An exclusive interview with Selma Usiku an Exploration Geologist

Selma Usiku is an Exploration Geologist for Debmarine Namibia, Namibia’s leading marine diamond recovery company, globally acclaimed for its groundbreaking work in marine diamond exploration and cutting-edge technology.

Recently, Selma was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of Eco Atlantic Oil & Gas, an independent oil and gas exploration company with strategic acreage interests in Namibia, South Africa and Guyana.

Before embarking on her remarkable journey in the diamond exploration and recovery sector in October 2021, Selma forged a path of excellence within the Oil and Gas industry. She served as a Senior Exploration Geologist at Eco Atlantic and contributed her expertise as a Petroleum Exploration Geologist with Azinam, specializing in the offshore Atlantic Margin of South West Africa. Her journey in the field began in 2015 when she joined Azinam after a three-year stint at the renowned Brazilian Oil and Gas Company HRT.

She holds an MSc in Petroleum Geosciences from Royal Holloway University of London and a BSc in Geology and Environmental Sciences from Rhodes University, South Africa.

Beyond her thriving career, Selma wears multiple hats. She is a devoted mother, a captivating voice -over artist, and a fitness enthusiast. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Selma’s presence extended into the world of media where she hosted the weekly live-television talk show, Tupopyeni, for 12 years.

In recognition of her exceptional contributions to the energy sector in Africa, Selma was honoured with the prestigious Global Women Petroleum & Energy Club Award for Excellence in Africa in 2018. This esteemed accolade is presented annually to an individual who not only demonstrates excellence in Africa’s oil and gas industry but also serves as a role model for young women aspiring to make their mark in this dynamic field.

Can you kindly tell us about your background?

I was born and raised in Windhoek. I am the eldest of 3 children and I spent the first 5 years of my life creating wild adventures and mischief in the dusty mountains of Dobra before attending primary school in the “city”. My parents say I was a “vibrant and extremely inquisitive little girl, who loved speaking Afrikaans and insisted on having photoshoots especially when my hair was done!

Has family always been important to you?

Without a doubt! The impact of a strong family structure cannot be underestimated. It’s been the most significant factor in shaping who I am today. I consider myself truly blessed to have had a joyful and mostly carefree childhood. Knowing you come from a nurturing home where family values like respect, hard work and discipline were not just imparted but lived out, provides an invaluable cornerstone. No family is perfect, but their unity is their strength.

Was the importance of family always emphasized in your family?

I never underestimate the exceptional role my parents have played in raising both me and my siblings. Even as an adult and a working mother today, I’ve come to understand that I would have missed out on countless opportunities were it not for the steadfast support of my family. They have remained the bedrock of my life, and I am profoundly thankful for their enduring presence and influence, especially during tough times.

And about your educational background, was geology always your first choice of study?

I’ve always had a natural inclination for Earth Sciences. The great outdoors intrigue me and given that Namibia is a veritable paradise for geologists, pursuing this field was an obvious choice for me! As with many geoscientists of my generation, we headed the call of our Founding Father, Dr Sam Nujoma, for Namibian youth to pursue careers in science & engineering!

What exactly is Petroleum Geosciences?

Petroleum geoscience is a branch of geology and geophysics that focuses on the exploration and extraction of petroleum/hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) resources beneath the Earth’s surface. It involves the use of various techniques and methods, including seismic imaging, well logging, and geological analysis, to assess the potential for finding and producing oil and gas reservoirs.

You did your MSc in London; do you mind sharing that experience with us?

The decision to return to full-time study after six years of professional work, to undertake a highly comprehensive postgraduate program in a foreign land, and to do so within a span of just one year, demanded a reservoir of determination I hadn’t previously recognized within myself! Leaving my young son behind was a significant personal sacrifice, but it also yielded the priceless reward of studying alongside a diverse group of students hailing from all corners of the world. The year in London cemented my love for science & exploration and also made me appreciate the little things back home, like regular sunlight, small talk in public transport, real beef and my hair dresser!

You have 2 degrees and sit on several boards. What drives Ms Usiku to such levels of excellence?

I attribute my drive for excellence to a few key reasons.

• I am reminded of a quote by Vince Lombardi that says: “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.” From the simplest tasks to the most complex projects, each job you complete is like a self-portrait, revealing your values, work ethic, and commitment to excellence.

• The aim is not always to get things done perfectly but to improve with each new goal I set for myself. Remaining teachable keeps me grounded and proactive in seeking out opportunities to do better.

• The example my parents have set, that is to be in constant pursuit of personal growth in whatever form and grasping every opportunity presented to serve excellently. They started their careers in the nursing and teaching professions but through hard work and sacrifice, they forged a journey dedicated to personal growth and tireless service in every capacity they served until their retirement.

• I am blessed to be surrounded by very talented, intelligent, purpose driven individuals (women in particular). I am extremely conscience of the positive influence they have had on my journey.

Petroleum (Energy) is quiet the sector in Namibia these days, what can you tell us about the developments that are happening in Namibia right now?

The Namibian Government together with a number of independent hydrocarbon explorers have worked tirelessly for over 5 decades and often under very difficult economic situation to realize the country’s hydrocarbon potential. The race to find oil goes far beyond just spending big dollars because Namibia like many other African countries, is experiencing rapid economic growth and urbanization. To sustain this growth and improve living standards, reliable and affordable energy is essential.

Energy security ensures a stable energy supply for industries, businesses, and homes. Simultaneously, Namibia is actively exploring the development of green hydrogen as a potential source of renewable energy and a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we have come to understand the need for a diversified energy mix that includes renewables in order to address the countries current energy challenges and future opportunities. So with the current vision, Namibia is well positioned to not only achieve its own sustainable energy goals, but also has the potential to become one of the main renewable energy hubs on the African continent and world-wide. I am very excited to see what the future holds!

In recognition of your exceptional contributions to the energy sector in Africa, you were honoured with the prestigious Global Women

Petroleum & Energy Club Award for Excellence in Africa in 2018. What does that mean to you?

This award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates excellence in Africa’s oil & gas sector and is a role model for young women looking to enter the industry. It was an immense privilege and a deeply motivating experience to see one’s contributions acknowledged, particularly in a field traditionally dominated by men.

It’s truly humbling to think that, in my own modest way, I’ve helped validate the dreams of young African girls who aspire to shatter barriers!” It also served as a reminder of my boundless potential to accomplish anything I set my mind to.

Your presence extends into the world of media where you hosted the weekly live-television talk show, Tupopyeni, for 12 years. What did you learn from that?

Live productions can be very daunting and stressful but I learned that making the effort to truly connect with the audience or panelists /production team before the show is key! A vibrant and positive atmosphere as well as mutual respect dictates the momentum for the rest of the show. A lesson I have taken with me into the corporate world!

• Shows like Tupopyeni are powerful agents for change. Tupopyeni was and continues to be a mirror for the Namibian nation, reflecting all our realities. The wonderful inspiring realities that restore hope to families and communities as well as the shocking and unpleasant realities that require us to introspect, take a stand and make a change.
So, when I sat in that chair every Tuesday for 12 years, my head was held high because it’s just another way I was able to live a life of purpose!

• Authenticity is key. I don’t think anyone (myself included) can consistently reach their full potential while being anything other than who they really are.

Will you always be involved in media?

Regrettably, my current professional obligations do not permit me the leisure to fully indulge in the world media production.

Nevertheless, I maintain an active involvement in the realm of voiceover work and public speaking engagements as the need arises. I have made a commitment to myself to persistently nurture and harness this innate talent in any and all forthcoming endeavours I may find myself.

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