The key to successful tertiary studies is to treat them as a full-time job and to use the entire support system available – professors, mentors, tutors, fellow students, friends and family. This is esteemed alumna, Dr Jessika Bohlmann’s advice for current students. And this is precisely what she did throughout her under- and post-graduate studies – which spanned no fewer than three continents. Now she is all set to start a postdoctoral position at UP. “This will allow me to finalise some of the research I started during my PhD studies and will set the foundation for me to pursue a career in academia and also give me some exposure in the consultancy world.” Join her on her interesting journey from Caracas, Venezuela, to Melbourne, Australia and finally – for now – Pretoria.
Q: Briefly summarise your studies and your professional career, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I started my undergrad studies in Economics at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas, Venezuela. Owing to political unrest and uncertainty in Venezuela, I moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2006. In order to start university in Australia I needed to learn English, which I accomplished in five months. Then I did my undergraduate studies in Economics at Monash University in Melbourne.
After graduating in 2009 and working for a bit, I realised I needed to pursue postgraduate studies in order to become a proper Economist and to have a possible career in academia. In 2011, I moved to Pretoria and in 2012 I started my Honours in Economics at the University of Pretoria, following that I did my Master’s in Economics and fast forward to 2020, I completed my PhD in Economics.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: My experience and interactions at UP definitely helped me in becoming a successful researcher. The international nature of the lecturers and professors at the Department of Economics provided me with a well-rounded postgraduate experience that inspired me to pursue my PhD and to continue a career in research.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: Don’t ever give up, give it your all, you can do it! Treat your studies as a full-time job and use the support system available to you (professors, mentors, tutors, fellow students, friends and family). This is key to your success.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful business/company/consultancy/organisation?
A: A successful consultancy or organisation has good team members who are focused and motivated by the overall goal of the organisation and who work towards achieving the aspirations of the said organisation.
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc) do you enjoy reading?
A: I read a lot of energy economics related journals and articles. I enjoy reading The Economist, The Conversation and publications from the World Economic Forum.
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: Personally, I am inspired by my family, especially my husband and daughter. We are a team and strive to do the best we can in everything we set our minds to. Professionally, to be able to do research that is in some way policy relevant and might lead to policy change, inspires me to continue.
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person – in any domain – who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: I would love to have a meal and wine with Barack Obama, I will discuss a wide range of topics with him from economic stimulus to climate change and brainstorm ideas with him on how to really bridge the inequality gap in Africa.
Q: Going forward, what are your professional/business/personal goals?
A: I am set to start a postdoctoral position at the University of Pretoria. This will allow me to finalise some of the research I started during my PhD studies and will set the foundation for me to pursue a career in academia and also give me some exposure in the consultancy world.
Q: Lastly, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. In your opinion, how can South Africa best overcome its current economic woes and increasing joblessness?
A: The first issue that South Africa needs to handle is the embedded corruption in its politics, which is ultimately hindering growth, progress and contributing to the widening of the inequality gap. Secondly, there needs to be unity in the way different spheres of government, including municipalities, implement their economic growth plans in order for these plans to work and be fruitful in the long term.