Where are you from?

Harare, Zimbabwe

So, tell me a little about you. What’s your background, where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe which is in southern Africa. I was there 19 years of my life so I’ve been in Australia four and a half years now.

I moved over to study and life has sort of evolved since then, studying and working. Growing up in Zimbabwe was an interesting experience. I think, a lot of the time, what people think Africa is isn’t exactly the reality. That reality varies depending on where you’re from, your socio-economic background and that sort of thing.

So, coming here, there was a lot of explaining that it’s not all lions and monkeys and the desert, which is, you get people who are like “yeah, I’ve been there. I totally know what its like” and then half of people are like “wow!”

And it was so crazy when I first moved here. It was during the Ebola breakout and the number of people who kept asking me about that. I’d say “that is a completely different part of Africa man, it’s the whole continent. It’s all in the north. It’s in like three countries and all the way down in the south.” So, that was interesting dealing with questions about where I’m from.

What life like right now?

What’s life like now? Well, I’m still a university student. I’m studying civil engineering and business economics.

I guess I’m creative which doesn’t really show in my degree choice. I really like math and I’m an engineer but the reason why I chose engineering was because I was good at math and there is some level of creativity that you are allowed in engineering with some of the designs, it’s just the designs have to be practical which is nice in business economics. Everything that we do is business related so a firm understanding of how money works, how money moves and its role in our lives, I think, is really important.

A lot of people my age — early 20s and young kids and even people like ten years ahead of me — there’s that conversation around how no one is financially literate because they aren’t teaching it in school. So I thought ‘why not help myself and actually learn about money and life while still a university student?’

I’m working at Bop Industries here in Fishburners and I’ve been here for a year and a half. I started out as a workshop facilitator in a pretty small team and at the beginning of this year I was promoted to the head workshop facilitator.

So, now I actually lead and present workshops to students across Queensland and across Australia and I’ve recently taken on Holograms by Bop which is how Bop Industries started out, manufacturing and distributing holograms.

So at the moment I’m working on the business development of that side of the business which has been really exciting. Yeah I think that’s me in a nutshell.

What’s important to you and your life?

What comes to mind, to be honest, is doing things that matter because there are a lot of things that we can do that don’t matter and aren’t useful to anyone. And I think you’ll find this with a lot of people who have moved away from Africa or countries where life has been really tough, not necessarily for me but just in general, where you see a lot of disparities in happiness and life.

We all want to do something that gives back to society. A lot of people are studying engineering or medicine or something, just doing things that give back to someone in whatever shape or form that is. And so, when I picked my degree outside of wanting to be creative and wanting to be able to do math and teach myself how money works, it was like, ‘okay, what can I do to give back?’

And, I feel — this is something that I tell people all the time — I do feel that engineers are the foundation of society because everything that we do, like: things that we sit on, things that we use to eat, the roads that we drive, the houses that we’re in, the things that even doctors use in hospitals — are built and manufactured by engineers. So it all starts with an idea but engineers, they facilitate that sort of thing.

So that’s definitely what’s been important to me and it will continue to be important to me, being able to give back to society whatever society that is — whether it’s a small community or a large scale giving back to the world sort of thing.

And that’s another really big passion. One of my passions and some of the work that I do here at Bob is being a face for diverse women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). We’re trying to move towards getting more women involved in STEM and retaining the number of women in STEM and engineering.

There are crazy statistics, like only 13 percent of women make up people in the STEM fields. How do we change that? Working with kids and changing the stories about what being in the STEM fields is like or what studying engineering is like as women. I think, it’s really important.

What specific experiences, people or events have shaped your view?

Moving to Australia, to be honest, changed my perspective on a lot of things.

Nonto from 2014 when I graduated high school and Nonto now sees the world completely differently because when you grow up in one place and cultural values, societal values, just the way things run is all you know and you move somewhere where everything’s different, you’re forced to reflect and be like ‘ok, these are the things that I know, these are the new things that have come into my life, and which of these things do I want to keep? What do I want to throw away?’

And I think learning how to deal with people of different cultures, how to manage being of one culture and being in a completely different environment has changed the way I interact with people because I feel that Australia is much more of a multicultural hotpot than Zimbabwe is.

In Zimbabwe, it’s a lot of locals. If there are any expats, they keep to their own communities. So, you don’t really interact with people from different cultures. Here and at UQ — and UQ is a very international university — I’m Zimbabwean and I’m in a group with an Australian, some are from Malaysia, some are from Germany, some are from France.

So, I think, that teaches you not to have a single or narrow view of the world. You have to connect ‘ok, I view the world this way but there are 10 people around me who have seen the world a completely different way and view it differently. I need to be open to hearing their experiences.’

We don’t have to agree but accepting and acknowledging that their view and their life experience is different to mine is really important.

How does being asked this question create an opportunity to do that? How would asking someone else that question connect you to what matters to other people, how different people think?

They aren’t enough spaces where we’re having these kinds of conversations. I maybe said this to one other person but in a completely different format. Like, I’ve never said these exact same words to you to anyone else and there aren’t enough people who are thinking about themselves in the context of other people, in the context of ‘what are we all trying to do?’ — regardless of whether it’s bigger picture stuff or smaller picture stuff.

We just aren’t having enough of these conversations and I love being a part of them because my opinion matters, other people’s opinions matter. So being able to hear as well, like if you were to tell me your answer to the question as well. You’ve heard what I have to say. I’d love to hear what your answer to these questions would be as well.

I think there’ll definitely be valuable things and the answers that you’ll give me might change my perspective on life. Who knows?

About Nonto

Nonto is a Civil Engineering and Business Economics student at the University of Queensland and head workshop facilitator at Bop Industries.