"…realise that in business (as in nature) everything is interconnected." - Stephanie Kulak
Born in Munich, Stephanie pursued a corporate career that reads as a benchmark of a CV. However all that changed as Stephanie headed to South Africa to pursue a career in Environmental Tourism and Conservation.
Tell us more about your career in the corporate working world? I studied Business Economics and Communication in Passau (Germany), I then worked for 14 years as a marketing consultant and loved my job. I journeyed from the Savings Banks to the World Exhibition EXPO 2000, to a Real Estate company and a PR agency. New challenges always triggered me turning my career into an exciting experience. Insights in different industries helped to think “out of the box” and to realise that in business (as in nature) everything is interconnected. (The FirstStep.me team takes notes)
The change up, why did you move from a corporate career to pursue a different career adventure? I had spent a semester as a student in South Africa and fell in love with the country and its wilderness. At the time I had no clue how a city person would live in the bush, but if there is a will there is a way, even if it took years. Eventually, I was brave enough to jump into the deep end, started a one-year-course and became a Safari Guide.
Tell us more about your roll at NJ MORE Field Guide College and why has the concept of becoming a Field Guide become so popular? After working as a Guide and Safari Manager I am now fortunate to combine my two careers. NJ MORE Field Guide College is a certified training provider and I am responsible for marketing, sales and the overall management.
The job of a Field Guide has for sure always been popular amongst South Africans, it then gained exposure to overseas students with the growth of the internet. People of all ages come to our courses, often looking for something that helps them connect with nature and themselves.
What are the dangers associated with being a field guide? The standards in the industry are incredibly high, including the safety aspect as well as the respect for nature. There are a lot of exams and practical experience tests that need to be passed before you can guide actively. Students learn how to read an animal’s behaviour, how to give them space or how to do a safe approach on foot, ideally with the animal not even knowing that the person is there. This is the key to deliver a safe safari for the animal, the guest and yourself.
Any awesome happenings whilst working as a Field Guide? One of many unforgettable encounters was a special herd of elephants. The matriarch had a brand new born calve. The herd approached the vehicle so closely that I could have touched the baby right next to me. The amazing thing was that it felt as if the mother wanted to proudly present her offspring to us and integrate us in the ceremony of all the adults supporting, greeting and touching the wobbly youngster. It was a magic vibe!
Coming from Germany, which is more hectic a day at Oktoberfest, handling a heavy corporate presentation or avoiding a wild animal? Great question! As there will be alpha-animals involved in all scenes, claiming their territory I would rate them as equally interesting. Important to stand your ground in all scenarios! (The FirstStep.me team takes more notes!)
Would you go back to the corporate world? In a way I am back – within the context of nature.
In terms of your overall career what have been your biggest highlights? Definitely starting up NJ MORE Field Guide College. I was handed over a laptop and we started from absolute scratch. It is a truly entrepreneurial venture and amazing to see it grow.
If you could name your own planet what would you call it? It would be ROOOAR III – as I loved a coalition of 3 male lions whilst working in Madikwe Game Reserve. And to me the call of a lion is the most amazing sound of the African bush.
Words of advice for the youth of the planet? Be authentic. Listen to your heart and work hard.