'My aim is to one day start a business that sells innovative biological solutions to environmental problems....'
Bachelor of Commerce in Strategy and Entrepreneurship and a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology
Studying towards a Master of Science in Biotechnology
Steve had a clear idea of what he wants to do in his career and took on a double degree to set himself up for it.
'My aim is to one day start a business that sells innovative biological solutions to environmental problems. My BCom will help me to achieve that, and my BSc will provide the industry knowledge. New Zealand has a miniature biotechnology scene, so there is plenty of opportunity for those with the right skills to help it grow.’
Steve has long been fascinated by biology, and after deciding it was an area he wanted to work in long-term, he realised he needed to study the subject at a higher level.
’The labs were definitely the best part of my Bachelor’s in Science. I have always preferred learning by doing things practically, and the hands-on experience gained in the lab is invaluable. Science can be an intimidating field for a prospective student, but I have found that with some perseverance it is astounding how much you can learn with just a little practice and how much easier it gets as you go.’
Studying Strategy and Entrepreneurship has also been rewarding for Steve.
'A course I studied, Science and Entrepreneurship in New Zealand, provided me with the opportunity to participate in Startup Weekend 2015. Our team won first place with our idea, and I gained a valuable network and business opportunity from the experience. Had I not taken this course, I would have had no idea about the up-and-coming business incubator scene happening right here in Christchurch.'
‘I was also lucky enough to participate in the MGMT228 trip to China – that was an incredible experience and one that I would recommend to any student looking into a BCom.’
Originally from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Steve attended high school in Ashburton and Christchurch, before spending two years in Australia working and, briefly, attending university.
'The culture at university there was all business and no fun,' he says. 'At UC the environment is more local and friendly, and the opportunities here are more accessible than in larger universities. The campus is probably my favourite part – plenty of trees, shade, warm spaces in the library, cafés and food all over the place, and I can bike here in 15 minutes. UC really makes you feel welcome, especially in winter.'
That friendly environment at UC extends to the learning experience as well, and Steve's advice to other students is to take an active interest in what you study.
'Put your hand up in class, answer the questions, interact with people. If you've been at uni all day and find that you haven't spoken a word out loud, you need to start engaging!'
Outside university, Steve worked at the Christchurch YMCA Adventure Centre as a team leader and instructor for rock climbing and archery, two of his favourite sports.
'I spent as much time as I could climbing in the gym or out in the Port Hills,' he says. 'I also got out several times a year to go hunting and tramping, and I joined a few uni clubs to make the most of the South Island outdoors.’
After graduating with his double degree, Steve worked as an industrial abseiler in the Kaikōura rebuild before heading off to travel and work overseas. After a couple of years of volunteering in Nicaragua and working across Canada in the mining and rope access industries, he felt it was time to return home and continue his studies.
‘I felt that if I wanted to make a difference to New Zealand in the long run, I should come back to complete a postgraduate degree so that I could make a strong start in the field.
‘So far it has been quite a journey – returning to study after 3 years was definitely daunting, but after completing my MSc Part I in 2020 I found myself involved in a research project looking into protecting the microbiome of Okarito kiwi, the rarest of the kiwi species. Spending the summer visiting rowi chicks at Willowbank has definitely been a highlight!
‘UC has only improved in my time away. Coming back to the new buildings, labs, and study spaces has been amazing. While most of my research has been conducted at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in Lincoln, having access to the facilities, courses, and especially the lab community at UC has been incredibly helpful.
‘My advice to new students at UC – don’t stress about picking your career path now. Make a start where you feel comfortable, and when you feel you need to change things up, be brave enough to do so – opportunities will come up when you least expect them!’