(by Craig Tinashe, Wetskills Foundation)
I find myself on a Deutsche Bahn train back to Den Haag, listening to the timeless Jazz masterpiece Ezra Ngcukana’s ‘You Think You Know Me‘. It’s a fitting soundtrack to reflect upon the whirlwind of the last few days.
As some may know, I recently embarked on a new adventure as the Southern Africa Regional Manager for the Wetskills Foundation, supported by the Netherlands Water Partnership under the Young Expert Programmes (YEP) and local host Department of Water and Sanitation of South Africa. This incredible program has produced over a thousand professionals in the last decade, and I’m fortunate to be part of Batch #30.
The YEP journey commenced on October 30, 2023, with a unique kick-off session. On this day, not only did I delve into the program’s offerings, but I also defended my PhD thesis in an online VIVA. The YEP kindly facilitated this dual experience at the Dutch Royal Institute of Engineers, making it seamless and enjoyable. Passing my VIVA marked the completion of my Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, with graduation scheduled for December.
Joining the group of 24 Dutch and International YEPers after the adrenaline had subsided, we kicked off our training with a Dutch-style lunch. The subsequent days involved personal development trajectories, exploring our Myers-Briggs personality types, and drafting career plans. As our trainer wisely put it, “Paper is patient”, urging us to turn goals into actionable plans.
Transitioning to organisation-specific training, Wetskills, in my case. I enjoyed visiting the Wetskills and Water Footprint Implementation offices (for one of the WetsNext projects I will work on) with Johan, the Managing Director. It was there that I met the fantastic teams in The Hague. Later, we joined the Wetskills participants in Rotterdam who were actively involved in the Wetskills Amsterdam event. The evening unfolded with drinks, dinner, and enriching conversations. The subsequent day in Rotterdam was spent collaborating with Wetskills participants, assisting them in developing their intriguing cases and gaining insights into their perspectives on the event. Engaging with their cases and perspectives was both enlightening and enjoyable.
Teambuilding, intercultural workshops, and ice skating followed in Leidschendam. These sessions encouraged uncomfortable conversations, fostering insights into approaching diverse environments. Ice skating taught us the value of teamwork, confidence-building, and the inevitability of falling at first – a lesson in resilience.
Participating in the Aqua-tech Amsterdam Water Week (AAIWW) added a significant layer to our journey. I facilitated an interactive training session, detailed in this link. During this event, I was pleased to meet the Deputy Director General of the South African Department of Water and Sanitation, Ms. Ntabiseng Fundakubi. Her impactful speech at the closing ceremony resonated with me, and I eagerly anticipate engaging in further discussions about the crucial issues she raised.
Furthermore, I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Andrews, my favourite person from the Department of Water and Sanitation. Her warmth and wisdom made our interactions genuinely memorable. Networking events, dinners, and a vibrant Blue Drinks event further enhanced our time in Amsterdam. We danced to everything from Reggaeton to Amapiano, creating lasting memories and connections.
My new role involves project management and interactions with senior stakeholders, a prospect that both excites and scares me. Fortunately, the YEP program anticipated this need, offering optional courses in project management and communication in challenging situations. I eagerly embraced both and plan to pursue a Project Management Professional (PMP) qualification within my YEP personal development plan and budget.
The final week centred on the nexus carousel (Water x Agrofood x Energy), delving into technical aspects while emphasising holistic project approaches. Practical examples, like a Botswana case study, enriched our learning. The ‘Train the Trainer’ session equipped me with valuable training techniques for future Wetskills events. Speaking of which, I invite you to join us at our upcoming events in South Africa. You can find more information about the Durban Wetskills event in 2024 and other locations worldwide by visiting this link: Wetskills Events. We look forward to your participation!
Our journey concluded with a kickout session on November 17, marked by a spirited group presentation. Beyond the training content, one of the most rewarding aspects of this experience was the chance to connect with like-minded professionals from around the globe. Among them was my roommate, Heriony, who astonishingly mastered English in just four months, becoming not only proficient but genuinely delightful. His passion and dedication to his work and family left an indelible impression on me. In addition to Heriony, I forged meaningful friendships and embarked on numerous adventures with Bipasha, Duc Anh, Sharon, Shishir, and Shubham. Laughter echoed in the company of Lisanne, Nierika, Marleen, Marijke, Bas, Matthias, Brian, Timothy, and Joppe. Stimulating conversations flowed with Jakob, Jenny, Joren, Patrick, Chiptoek, Albetine, Simeone, and Rizik. The breakfast and dinner chats with Elisabeth, Rachel, and Lavender added a touch of warmth to our days.
A sense of melancholy lingers as I bid farewell to YEP Batch #30. Yet, parting carries a tinge of sweetness, for we are bound to cross paths again, hopefully amidst warmer and drier skies.
As I look forward to the exciting prospects that lie ahead, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the NWP, especially Jelmer and Renske, and the Wetskills Foundation for making this transformative journey possible and enjoyable. Here’s to the future and the adventures it holds!