Nadine Nefdt was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa – one of eleven children to an extended family. She began her journey with Architectural Studies at the University of Cape Town, then emigrated to Melbourne with her mum, stepdad and three other siblings. Nadine became the first in her immediate family to graduate from university, completing her Bachelor of Environments, majoring in Civil Engineering and is now currently studying for her Masters in Civil Engineering, whilst simultaneously working full-time at a large construction company.
Strong. Smart. Woman. We are so inspired by Nadine’s achievements, and sat down with her to learn a little more about her big dreams – including those she has for her community.
KK: Did you always have a dream to attend university and become a Civil Engineer?
NN: I always had a dream to attend university, although it was not as an engineer. Growing up, I never knew what engineers were or what their job entailed. My dream career also changed every other week depending on what my interest at the time was, from rocket scientist to paediatric surgeon. So for a long time, I was focused on just doing well at school and selecting subjects which would broaden my skillset.
My interest in engineering specifically, started in primary school while doing a subject called “Technology” where every term we would get a new project to work on. I really enjoyed the practical element to it that was missing in all my other subjects. This was further developed when I learnt technical drawings in high school and really sparked my passion for both design and construction.
KK: What or who inspired you to take the leap to pursue your dreams?
NN: When I think about who inspired me along the way, I’d say my parents. They have been undoubtedly my biggest cheerleaders. My dad once saw a design project I had worked on in school and from that moment on he would always call me his “structural engineer” and he would show it off to anyone willing to listen. That positive affirmation was encouraging even though the profession was considered to be male-dominated and a not “feminine”. My parents also sacrificed a lot for me to emigrate to Australia and study further, which I am forever grateful for.
As for my dreams for my community, I always felt an obligation and civic duty to use my own skills to better those around me, to empower and inspire others and make a difference.
KK: What are your dreams for your community? How do you want to provide much- needed housing for them?
NN: At the moment in some parts of South Africa, many people don’t have a permanent and stable place to call home and support their family. So disadvantaged communities tend to build these homes out of iron sheet metal, leftover timber chipboard and unsuitable building materials so that they have a roof over their heads. So in the event of extreme weather and fires, these communities are in danger of losing their homes along with everything they own. Also, many of these homes don’t have proper sanitation, water or electrical connections, so their basic needs are not being met either.
So what I would like to do is team up with people from multiple disciplines across the industry and put together a collaborative mobile construction non-for-profit. With the aim to partner with government and other local NGOs to tackle this crisis, with the mission to uplift these communities and build them permanent good quality and stable homes that exceed their basic needs and a place they can be proud of. Get them involved in the process so that they learn the skill set needed for ongoing maintenance and be a part of building up the community that surrounds them.
KK: Do you practise dreaming? If so, how long have you been practising dreaming for?
NN: Yes, I do. I have been practising it on and off throughout my life so far. However, I have become more determined and frequent with my dreaming and goal-setting, with regular check-ins with myself and communicating them to others. I am a believer in speaking of your dreams to the world and accepting advice and guidance from mentors and peers to help them become a reality.
KK: What advice would you give to someone else who is looking to pursue a dream they have?
NN: My advice to anyone reaching for their dreams is never to back down. No matter how big an idea may be, every small step towards it counts. There will be moments of self-doubt and push back, but those are the perfect times to press reset, reflect, learn and move forward. There are many pathways to get to the same destination. Remember that you are not alone and you should draw on those around you for encouragement and support, continually nurturing those relationships as you go along.
We are thrilled to have Nadine part of the kikki.K ‘There She Is’ campaign. To learn more about the campaign, and shop our gorgeous new collection, visit here.