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Ndoni Mcunu is the founder of non-profit organisation Black Women in Science, providing skills and capacity training to postgraduate black female scientists. She’s passionate about equality, women empowerment, education and empowering black people.

Currently in research and academia, she’s completing her PhD at Wits. Aside from her passion project, her focus is on climate change, and how to make farmers more resilient to the impacts of climate change and improve food production.

READ MORE: A Horticulturist Talks How To Turn Your Passion Into A Career

How to get into science

A great start is to have an interest in subjects such as biology, social development, science and maths. “Graduates would need to understand which institutes provide postgraduate programmes in environmental science, ecology, biology or related fields of science, [and] understand what percentage in their subjects would allow them to be selected into an honours program,” she says. So do your research before you jump in.

On completing your honours, Ndoni advises applying for a masters, then a PhD. “For funding opportunities, look at the National Research Foundation (NRF) and organisations like the Greenmatter Fellowship,” she says.

You’ll need to toughen up

The field of academia requires tough skin, says Ndoni. “Any academic work you submit will be commented on. That process can be daunting and [result in] self-reflection. But [it’s important] to understand is that the process is to improve your work and to build knowledge,” she says.

“The issue we have in the sciences and postgraduate research is the limited funding, the lack of mentorship and the lack of flexibility in the field to adjust to the female’s needs. Women then are constantly faced with having to do tradeoffs, such as career vs family, finances vs career. These difficulties often hinder career growth,” she says.

READ MORE: A “Brand Scientist” Gives Advice To Women In Advertising

Ndoni’s leadership lessons

1/ “Learn to better manage and understand relationships (professional or personal).”

2/ “Emotional intelligence is harder to manage than most.”

3/ “Get it together! Start early and start now!”

4/ “There will never be a perfect time to start, or a time when you will be ready.”

5/ “Talk less about it and do more on it.”

Read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a great book to understand the diagram of opportunity, timing and preparation,” says Ndoni.

How Ndoni practises self-care

“When I feel things are too much, I take time out and reflect on my goals. I speak to people who care and have better emotional intelligence than I do. Most importantly, I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself and my thoughts,” says Ndoni.

Connect with Ndoni

Connect on Instagram @ndonimcunu and Twitter @NdoniMcunu.

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