Students in the Discipline of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) who are part of the International Association for Impact Assessment South Africa (IAIAsa) KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Student Branch hosted a successful career evening for about 100 students studying Geography and related subjects.

The career evening – an annual highlight in the IAIAsa KZN Student Branch calendar – is held in the second semester when students who are about to complete their degrees are exploring career options.

The event, on the Pietermaritzburg campus, featured five UKZN alumni working in various fields who shared their career journeys and experiences with students and gave them advice on preparing for their futures.

Geography lecturer, Ms Dayle Trotter, opened the event while IAIAsa KZN Student Branch organiser, Ms Tarryn Frankland, organised the proceedings.

Mr Leo Quayle of the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) spoke about completing his studies at UKZN and the University of Cape Town and his work in various environmental and spatial planning fields. Quayle went on to describe his work on Geographic Information System (GIS) projects at the INR. He encouraged students to get skilled for continued professional development and to be passionate about their work.

Ms Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), who studied Conservation Biology and Grassland Ecology at UKZN, discussed her passion for biodiversity conservation and connecting people to the natural environment as well as work that led her to the EWT African Cranes project. Smith encouraged students to upskill themselves in a fast-changing world and to adopt an integrated approach to their work.

Managing Director of USE-IT Mr Chris Whyte spoke about his academic and professional successes and how they helped him establish his non-profit organisation focusing on waste beneficiation. Whyte emphasised the value of constantly learning new skills and networking, encouraging students to use their university knowledge as a base and then apply it by looking at opportunities around them and working themselves into jobs they wanted.

Mr Sandile Nkomonde of JG Afrika shared details about how he started his career as a geo-hydrologist from a background in the social science side of environmental sciences. He encouraged students not to panic when deciding on their careers, pointing out that learning happens on the job and through asking questions. He encouraged students to apply themselves and to find their competitive edge.

Ms Nomaswazi Kubheka of NatureStamp gave an overview of her academic experience up to Master’s level at UKZN, including her experience in the world of work. She explained her work in various sectors of environmental consulting and governance, saying UKZN provided an amazing grounding for work in this diverse field.

Several students commented on how informative, inspiring and worthwhile the evening was for them.

The IAIAsa student branch will host a Park Run clean-up in Pietermaritzburg and a field day trip to either the Crane Foundation or Nottingham Sugar Mill later this year.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod