Read this post in 4 minutes
I dare you. Type in the words “lazy, entitled and bad with money” in Google, and the most common term that will pop up from the search results is Millennials. However considering Mark Zuckerberg’s most recent commencement speech at Harvard, better adjectives for our generation exist, that should probably make the news more often. They include, global citizen; change agent, educated, highly intellectual, well traveled, and, contrary to popular belief, money-conscious.
Meet Skhathisomusa Mthembu, a science nerd who represents the kind of millennial that the news will barely tell you exists.
Tell us a bit about your career, what you studied and why you chose your field.
I’m completing my MSc in physics at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am currently doing research at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland. I ended up in physics quite accidentally, having decided to do my undergrad in nuclear sciences and engineering at Wits because it seemed pretty cool at the time. After completing my undergrad with honors, I continued to do a masters degree, after which I plan to do a change in discipline and pursue a PhD in large data and machine learning – but the more social and legal aspects thereof.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
The highlight of my career has literally been the travel – and the stresses caused by it. It’s difficult to feel it now, because I have had my belongings stolen in multiple countries and trying to maneuver that is always a challenge. However, it’s great in retrospect considering how those adversaries make for great stories.
All that considered, the more places you go to and see, the better you understand yourself and your home – at least for me. Traveling has opened me up to other career options and other people, food and cultures, but mostly to myself.
What’s your favorite travel destination and why?
I do not have one. All destinations matter and I haven’t really found my favorite yet. I like Moscow because it’s a vibrant and lively city and is relatively inexpensive. I also really like the drive from Victoria Falls Airport (in Zimbabwe) to the town. It’s the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. There’s also the walking bridge in New York city, it used to be an old train track. That’s a beautiful walk. Those are places I can think of, but I haven’t a favorite yet. I actually don’t think I can ever, there’s too much beauty on earth.
Which book has played the strongest influence in the way you view the world as a modern young man?
That’s tough. Just one? I really like this children’s book called “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince) by Antione de Saint-Exupéry. It’s a magical little read with a very easily transferable analogy, a homage to being true to yourself while being open to change and influence. Although it’s a book for kids, I would recommend reading it once a year with the myriad of things we read. It’s a magical read.
Who/what are your biggest style influences?
My bank balance. That aside, I really like social media. I follow @siyabeyile on Instagram, he is stylish.
What can you never leave the house without?
I can never leave the house without sorting out my hair and choosing a pair of specs. I really enjoy wearing glasses so I own an unnecessarily large number of specs.
Throughout your life what’s the biggest lesson on money that you’ve learned and who did you learn if from?
The best money lesson I learned is two-part. Two of my aunts are very different financially. One changes cars frequently and has every Apple device, the other has a huge house and perfect credit. What I learned from them is partially observational – the former doesn’t own property and the latter is difficult to reach because she doesn’t own a smart phone – and partially a fear.
I don’t want to focus all my energy saving money and not enjoying it. I also want to have good long-term investments.
The lesson, I suppose, is to enjoy your money, but also know that it is a tool and should be used with intention.
What are your ambitions moving on from here?
I want to do things.
I’ve spent a long time studying and working with particles and mathematics. I want to work with people, or impact people. I went on a trip through the US to discover what I want to pursue a PhD in. The next step is to formulate it, and start working towards it, and hopefully I can do things that change people.
Favorite Fragrance: I don’t have one. I really liked Kelvin Klein’s Euphoria. That reminds me, I should buy it.
Dish: I love all food. Seriously. I think I love Indian food, as in food from India. Indian people do not compromise on flavor, and sometimes you need a break from the culinary vibrancy. But the food there. Good heavens. Heck, I had the best crisps in Jodhpur on the street for very little. That was probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted.
Accessory: Prescription glasses, the best marriage between fashion and function.