I am Fulufhelo Tambani, the Science Communication Officer for the Natural Science Collections Facility (NSCF). I have been in this position since July 2019.

One day, when I was in a taxi, one month into my first job, I received a call. It was just after 16:30, and the taxi was passing by the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, coming from CSIR where our office was located. I was excited about my job, colleagues, and was looking forward to a beautiful career. The call was from someone at a government department in Mpumalanga where I had been to a nutrition internship interview, six months prior. Nutrition was a much better fit for a science graduate than science promotion, wouldn’t you agree? By this time, I had given up hope about that nutrition internship. The person told me that I was successful in my interview, and I had been appointed for the internship. I excitedly replied: “I have gotten another job and won’t be accepting the offer, thank you”. Boy, did I not regret this decision later, when the going was tough.

I continued with my job, where I was doing secretarial work: making coffee for meetings, doing minute-taking, managing my boss’s diary and the like. After having graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biochemistry and Microbiology, I felt discouraged. However, though I felt that way, I still gave my work my all and excelled at every task I was given. I had told myself to appreciate the skills I was learning.

In 2014, at my first major work event.

As the year progressed, fellow volunteers and colleagues were resigning for better opportunities, and their portfolios would fall on my lap. At one point, I was managing 4 portfolios, including my own. I felt overwhelmed, over-worked, and stressed, all with no due compensation. This made me feel professionally abused. However, at the same time, I saw it as an opportunity to prove myself to my bosses and show them my capabilities.

When my one-year volunteership contract ended, I was offered a permanent contract, which I accepted. I was then entrusted with managing and running the outreach programme, communication, science awards administration and event organising, and some committees. This was when I was introduced to Science Communication and fell in love with it. My employers also gracefully paid for my science communication course. This was a big deal for me. It showed that they believed in me and trusted me. However, the permanent contract came with a very small salary increase, which continued to have very small salary increases as the years progressed, which made me sad.

Then after giving birth to my son, my partner lost his job, both events were a big hit on my finances. Now having two dependents, rent, transport to work, food, clothing, etc. I became discouraged, unfulfilled and I resented my employers. With all this, I thoroughly enjoyed my job and continued doing it passionately.

In the beginning of 2019, three former colleagues forwarded me an advert for this job in the NSCF, which I applied for and desperately needed. I got the job and thoroughly enjoy doing it.

At my first institutional visit, with the NSCF Hub team.

I am grateful for my journey. It trained me for my current career and taught me lessons I never would have learnt, had my journey been easy. In Venda where I live, the sun gets scorching hot just before it rains, and I liken my journey to this analogy. I had to go through some tough times before I could get to my desired destination.

I appreciate the work culture in the NSCF, and being of service to the NSCF Hub, network and the public with my personality, skills, and experience.

You too can share your #TheScienceStruggleIsReal story

Email Fulu at f.gelebe@sanbi.org.za or WhatsApp at 0728822332.