Retsepile Sello, BASc '18, Mining Engineering

Retsepile Sello
“I envision a world where everyone can chase their dreams despite their gender, race or economic background.”

My name is Retsepile Sello. I am a MasterCard Foundation Scholar from Lesotho. In my four years of UBC Engineering, I found connections by sharing my unique stories with fellow students, professors and colleagues. As part of discovering my role in mining, I completed two memorable internships with metallurgical and gold mining companies in South Africa. I also designed a program that aims to minimize fatal accidents in underground mines. Outside mining, I explored my passion for youth-development by co-founding a high school mentorship program aimed to encourage women participation in STEM. However, it was the work-learn jobs, the volunteering and the clubs’ leadership roles that made my journey memorable. These provided spaces for me to rest and to reflect when my engineering courses became a bit challenging. I now feel prepared to start my career. I am also excited about all the opportunities available for me to change the world.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

Celebrating the smallest achievements made my time at UBC most memorable. Whether it was getting together with friends to share our successes and milestones or taking myself out for ice-cream after turning in an assignment, it is definitely these moments that I will always cherish.

What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?

My experience in engineering was both exciting and challenging. I enjoyed working on projects with my classmates, enduring class presentations anxiety and having a safe space to fail and keep trying. The biggest turning point for me was when I realized that many people were rooting for me to succeed: the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program community, my professors, my family and my friends. This realization helped me to get back up every time I fell, and I learned that with the right people in your circles, this life is not as hard as it seems.

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?

I applied the technical skills that I learned at UBC during my first internship where I worked in a Biotechnology lab executing and evaluating flowsheets for bio-leaching poly-metallic concentrates. I also got to explore my interest in rock mechanics in my second internship with an underground gold mine where I assessed rock support to uphold the company’s safety standards. As for the invaluable personal-development skills such as time management that I learned, I am applying them in all areas of my professional life and I plan to keep learning and re-learning more skills even after my time at UBC.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

If you are considering engineering, go for it. Well, you might want to speak with the senior students, faculty and people in industry to better understand what you are getting into. Otherwise, engineering school was not as hard as I thought it would be and I believe anyone with a passion for it can do it. When you do decide to enroll, resist every temptation to do all your work alone. Engineering is a journey best enjoyed together and you will learn different approaches to problem-solving by engaging with your classmates.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration from world problems. The two causes that currently keep me up late at night are challenges that women face in male-dominated industries and the impact of mining on the environment and on society. Every time I read stories on these issues, I find new strength to strive towards combating them. For instance, I had closed the chapter on my Mines Safety Research project after submitting it for Capstone, until I read about five miners who recently died in a mining accident. This made me re-open that work and I will be working all summer to get it published. I have also been invited to present it at the Mining and Exploration International Conference and am starting to think safety may be the key focus of my career.

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

In the short-term, I plan to work for an underground mine and continue researching and finding ways to make mines safer for workers. This, with other measures, will help change the negative perceptions that communities hold about mining. My long-term goals include helping to draw policies and guidelines that prioritize shared-value and protect the environment, especially for mines in developing countries. It is also a dream of mine to inspire more women to pursue careers in STEM; I will do this by sharing my story and by supporting girls, especially those from marginalized backgrounds like myself, in any way possible. This is because I envision a world where everyone can chase their dreams despite their gender, race or economic background.