With the issue of equal opportunity for women in the workplace rightfully taking center stage, especially in Namibia’s mining sector, the Windhoek Observer (WO) will in the next coming weeks publish profiles of women who have made inroads in this male-dominated sector.
Their stories are meant to motivate women, especially those still deciding on a career path, to consider the opportunities that are available to them and contribute effectively to the country’s vast mining industry.
This week, we feature Debmarine Namibia diamond, Kakunauua Uazeua (KU), who is employed as a Project Geologist.
WO: Who is Kakunauua Uazeua and what is your area of responsibility at Debmarine Namibia ?
KU: I am a 29-year-old strong-minded woman. I grew up in Windhoek with both my parents and siblings. I am a mother to one little blessing I call my son, Mbazuvirua Uazeua.
I started my school career in 1996 at Marti Artisari Primary School, and due to my academic excellence I was awarded a scholarship to attend the DHPS (Deutsche Hohere Privatschule) from grade 5 to 12. Upon completing grade 12, I was awarded a bursary by Skorpion Zinc Mine to study Geology at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Geology and then moved on to do my Honours in Applied Geology, which I completed in 2011. During my Bachelor’s Degree years, I was awarded a Lifetime Membership of the Golden Key Society.
Additional to my tertiary education, I embarked on a Certificate in Business Management while working. I also recently completed my Masters in Economic Geology with Rhodes University.
After completing my studies in 2011, I worked as a Graduate Geologist at Skorpion Zinc Mine for two years before being promoted to Grade Control Geologist in 2014. After 5 years of continued growth at Skorpion Zinc Mine, Debmarine Namibia offered me a position as a Project Geologist with the Mineral Resource Strategic Projects Department.
I thus joined Debmarine Namibia in January 2017 and have since been playing a mineral resource related supporting role to Debmarine Namibia Strategic Projects.
WO: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
KU: As a young woman, one needs to be driven, be confident and have a vision. If you know what you want to achieve in life, no circumstances or person should have a key to turn down your drive to succeed. Take every situation or experience as a stepping stone and always believe you can make it.
Secondly, never be afraid to be yourself. If you don’t know something, acknowledge it and ask for assistance. None of us were born knowing everything on this planet.
Thirdly, when it comes to the workplace, the only difference between men and women is the gender, not intellectual capability. Lastly, put your 120 percent into everything you do.
WO: What do you struggle with now?
KU: I am very much of an introvert and have thus always struggled with public speaking. Fortunately, it is something I acknowledged from an early age and have given myself an opportunity to work on it. I must say, the career opportunities I have had to date, have assisted me a lot.
WO: Do you think women still feel intimidated in the workplace or in your sector?
KU: Yes, unfortunately. I think women still get intimidated in the workplace, particularly in my sector. The management of the mining sector is still very much male dominated. The picture that this gives to upcoming women is that women are not strong enough to lead. Therefore, young women are less encouraged to work hard and aim for managerial positions.
For this reason, most women settle for technical roles. As a potential solution, programs aimed at mentoring upcoming young women can be considered with the aim of attaining leadership skills from the early stages of their careers. This could prepare young women for future leadership roles and potentially combat the gender imbalance in management.
WO: How do you achieve work-life balance?
KU: I always try to manage my work time efficiently and also work smart in order to avoid working late hours or on weekends. As a daughter, mother, girlfriend and a sibling to many, work-life balance is a priority. I also believe in the concept of ‘a healthy body houses a healthy mind’ and I therefore utilise after work hours for exercising.
WO: How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
KU: I believe that everything and everyone that helped me get to where I am today were God’s instruments and I will always be grateful for their contributions.
Firstly, I would say the unwavering support of my parents throughout my academic career and as a young adult had the greatest impact.
Secondly, the opportunities that Skorpion Zinc Mine granted me to complete my studies and provide me with my first job laid a strong foundation for my career as a geologist.
Being a woman with a vision, prayer, hard ‘smart’ work, dedication and sacrifice have been my main drivers and have led me to where I am today.
WO: What has been the role of luck in your success?
KU: I believe that everything that I have achieved is all in God’s plan. Therefore, I do not believe in luck. I believe I am blessed and highly favored.
WO: What have you learned about leadership as an employee of Debmarine Namibia?
KU: A leader does not need to be a purely technical expert, but rather have the skills necessary to work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, different values, beliefs and characters. The most important skill to ascertain the above is compassion. I believe people are more willing to follow someone who shows care and respect for his or her subordinates.
WO: Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
KU: What I consider the most significant achievement in my career to date is the fact at the age of 27; I was offered employment by three different Namibian mining giants at the same time. I had the luxury of choosing what company I would like to work for. This is something that seldom happens in my field of work.
WO: Discuss a specific accomplishment you’ve achieved in your position that indicates you are thriving in this position.
KU: Earlier this year, I was chosen to champion the implementation of 3D AUV Seismic Profiling Data usage on the mining vessels. This is data used to visualize the seafloor in three dimensions and has brought a new face to marine mining. I am very privileged and honored to have been chosen for this and believe being part of this initiative can open more doors for me and allow me to thrive in my position.
WO: Who is your role model and why?
KU: Fabian Shaanika, the current Acting Strategic Projects Manager for NAMDEB. I worked with Fabian for two-and-a-half years at Skorpion Zinc Mine, reporting directly to him. Fabian is a leader who leads with trust and compassion. He encourages ‘smart’ work, persistence, and unwavering determination in everything.
His level of commitment in everything he ventures into has manifested in his great achievements in all aspects of his life. For this reason, I believe that I have been given an opportunity to look up to a great human being and will always be grateful for this magnificent opportunity.
His leadership style and continuous encouragement for growth have definitely had a great impact in my life as a whole.