Theresa Nyabeze decided that she wanted to help increase diversity in STEM fields by sharing her slightly unconventional career as a mining engineer. Moving to Canada from Zimbabwe when she was 12, Theresa joined an all-girls school. Without mentors to inform her of her options, she felt going into Medicine was the only option when you are an excel at math and science despite having no real passion for it. It wasn’t until she entered University, that she was exposed to different career options and discovered her love for engineering. She currently works for Vale, a mining company, one of the largest producers of iron ore and nickel in the world.
Now she is determined to ensure that future kids talented in STEM know the options out there. She started Diversity STEM, an organization dedicated to increasing diversity in STEM. However, she didn’t stop there and decided to write a children’s book, ‘Underground! My mining adventure‘ centered around a young girl named Maya, traveling exploring mines with her mom. This unique method of outreach she felt would be an engaging way to help kids understand exactly what goes into different STEM careers. In particular, this book aims to open up the world of mining to kids and adults with Maya, based on Theresa’s daughter Chiedza, who accompanies her mother on the job as a mining engineer.
Theresa is an inspiring woman, doing incredible work, and taking time out to do what she finds important, helping increase diversity in STEM fields.
Buy ‘Underground! My Mining Adventure’, the first installment in a series of books focused on STEM, on her website.
Listen to our interview with Theresa to hear about her path, her exciting career, and her advice for people of color interested in going into STEM!
A transcript of an excerpt of the interview can be found below. Listen to the podcast for the full interview!
Could you introduce yourself for the people listening?
My name is Theresa Nyabeze and I am CEO of Diversity STEM and author of ‘Underground! My Mining Adventure’
And that’s the children’s book that you wrote?
Yes, it is.
As I understand it is a book that follows the adventures of a girl who goes through a journey through the world of underground mining with her mom.
You also launched this Diversity in STEM organization, with a goal similar to Science in Color’s goal which is hoping to bring more diversity to the STEM field, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
That is amazing.
It is very exciting!
Yeah, it’s really cool and it’s something that is so needed nowadays.
Absolutely, I agree with that.
Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing in Zimbabwe and your transition when you moved from there.
Right, so when I was 12 years old, we immigrated to a city in Canada in the province of Ontario called Sudbury. I was 12 years old and very excited to try something new with my family. I attended an all girl’s school, excelling in the maths and sciences and just basically through being known for being good in biology being encouraged to go into medicine without any real mentorship or any real desire on my part but just kind of “well you’re good at maths and sciences, just go into medicine”. So I ended up doing that at university and just that experience alone gave me a big understanding of the importance of mentorship.
In what way did you figure out that mentorship is so important?
I look around now that I have been in industry for 15 years and I look at those people who had the benefit of having a relative or family member say in the mining industry and I see now looking back how their decision and their focus make a lot more sense because they had the privilege of mentorship and I think it that just made their path that much more concentrated. They had more laser-like focus but I think they had the benefit of just a little bit more insight into what they were doing the purpose of what they were doing and I feel like for myself when I was in high school, I was getting good marks and that’s what my focus was but it was as targeted as it could have been if I had the benefit of good mentorship or connections in the field or somebody asking the tough questions of “do you really want to go into medicine? Are you ok with blood?” you know those kinds of things to help me out.
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. It is difficult to find your path when you don’t have that mentorship or the people around that know and can guide you.
exactly and the thing is not knowing what you don’t know. It’s only now upon reflection now that I’m an adult, I can look back and see where the challenge was it was just because I wasn’t leaning on anyone and it’s not to say there were not willing mentors, there would have been tons of willing mentors it’s just that I did not even know enough to even reach out to a mentor.
Right. You said you were originally set on going into medicine. What caused you to change your mind even though you didn’t have people around you asking you whether or not you really wanted to do that or showing different paths?
I think what really did it for me was that one of my really good friends had a really authentic passion for biology, and I thought “wow I don’t have that”. A professor at the time was teaching us about trees and it was all sinking in for her and she was so invigorating by at andIi just knew there has to be something out there that can make me equally as enthused
So it was more about you trying to find something you are really passionate about instead of just something you can do.
exactly. At the end of the day, I think one thing I’ll say is that there is diffently a difference on what it is your aptitude will allow you to do and that which will invigorate you and bring out your passion and kind of like what am I meant to be doing the type of question.
I see that. That makes a lot of sense. So going into the career as a mining engineer, describe what a mining engineer does and what it means to be a mining engineer.
Learn more about becoming a mining engineer here!