Mabatho Hashatsi, a CSIR bursary holder, joined the CSIR Graduate-in-Training Programme in 2020. Growing up, becoming a researcher did not even feature – all she knew for certain was that she wanted to solve societal problems. The die was cast when she heard about the CSIR and its work.
Mabatho Hashatsi always had an interest in engineering. As a child, she noticed that, while Soweto, where she grew up, went without electricity for long periods, the streetlights were often left on during the day. Not only did she notice this, but she also wanted to know why energy is not conserved so that when people really need it, it is available. She wanted to know how the electricity grid operates, and what other defects could be fixed with the right systems in place.
As a graduate in training, she spends a few months at a time in different research groups to learn about different areas of study. Hashatsi recently completed the first year of the three-year programme. During her first year, she was part of the CSIR’s electronic warfare research group.
She relates her excitement at getting an opportunity to implement a project, “It started in the team, but was then handed over to me to see to completion. It is a tool introducing people to electronic warfare. It was my first time being exposed to something like this, and I really enjoyed it. At the moment, the e-learning tool is used for training purposes for the CSIR’s clients in the defence sector. Being given the opportunity to present the electronic warfare 101 e-learning tool to the main stakeholder, was a highlight; as was experiencing how all the processes work, being part of the initial planning and seeing how things come together, and then how the client receives it.”
The Graduate-in-Training Programme offers excellent exposure to the nuances of the workplace. “With every project and every team, one’s levels of responsibility change. One learns how to work in a team, but also how to take charge and communicate. One quickly learns how to contribute instead of just filling a space in the team. The only thing that remains consistent is one’s mentor. This is a really good experience for me.”
She only just joined the Centre for High Performance Computing and would like to stay with this team for some months because there is so much to learn. Eventually, she hopes to work in the CSIR Energy Research Centre, where her interest lies.
Hashatsi shares advice that had been passed on to her, “This industry is still male dominated, and the only way it will change, is if women take the initiative and stand up to be heard. Never doubt your own value; we can contribute more than we think.”
She says, “I have not been treated any differently as a black woman. I think it depends on how you approach people. Once people see you play your part, they are receptive to new input.”
Career-wise, success for Hashatsi will be solving a problem that affects people’s lives. “For example, finding a way to address electricity theft. It is not just a simple matter of forcing people to pay. Some do not even realise that they are stealing – they come across an unoccupied dwelling and simply make a home with all the illegal connections already in place. Education is also necessary.
“I grew up in those communities, but went to a private school. I understand the different dynamics. I would like something to my name, some solution that bridges the gap between those two worlds.”
Current position: Graduate in training
Current research interest: Signal sorting, cloud computing, high performance computing, energy
Education: BSc (Electrical and Information Engineering) (with honours), University of the Witwatersrand, 2019