My story : Thembisile Mabele

“Allow for many paths to your goal. Do not fixate on one path because you will likely give up when that path is blocked.”— Po Bronson

Growing up, I was led to believe that to be successful; our careers should follow a logical and predictable path. Our well-meaning parents, teachers and advisors strongly encouraged us to pick a lane; from there, we should work hard and advance over the years. I have always liked the idea of multiple paths, but I have always feared that people would question my true passion. When I joined the Girls Fly Africa (GFA) Skills Development Program (SDP) in 2021, they made me realise that it was okay for me to have multiple paths, and that’s what I needed to hear at that point to get me moving.

My name is Thembisile Mabele; I was born in Newcastle and grew up in Durban. I am a commercial Remote Pilot Aircraft System (RPAS), known as a Drone Pilot, RPAS Maintenance technician and Beyond Visual line of sight (BVLOS) rated. I am also passionate about robotics, having gone through a course called Robotics Essential and being an aviation enthusiast. I am currently working as a drone pilot in a security and surveillance company and doing my second year in BCom Entrepreneurship.

My passion for aviation led me to pursue a Private Pilot license (PPL). While researching funding options, I discovered GFA. Although they did not offer support for traditional aviation bursaries, I continued to follow their activities. Eventually, I found an opportunity to participate in the UNICEF-supported Drone technology program and applied. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the program.

During the first week of the program, I had a rejuvenating experience. I learned that I can be anything I want without feeling apologetic about it. The sisterhood inspired me to be myself and not live in fear of others’ opinions. I am motivated to grow as an individual and have been challenging myself to overcome my fears. I remind myself daily of my favourite quote by Jack Canfield, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”During the week, we were also introduced to the application of Drone technology and 3D modelling. I went on to obtain my BVLOS rating through the organisation. I went on to volunteer for their aviation and space camp to pay it forward and inspire them with my story. I am where I am today because of the GFA sisterhood “Women celebrate women”. And I want to say to the youth: 

  1. It is okay to follow a non-linear path. That is when you discover possibilities and careers that you never knew existed. I Can Fly Drones and fix drones, and I am competent in Arduino and proven ABB Robotics & Arduino Robotics.
  2. Volunteer. That is how you can build networks; who knows, that is where you can also meet your prospective employer.
  3. Be open to learning and change. You might have been set on what you would like to do, which is good because then you focus but also be flexible to deviate and explore. There is no such thing as useless skills. All skills can be transferrable.
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