I recently interviewed, Nina Bremer, an young female engineer who has a passion for entrepreneurship. Bremer's engineering journey started at University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, Germany where she began the engineering study work program. She later continued her education with a master program called Entrepreneurship and Business Design at Chalmers in Sweden. During the course of which she was introduced to Umnandi. Umnandi is a nonprofit which aims to provide young South Africans with practical knowledge, tools and motivation to pursue entrepreneurial projects that benefit their communities. EWB-SA partners with Umnandi to help set up an event for young South Africans in Johannesburg during the Easter break.
Bremer feels “that entrepreneurship is one of the best and sustainable ways to create a future where everyone can be a part of a striving eeconomy… [where] people have the chance to build there own ventures and develop products or services they believe in.“ She was able to gain new skills through her involvement with Umnandi, from team and task management, to fundraising and creating social media content.
Although, she feels like she is in a minority as a female engineer, Bremer believes that being a woman allows her to have a different perspective on matters which gives her an advantage over her male colleagues in an innovative field such as engineering.
Her advice to aspiring engineers is that if they’re interested in something, they should go ahead and share it with others as they’ll be surprised by how many people are keen to learn about it and how they can empower others by doing so.
Read more about this passionate and enterprising young engineer, who through the use of her engineering skills and her entrepreneurial tools aims to empower others and to make a positive impact in any and every way she can.
1. Describe your engineering journey.
In the summer of 2013 I started my study work program at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, Germany. In collaboration with the company Continental I studied engineering and worked on several different projects revolving around tire manufacturing. The absolute highlight was a plant stay in Malaysia where I worked with a team of professionals and students to optimize extruder processes. After my graduation I worked full time for a few months in an engineering department where air springs were developed before I continued my education in Sweden with a master program called Entrepreneurship and Business Design at Chalmers.
2. What prompted your involvement with EWB-SA and describe what your work at Umnandi and hence EWB-SA entails?
Through this program I got introduced to Umnandi, a nonprofit founded in late 2016, that has the mission to provide young South Africans with practical knowledge, tools and motivation to pursue entrepreneurial projects that benefit their communities. The project was initiated by students who started the same master program one year earlier then me and had the same passion for promoting education and self-empowerment. In my role as one of the group leaders I’m responsible for managing the different activities and action steps that we as a team had to take to finance and organize workshops for young adults who want to learn about entrepreneurship in the upcoming Easter break. We were really fortuned to have EWB-SA as our partner who helped us a lot with setting up the event in Johannesburg.
3. What sparked your interest in community development?
I think that change needs to start locally and that entrepreneurship is one of the best and sustainable ways to create a future where everyone can be a part of a striving economy. It gives people the chance to build there own ventures and develop products or services that they believe in. I personally always had the desire to leave a positive footprint while walking this earth and Umnandi gives me the perfect platform to share the knowledge I gained in my masters program with all these beautiful young people attending the workshops which is a dream come true for me.
4. What do you feel you have acquired/gained (both for your professional and personal development) through your association with EWB-SA?
While pursuing the Umnandi project in collaboration with EWB-SA, I have learned a lot about myself and the way non-profits are working. It was interesting to see how I could contribute to the team and grow with them and to get a better picture what it means to put together workshops and set up the events. There were also a lot of challenges from creating a strong team to managing tasks and running a fundraiser as well as editing videos and creating social media content where I was able to acquire new skills.
5. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the engineering space?
In university as well as in a working environment I still feel like a minority as a female engineer, but I see this as a strength and opportunity. Engineering is all about thinking outside the box and finding creative and economic solutions to problems - that is why it is very helpful to be able to contribute with a another view and having a slightly different perspective then my male co-workers.
6. How do you maintain a balance between the work at your day job and your work at umnandi?
It was from time to time very difficult to find a healthy balance, but since I’m very passionate about Umnandi and I’m fortuned to work with an amazing supporting team and great partners like EWB-SA it was a lot of fun to put in the extra hours and see our vision come true.
7. EWB-SA and Umnandi are collaborating for an upcoming event, what does this event entail?
The workshops Umnandi will provide in collaboration with EWB-SA will teach fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship and get people into an empowering mindset. We will especially focus on the first part of creating a venture and challenge the participants thinking. There will be different challenges and content about developing ideas for future businesses, evaluating these ideas and how to take them to the next level.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring engineers?
If you have a subject that you are interested in you will be surprised how much knowledge you probably already have about the topic and how many people would be keen to learn about it. It is very rewarding to find a way to share this with others and empower them to do great things in the future.
Nina Bremer interviewed by Dhruti Dheda
Umnandi has partnered up with EWB-SA to bring an entrepreneurial workshop to Johannesburg this coming Easter break. Look out for it!