BSc Molecular Biology to Marketing
Name - Nonsikelelo (Ntsiki) Sackey
Job Title - Founder of Siakhula Digital & Host of SciComm Chats with Ntsiki
A levels - Biology, Physics, Chemistry, History
Graduate degrees :
BSc Molecular Biology & Biotechnology;
Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing;
MPhil in Science & Technology Studies
Favourite science fact -Most of what releases endorphins is free, like a smile or a hug.
Journey in 3 Words - Challenging; Beautiful; Blessed
Briefly describe your role : As a founder of a start-up, all the roles that one would find in a typical company are held by me. So I’m involved with content creation, social media, community management, and web design. I help scientists be better science communicators through training and general consultancy on the science communication side of things. Through Siakhula Digital, I aim to showcase, celebrate and accelerate science and scientists in Africa using social media.
What motivated you to pursue a career in science -: I have always been passionate about science. It is about finding a cure for HIV and just being at the cutting edge of major and possibly life-altering discoveries.
What made you change paths from a direct science career to pursuing marketing? - In my final year of undergrad, I realised the lab was just not for me. I couldn’t keep quiet during Microbiology & Biochemistry practicals, so I would always contaminate my work. However, I knew that science was and will always be for me but not in the lab. So when the opportunity to do Marketing instead of an honours degree. I jumped went headfirst into the Marketing pool.
What resources helped you most during your career journey :
The biggest resource for me was my ability to network and create connections. My Microbiology lecturer made me realise that I could be involved in science without being in the lab. She told me about an internship that the university’s technology transfer office had. The internship showed me how the process of how scientific research ends up being a product on a shelf at a store near you. There’s a lot of science behind what we see and consume everyday. It was interesting to watch science being translated for investors, marketers, business developers, policy makers and eventually consumers to understand. Through this internship, I saw how Marketing and Science could come together. Science without marketing just ends in the lab. Marketing puts it out there. Also, networking helped me get my first job as a graduate, which was being a Recruitment and Marketing Officer for a science faculty.
What advice would you give to anyone that struggles with networking and nurturing connections?
Networking is not as difficult as people make it out to be. Think of it this way: everyone you know now was once a stranger to you. How did they move from stranger to friend or colleague or even partner? At a point of your meeting, one of you spoke to the other, found something interesting and moved on from there. So start there. Whenever you are at an event or wherever, speak to the person next you. I know it can be daunting to speak to ‘strangers’ sometimes but try. In terms of nurturing, well I’m still learning how to get this right because I can be a terrible communicator at times. I will be thinking about you and not call or send you a text. I’m working on it though but what I’ve realised is that because I’ve always been kind and courteous to people; they are always happy to see me, talk to me and even recommend me even if we haven’t spoken in years. So maybe try engaging people with kindness.
What advice would you give on picking universities and courses that matched your goals? -
Take the time to do your research. Figure out what interests and excites you and pick a course aligned with that. If you can take a gap year before commencing your studies, do that. A gap year will allow you to centre yourself and focus your thoughts.
Would you have originally picked this career path if more information was available to you at the time?
Yes, I’ve always enjoyed being on stage and always enjoyed science. So finding myself in the science communication space suits me perfectly.
What do enjoy most about your postgraduate diploma in marketing? Which skills have you really enjoyed learning and which have been harder to acquire? -
I enjoyed how marketing forced me out of structure and into creative chaos. I have enjoyed learning design skills. Photography and videography skills have been harder to acquire, but it is all a matter of practice, practice, practice.
What is your biggest pet peeve about how the world perceives science -
That science thinks it has all the answers. The reality is science does not have all the answers. We are all learning something new every day.
Outside science, how would you describe yourself ?
I am fun, loving, and easy-going. I love travelling and trying new things, even if they terrify me. I enjoy meeting you people and engaging with them.
You run a digital platform and science communication and consultancy “siakhuladigital “ - What motivated this and where do you see it in 5 Years? -
While working as a recruitment and marketing officer, I realised that the high school students I was engaging with had a traditional view of science and what a scientist looked like. I knew the field needed a different perspective and better representation. I figured I could create a platform to showcase science and scientists, not being a scientist myself. And also help scientists be better science communicators in the process. In the next 5 years, I see Siakhula Digital being one of the biggest science communication and science multimedia platforms in Africa and collaborating with STEM organisations across the globe to showcase, celebrate and accelerate science and scientists in Africa.
When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision?
Salary does not factor in much because I barely ever have just one occupation. I have always been one to have my hands in many pies, and that’s just how I function. Would I like the salaries to be higher, yes but for me it has always been about what I can learn from a certain job and how I can leave a mark in any place I work. Honestly, even with a high salary, multiple sources of income are a no-brainer. The more you earn, the higher your standard of living. So you will always need an extra income. Also I think the multiple sources of income should be as passive as possible. You do not want to burn yourself out working five jobs. You still need to take care of you.
How do you stay motivated running a platform and what are some of the hard truths you’ve had to face since creating the platform? -
The only way to stay motivated is to remember why I started it in the first place. It is impossible to quit when the ‘why’ is bigger than you. It’s heartbreaking to put hours into a video or post and only get a few likes and clicks. The hard truth is that numbers are not all that. Did 1 person like it at least? Yes? Then you are making huge strides in achieving what you set out to do.
How have your passions and interests changed since you started thinking of careers? Was there a defining moment for you? -
I wouldn’t use the word ‘change’ but rather ‘evolve’. I have always been passionate about science; there was never anything else really. So pursuing a science degree made the most sense until I didn’t like the lab. During my undergrad studies though, I was an ambassador for the university student recruitment office. I got to engage with prospective students that came to visit the campus and realised I loved it. I loved making an impact in young people’s lives. So by exploring my interests that being science, marketing and public speaking; I watched everything come together naturally. From there, I was led to this new science communication space. Everything I have done, been through and learned has brought me to this moment. Realising that there was such a field as science communication was definitely a defining moment for me.
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