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Award-winning ecological engineer, Yolandi Schoeman, shares top tips for biotech success

Written by Staff Writer

March 15, 2021

By Charndré Emma Kippie


Yolandi Schoeman is an internationally acclaimed transformation leader in the ecological engineering space, and anchor of the Biohacker Show. She currently works as an External Lecturer and Examiner at IIEMSA (formerly Monash South Africa), and is the founder of various biotechnology companies, such as Baopod and Baoberry, which recently attained the bronze award in the 2019 Eco-Logic Awards, for the Waste Management and Recycling category, as well as the Catalyser Award at the 2019 SEED Awards. As an award-winning company, Baoberry provides ecological engineering and biotechnology services and products to NGO’s, governmental organisations, the private sector and to the public, locally and globally.

Today, Yolandi is a Mail and Guardian 200 Young South African 2015 Alumnus, has double Masters degrees, and is currently completing a Doctorate in Environmental Management and in Economic and Management Sciences, at North-West University. She has created multiple ecological, engineering, and biotechnology innovations that concentrate on some of South Africa’s most testing environmental issues in a sustainable way and promotes clean living, such as Awetbox, BaoSphere and Aqueouspheres.


As an internationally recognised innovator and change leader in ecological engineering, what keeps you motivated to do the work that you do?

What keeps me motivated is seeing the positive changes in human behaviour around sustainability and ecological engineering once people are inspired to become more and do more for the environment and their community and realise that they are part of the natural environment.

I enjoy working on degraded ecosystems and sustainability challenges, to change them into functional and bio-intelligent ecosystems and solutions that promote biodiversity. I am also motivated by bioeconomy and planetary health. I have always believed that no sustainability challenge is impossible to solve when one dares to believe.


What are your three top tips for being successful in your field of expertise?

  • Never doubt yourself and acknowledge that when you do fail it serves as a learning opportunity to grow . If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than who you are.
  • Don’t underestimate the power that lies within you to inspire others to do good and to help them become the best versions of themselves.
  • Do not ignore where the world is going regarding technological advancement and planetary health needs. You cannot solve future challenges with a limited mindset and ignoring the needs of tomorrow.


What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when I am actually doing my research and implementing solutions in the natural environment, and experiencing the immense feedback energy and inspiration from nature.


What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?

Major obstacles I’ve faced have been a limited support network to further my career, and a mentally exhaustive Ph.D. that I am trying to complete. There is also pressure to be a successful entrepreneur, seeking and creating opportunities for growth, growing a sustainable business in challenging economic conditions, and to make sure I still deliver on uncompromised opportunities and education for my family.

As a woman, it was particularly challenging for me to balance work, my ambition, and family life, and I steered right into burnout. As a woman with ambition, it was effortless to think that you are not good enough. There are just so many facets that require your undivided attention that further leads to overcommitment in studies and business ventures, which results in immense pressure to succeed and become ‘something’.

To overcome the obstacles I started to really focus on doing what I enjoyed the most and what I felt my ‘why’ was. I changed my business direction according to my ‘why’ and made sure everything I did was geared towards it.


What advice do you have for women who aspire to work in your field?

Ecological engineering and planetary health will just become more significant in the future. It is a field that is extremely rewarding and provides a vast range of opportunities for women, in fields such as: biotechnology, artificial intelligence, sustainability telecoupling, data science and big data, blockchain science and engineering, machine learning, water-food-energy nexus, and bioeconomy.

This field also helps to develop solutions, services, and products to develop bio-intelligent ecosystems which promote planetary health on a global level.


Who are you inspired by and why?
My mother has been a significant inspiration for me. She raised me to believe that nothing was impossible, and her determination to succeed in her career amidst many obstacles was significant motivation for me. She never accepted failure and regarded failure as learning curves – which made her more resilient.


Have you perhaps read any life-changing books that have inspired your work ethic?

A life-changing, and very inspirational book at the top of my list, is definitely The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma: a book that not only inspires one towards greater courage, abundance, joy and balance, but also inspires one to become a teacher in your own area of expertise, to encourage others to live with greater courage, and become the best version of themselves.


Do you have a life mantra that motivates you every day?
‘Your real strength comes from being the best you you can be’ – a life mantra that I live entirely by each day, and reminds me that you already have everything inside of you to succeed.


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