In Conversation: Marang Pholo (President, University of Botswana Engineers Society)

For Marang, the love for engineering was stoked in senior school seeing engineers with their overalls. Since then, her passion for the field has led to leading UB's engineering society and trips to Barcelona, Spain.

In this interview, she chronicles her journey in engineering as a woman, her numerous achievements along the way and her future plans.

 Please tell us what inspired you to choose engineering as a career path

Growing up I have always wanted to be a lawyer. I was part of the school’s debate team in junior school and if you check most of my books from junior school, I’ve written “LLB”. I was even part of the school’s debate team. 

When we got to senior school, I realized that I did not love languages as much as I loved my sciences and math–mostly math. Even up to today, I'm still not a fan of English. Seeing engineers with their overalls, and spending more time doing more practical (field) work, I got intrigued hence why I am here. 

What have been the most prominent challenges in your career and how have you dealt with them?

I’d say the greatest challenge is the issue of not finding any employment opportunities after getting the degree. I know the argument is always that we should create employment for ourselves but the truth is we need funds for that and if you can’t easily get funds, the better route is to find employment and then save money first. 

Unfortunately, there is still a large gender gap in engineering in Botswana. What has been your experience pursuing engineering as a woman?

The gender gap is there, true, but it's much better nowadays. In schools, we see more girls pursuing courses that have been known to be “for men”. As for my experience, I do not have any complaints because all the male engineers I have interacted with so far have not made me feel like I am out of place.

What would be your advice to fellow young women looking to pursue a career in engineering?

We are slowly but surely reaching a point where it is not a “sin” to be an engineer in the world and in our country. Women who came before us are proof that this is not a man’s field like we have always been told. To fellow young women who would like to pursue a career in engineering, DO IT! You know yourself better than anyone else, so just believe in yourself and do what YOU truly want. Being told “women cannot do that” should be motivating enough for us.

You are currently president of the University of Botswana Engineers Society. Please share what the role encompasses

Firstly, the University of Botswana Engineers Society (UBES) is a club that aims at improving the students’ lives. We advocate for students to receive better services from the faculty, we host seminars on issues that may affect them, we take them on trips(both educational and re-creative), and we host fun activities for relaxing. 

Most importantly we build networks with outside organizations, who are our potential employers. My role as the President is to oversee all activities being done in the club, to guide where necessary, lead my fellow committee members and our club members in promoting a vibrant and inclusive environment for their growth and the success of the club.

What role do bodies like the University of Botswana Engineers Society play in fostering the adoption of engineering as a career path in Botswana?

UBES firstly offers leadership opportunities for students, which helps them develop essential soft skills such as teamwork, communication and project management. These skills are necessary for a successful engineering career.

We also advocate for gender inclusivity, this is why it was not an issue having a female President. This alone helps increase female participation in engineering. We also host networking events, and industry visits, connecting students with professionals and potential employers. With these interactions, students get insights into the engineering field and help them build valuable industry relations.

What can be done by the public and private sectors to support the mandates of such bodies as the University of Botswana Engineers Society?

Private and public sectors are really important in the growth of UBES. Recognition and partnership with them can help show all students the importance of being part of our club, and also make those in basic education have an interest in engineering, especially the girl child. 

They can help in investing in research, through offering mentorship programs, inviting us to their events (both big and small), and offering sponsorships to us (funds, merchandise, short courses and possibly schools too).

You recently had the chance to attend 2024 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. Please share what you learnt from that experience.

The MWC was an eye-opening experience for me. Every day is an opportunity to learn new things and because technology is an ever-evolving concept, we learn something amazing about it every day! From the cutting-edge machinery, AI solutions, and 5G applications showcased at the Congress to the seemingly “basic” amenities like self-flushing toilets and convenient payment methods, type-C charging ports, Spain left a lasting impression on me.

There is a lot of potential in Botswana, we can also host an event as big as the MWC someday. I believe so much in the youth, I wish everyone could also do the same as they are the future of the country. Companies and the government should invest in innovative minds of the youth and we will surely get the Botswana we all dream of.

Careerwise, where do you see Marang in the next 5-10 years?

If I say I want to have businesses up and running in the next 5 years, I might be a bit too ambitious, but hey, a little ambition won't kill me, right?

One thing I know for sure, I do not want to spend my whole life working for companies (or someone). I see myself as an employer, creating jobs for people, especially women.

I believe since I am in the tech world, that is an advantage because I can venture into tech-related businesses. Technology will always be in fashion, which is amazing because it gives me the platform to explore more.

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