’re doing now?

Before I came to ALA, I thought I wanted to become a chemical engineer because in my small school in Limpopo, that or being a doctor were viewed as the only options that would ensure job security for someone who was good at maths and science. My two years at ALA exposed me to the idea that I can pursue what I’m passionate about and make it work for myself. I realized that if I wanted to be able to influence how our continent deals with its environmental challenges, I’d have to commit myself to study the field and know it well. I also wanted to serve as somewhat of an example to other young people that you can do well by doing what you are passionate about, not just what will pay the bills.

What are your expectations for your time at GE?

I look forward to being challenged by having to apply all my theoretical knowledge in practice. I look forward to learning on the job and gaining confidence in my knowledge of environmental affairs while working with a diverse group of colleagues. I’m excited for the opportunity to explore the playground of renewable energy with the safety net of a big company like GE behind me. I’m also keen to travel and learn about how corporates around the world solve problems.

Do you feel that what you’re currently busy with is connected to ALA’s vision? How so?

Renewable energy as an industry is largely focused on developing Africa’s future. We are working towards the sustainability of the continent that will support all kinds of other industries and entrepreneurs. It also contributes to reverse brain drain that I am going to be doing work I am passionate about in Africa.

What has been your most impactful lesson learnt from this past year?

That taking care of myself, my health and my happiness is important. Sometimes we get caught up in the big picture of saving Africa that we forget that we cannot do that if our personal wellness is not in check.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

Along with finishing my honors degree and starting at GE I look forward to learning from my time as the first student-appointed member of ALA’s Board of Trustees.

What is the ideal place you see yourself in the next five years?

Travelling! I want to have finished my Master’s degree by then and have contributed something valuable enough to have had an impact on the face of renewable energy in southern Africa.

How are you working towards that, in either a broad or a specific sense?

Interning with companies in my line of interest, attending seminars on the changing landscape of the industry and generally keeping abreast of everything I can that’s happening in the field.

Any advice for alums looking to follow a path similar to yours?

Take care of yourself throughout the course of whatever it is you’re pursuing. Take care of your body; take care of your soul. Also, focus on a specific goal – and stick with it until you see the fruits of it instead of spreading yourself thin. I used to be all over the show, which left me with almost no energy. I felt happier when I decided to hone in on one thing on a large scale.

Author: Amukelani Muyanga

About the Author: Amukelani Muyanga is an intern at ALA’s Africa Careers Network

Lillian is a member of ALA’s 2011 graduating class and is passionate about the environment. She is currently an Honors student at the University of Cape Town’s program in Environmental and Geographical Sciences and the Founder of Tumbuka, a social enterprise that prioritizes education and green technology development in rural areas. Read full bio here

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