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Studying engineering to produce solutions for real-world problems

Thompho Netshivhera, a junior mechanical engineer at Hatch, shares how his undergraduate experience helped him find his dream career 

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    Thompho Netshivhera

    Junior mechanical engineer at Hatch
    March 27 2024
    Scientists team collect water samples for analysis and research on water quality


    I’m originally from rural Limpopo in South Africa where there weren’t many opportunities but there were many challenges. 

    I did my undergraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg. Because English was not my first language, this was quite the challenge. The unwavering support from the university’s dedicated staff and my active engagement in student societies such as Maitazwitoma, the Venda-speaking (my home language) society, were crucial in shaping my university experience.  

    These experiences not only helped me overcome initial apprehensions but showed me how important the university environment is in fostering growth and success. Through my active involvement in clubs and societies at Wits, I honed my leadership skills and advocated for initiatives addressing mental wellness and gender equality in engineering. 

    Driven by my desire to make an impact, I focused my final year honours project on addressing sewage pollution in my hometown, motivated by the stark reality of sewage spills that plague my community. Collaborating closely with my supervisor, Dr Lara MacLucas, we started to develop a dispatchable hydro turbine – a green solution aimed at both sewage treatment and electricity generation. This project not only exemplified the potential of engineering innovation but underscored the importance of community-centric solutions. 

    I then decided to submit this research project to the Global Undergraduate Awards. I attended the Global Undergraduate Summit in Ireland in November 2023 as a global winner in engineering. This opened doors to an international network of like-minded individuals. This platform not only recognised my work, but provided me with the opportunity to understand my potential.  

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    This experience was just the beginning. It led to significant recognition back at Wits, where I was presented with the special Dean’s Award by Professor Thokozani Majozi, dean of engineering and the built environment at the University of the Witwatersrand.

    This award, a first of its kind at Wits, recognises individuals who have developed solutions that sustainably impact and change people's lives for the better. It serves as a reminder that academic success goes beyond grades; it’s about using our education to address real-world challenges and make a meaningful difference in society. 

    These experiences offered amazing details to include in my CV and, most importantly, introduced me to a network of colleagues and role models.

    I am now embarking on my role as a junior mechanical engineer at Hatch, a global company spanning more than 150 countries. It’s an honour to be part of an international team that continually pushes boundaries, seeking innovative solutions.  

    To the young high school students, new university entrants and graduates, I urge you to never give up. Embrace new opportunities, enter competitions and attend events that empower you.  

    Never stop dreaming and always aim to improve yourself. Remember to ask: “What else is possible?” after achieving your goals or facing setbacks. It’s in picking ourselves up and trying again that we find true resilience and growth. 

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