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Alumnus of the month: Thato Valencia Mmatli

Thato Valencia Mmatli studied at Linnaeus University with the aim to learn more about international leadership and management in organizations. Today she is working as a Industrial Psychologist in South Africa.

Name: Thato Valencia Mmatli
Current work and location: Industrial Psychologist in South Africa

What did you study at Linnaeus University and when did you graduate?

– I completed my second masters in Leadership and Management in International Contexts (Msc) at the Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, in Kalmar, just last year.

What industry do you work in or with?

– Currently, I work with the military as an Industrial Psychologist in South Africa with all arms of service. My degree from Linnaeus University paired really will with my background in Psychology and my passion for studying the different leadership models and roles in organizations.

What are the best highlights of your job and what are the biggest challenges?

– I really enjoy the opportunity to work with a variety of people from different backgrounds on a daily basis. I work with training, team building, psychological assessments etc. I really enjoy the different practical elements of my profession. It's one of the greatest things; every day is unique, I'm always doing something different and it's very stimulating. However, the biggest challenge would have to be the lengthy final decision making processes when working with a bigger team and wherein each step requires a chain of command. Although I understand the importance of this, you cannot just take immediate action which can be a challenge when time-sensitive issues are encountered and you must exercise restraint until final decisions are made.

How did you establish your career after your studies at Linnaeus University?

– After finishing my first master's degree in Industrial Psychology, I had completed a twelve month internship with the South African military. By doing so, this made it possible for me to come back into this work environment and contribute what I had learned from my studies at Linnaeus University. The modules and experiences I had at Linnaeus University are beneficial in my job on a daily basis. I can combine my knowledge on international leadership with Industrial Psychology aspects such as; identifying leadership potential, how best to train potential leaders and implementing leadership models in an organization.

How was your student life at Linnaeus University?

– The twelve month graduate program I completed at Linnaeus University was very enjoyable. Linnaeus University encourages a certain culture of togetherness. They encourage you to spend time together and not just in school-related events. You really create a family with your class. Before you know it you're in each other's homes and are building long-lasting relationships. Everyone is in somewhat the same situation as we all come alone to Linnaeus University from different parts of the world, so the university encourages you to support each other. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) also created great extramural activities. They really wanted to give us the full Swedish and international experience with many trips and cultural events. I remember the international cooking and culture nights which were a great environment to make friends. It was always interesting to learn the differences in food, culture and history of people who came from Spain, Poland or even Germany and I learned a lot that I hadn't known before.

How did you contact the labor market during study time?

– I remember attending the career nights which Linnaeus University hosted in Vaxjo and Kalmar as a rewarding and worthwhile experience. I still keep in touch with contacts I made there and I get great career advice from them. Having been able to stay in contact with professionals in the Swedish labor market has been a great experience. I have gotten many insights on the different expectations of Swedish employers for international applicants.

What is your relation to Linnaeus University today?

– Here in South Africa, we started a Sweden Alumni South African network, so anyone who has studied in Sweden and has returned home is welcome to get together and share ideas of how we can continue relations with our Swedish universities. We also discuss at length how we can assist outgoing students who will be beginning their studies in Sweden. At Linnaeus University, I made a lot of friends whom I am still close to and they know to reach out to me when they need assistance with matters relating to South Africa.

Is there anything else you would like to mention for our readers?

– If you are currently studying at Linnaeus University, enjoy your time there. Open yourself up to as many experiences as possible. Don't be afraid to learn about the world or resolve to sticking to the same routine and experiences. Linnaeus University is a global environment open to all, so make friends with people who are different to you so that you get the best learning experience. This will allow you to grow personally as well as academically. Also, if you are alumni and reading this, it's important for us to keep supporting not just each other but current students who are abroad. In this way, we can truly create a global network between our countries and foster a continuous relationship with our universities in Sweden.

Can you give three items of career advice?

  1. My first item of advice are aimed at students with an interest in my profession of Industrial Psychology. I recommend that from your very first year of psychology, get the best possible grades in all of your classes. There is a large number of undergraduate students who show an interest in psychology and everyone will be competing to get accepted in postgraduate school.
  2. Do your research on the different types of careers available from your degree. There rarely is a case where only one career is available from any one degree. Start researching and focus your practical and theoretical studies on the niche which suits you best.
  3.  The best thing you can ever do for yourself, is not to put too much pressure on discovering your 'true passion'. You will only figure that out the more that you study and the more that you expose yourself to new experiences. Do volunteer work, learnerships, vocational work over the holidays. If you have more experiences and exposure then the revelation of your passion will come easier.