'I have experienced several challenges, including failing some major courses in my first year and not getting recognition for some of the work I have done. I have learnt that challenges and failures are part of the journey to success. In every challenging situation, I always tell myself that this too shall pass.' These are the words of Ms Honey Mamabolo, Chief Executive of Thebe Unico, a chemical manufacturer for the automotive sector and subsidiary of Thebe Investment Corporation, and one of the first three black female chemical engineering graduates of the University of Pretoria (UP).
She says that being one of the first three feels great and gives her a sense of hope in realising that, as Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out, 'impossible is just a word – even the word says, "I'm possible"'. Ms Mamabolo speaks humbly, yet passionately, saying that young women can achieve the 'impossible' when they believe in their ability to achieve the same goals as their male counterparts. In a patriarchal society women are faced with many challenges. She urges young women 'not to be afraid of new challenges and to realise their full potential.'
The environment at UP helped Ms Mamabolo to thrive. She explains that having stayed at a residence for the first three years taught her to live with people from different backgrounds and to manage challenging relationships. She acknowledges that having access to a computer centre and library that were open until late at night was a privilege. This made it easy to access information, which is often a key barrier for students studying elsewhere.
Above all, Ms Mamabolo is grateful for the support she received from her lecturers whom she credits as having played a huge role in enabling her to thrive. 'I could call my lecturers at any time for assistance and they knew who I was – I was more than just a student number to them. Looking back on my student life, the late Prof Tolmay and Prof Grimsehl are the two that stand out,' she says.
It is such experiences that impel Ms Mamabolo to express her gratitude by sharing her journey and the lessons she has learnt. One of the ways in which she expresses her gratitude is by creating opportunities for others. 'I believe strongly that we rise by lifting others,' she concludes.