Meet Debmarine’s senior project geologist- Kakunauua Uazeua

IN what is known to be a ‘male dominated’ industry, Debmarine Namibia’s geologist Kakunauua Uazeua has managed to climb the ladder from being the company’s project geologist to Senior Project Geologist.

In an interview recently, Uazeua (KU) took Confidente (CR) through her academic and professional journey.

CR: Take us through your journey with Debmarine Namibia?

KU: I joined Debmarine Namibia in January 2017 as a Project Geologist in the Mineral Resource Strategic Projects section, a position I held for two years before being promoted to a Senior Project Geologist in January 2019. I then received an opportunity to do a second master’s degree. In September 2019, I commenced with a Master’s of Research in Marine Geology and Geophysics at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

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CR: Tell us more about yourself and how you chose geology as a career?

KU: I am a 31 year old woman from Ombuyovakuru, a village close to Okakarara in the Otjozondjupa Region.  I grew up in Windhoek with both my parents and my four sisters. I started my school career at Martti Ahtisaari Primary School in Wanaheda and then moved to DHPS through a scholarship opportunity. After completing grade 12, I was offered a bursary by Skorpion Zinc Mine and went to do my undergraduate at the University of Stellenbosch. I completed a Bachalor’s Degree in Earth Sciences and then an Honours Degree in Applied Geology. I then joined Skorpion Zinc Mine as a graduate geologist but also continued with my studies.

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While working for Skorpion Zinc Mine I obtained a Certificate in Business Management with Unisa and then commenced with a Master’s in Economic Geology with Rhodes University.

I was fortunate enough to be at a school that assisted us with choosing a suitable career through psychometric tests. At the same time, I believe that I understood my personality from a very young age and knew that I would not want to be constantly confined to an office and would prefer a career that combines both field and office work. And the latter is really what made a difference. In addition, I was fortunate to know Mr.

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Simon Hengua, also from my home village, who had studied geology and whom I could consult for advice prior to commencing with my studies. I therefor chose my career based on my personality, through research and advice from a role model.

CR: What is the difference being a geologist on a sea mine vs a land mine?

KU: On a land mine, particularly in an open pit mine, a geologist has visible and tangible rocks to assess and base decisions on. Conversely, on a sea mine one does not see anything prior to mining and therefore needs excellent data analytical skills and a very good imagination. We call this blind mining and it is very challenging but also very exciting and rewarding.

CR: You recently returned from studying, how did this enable you to enhance your career – what new opportunities does it present?

KU: Having a Master’s in Marine Geology and Geophysics has opened doors for me not only in the marine mining industry but also in the offshore construction industry. I worked with world renowned Geophysicists at the University, from whom I acquired an enormous amount of knowledge and skills that can surely advance my career. On land Geophysics and Marine Geophysics are akin and therefore a plethora of opportunities do lie ahead within different industries.

CR: What is Master of Marine Geology and Geophysics?

KU: Geophysics involves the measurement of the spatial distribution of the subsurface physical properties to characterise the rock sequences and mineral resources that may be present. On the other hand, marine geology focuses on understanding the marine processes that have shaped the geological environment in question. Together, these disciplines help us the ‘blind’ miners to have an understanding of the subsurface and the distribution of the minerals and thereby enable us to explore and mine effectively.

CR: What subjects does one need take at school to excel in a career in geology?

KU: You need all your science subjects, which are mathematics, physics and chemistry.  Biology and geography are an added advantage. I personally did not do geography in high school but that did not disadvantage me in any way. You obviously need to love these subjects, you need to enjoy learning and exploring. You need to believe in self-development and be able to keep up with advancements in technology as this field is constantly advancing.

CR: What will you study next?

KU: I plan on first applying what I learned within the past year and really add value where I can. I believe it is best to practice within the field and determine where my interest lies before I can consider advancing my studies again.

CR: What have been the most memorable times for you at Debmarine Namibia?

KU: Being given an award for excellent performance in 2018 has so far been the most memorable moment for me at Debmarine Namibia. It gave me a sense of appreciation and made me affirm that all my hard work is never in vain.

CR: What advice would you have for learners aspiring to become geologists in the marine sector?

KU: To become a geologist in the marine sector, you need to enjoy physics and the use of technology because what sets you apart from land based geologists is the daily use of geophysics and associated software. You need to enjoy data analysis, be bold, decisive and self-confident. As a geologist, you will be the eyes of your colleagues from different disciplines and you therefore need to gain their trust through your hard work and confidence. I would therefore advise learners aspiring to become geologists in the marine sector to work hard on the STEM subjects but also work on developing their self-confidence and ability to work with people.

CR: What are your interests outside of work?

KU: Besides spending time with my son and the rest of my family, I love to dance. I enjoy travelling and walking. I however also appreciate being home and I enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes.

CR:  If you could have dinner with the person that you admire most in the world, who would that be and what would you talk about?

KU: I would love to have dinner with Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Her inspiration to me is two-fold. Firstly, her leadership style is the type that puts the core human values first.

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These include kindness, compassion, empathy, communication, care and respect. And these to me is what enabled her to swiftly lead her country through the Covid-19 pandemic. Secondly, she has proven to the world that a woman does not need to choose between pursuing a successful career and having a family. If both make her happy and set her soul free, then she can and is capable of doing both. I would therefore certainly talk to her about what has groomed her into being the type of leader she is and also how our society can be convinced that women are capable of much more than the limits that have been set.