An annual event that celebrates the incredible contributions of women engineers worldwide, International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) marks its 11th anniversary in 2024 under the theme of #Enhancedbyengineering. This year, INWED celebrates women engineers who have enhanced lives and livelihoods through their work. These remarkable individuals contribute to building a brighter future for all of us.

Alme du Plessis, Integration Manager for Greater Africa

Alme’s journey began with a degree in Chemical Engineering, followed by honours in Technology Management. As she gained valuable experience, she became a registered professional engineer with ECSA and earned Project Management Professional certification from the PMI. Last year, she completed her MBA at GIBS, further enriching her skillset.

Initially, Alme ventured into optimising processes within the banking sector before transitioning to the oil and gas industry, where she spent five dynamic years as both an engineer and project manager across various African regions. During her MBA studies, she embraced a career shift to Zutari, taking on the role of Integration Manager for Greater Africa. “I have not looked back since.” she proudly adds.

“The beauty of engineering lies in its ability to open doors to different countries, industries, and applications, allowing us to contribute our skills and expertise to solve complex problems and make meaningful impacts wherever we go, even beyond the engineering profession. I believe that engineering transcends boundaries, whether they be geographical, cultural, or gender related. It is a universal language that unites people across diverse backgrounds and enables collaboration on a global scale,” comments Alme.

“At Zutari, diversity and inclusion are tremendous strengths within the greater Africa team. Our team reflects the rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and perspectives across the continent. We prioritise creating an inclusive environment where every idea is valued. Through open dialogue and trust, we harness the power of diversity to drive success within the African continent,” she adds.

Alme reiterates the relevance of the 2024 INWED theme in that women bring fresh perspectives to the table, sparking innovation and creativity in engineering projects. With their ability to collaborate, they ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard and valued, leading to more vital teamwork and better results.

For girls wanting to embark on a similar career, Alme urges them to remember the words of the legendary astronaut Sally Ride: “You cannot be what you cannot see.” She adds that they have the platform to dare to be visible and bold, and step beyond the shadows to the forefront.

She concludes by stating that “the world needs more women engineers and leaders in the various industries. Engineering is a field that thrives on diversity, creativity, and innovation, and will open doors and shape your future in ways you cannot even imagine. So, do not be afraid to dream big, to challenge the status quo, and to blaze your own trail.”

Florida Simiyu, Professional Mechanical Engineer

Florida completed her undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nairobi with first-class honours. She received a scholarship from New Zealand’s foreign aid programme to pursue a master’s in energy, with a focus on geothermal energy. She joined Zutari in 2021 as a Mechanical Engineer, continuing to build on her diverse experience.

Her role sees her specialising in building services, focusing on designs, specifications, and construction supervision. Some exciting projects she has worked on include the ventilation and air conditioning design and supervision for Olkaria 1 Additional Unit 6 in Naivasha, Kenya, a water sustainability project for the University of Cape Town, and a fire infrastructure upgrade for Diageo, Uganda.

“What I enjoy most about each project is the opportunity to collaborate with diverse teams, including architects, engineers, contractors, and client teams. This teamwork not only enhances the project’s success but also enriches the professional experience,” says Florida.

She adds that her career path demonstrates she is unafraid of change or seizing new opportunities, which is how she perceives engineering. “Engineering is about providing solutions to constantly evolving problems. Each project we work on is unique, ensuring that no two projects are ever the same. This means we are continually faced with new challenges and strategies, keeping our minds engaged and active.”

Florida says women can contribute significantly to the 2024 INWED theme by showcasing the transformative power of engineering and the vital role that diverse perspectives play in driving progress and innovation. “Engineering is a fun and diverse field, offering countless opportunities to contribute to various practices.”

She encourages young girls to focus on developing their values, confidence, and authenticity, as these traits are key to making a significant impact in the industry. It is important to seek out internships and mentorship opportunities and to remain eager for knowledge while navigating your career path. “Do not be afraid to make bold moves and embrace challenges along the way,” concludes Florida.

Jabu Nhlapo, Engineering Manager (Resources)

Jabu has a BSc (Honours) in mechanical engineering and obtained her MBA in 2020. She has 16 years’ industry experience, 11 at global engineering firms. Her role is to provide technical leadership to the engineering team. This involves organising the engineering on large projects and ensuring that all the engineering discipline designs are properly integrated and coordinated.

“Africa is a resource-rich continent but there is a gap in the availability of infrastructure and technology to support economic growth. This scenario presents great opportunities for professionals like me to become involved in the sustainable development of our continent,” comments Jabu.

“I am passionate about engineering because it gives me a platform to contribute to the growth and development of the African continent through large infrastructure projects. I have been privileged to be involved in some incredible projects that have changed and uplifted communities,” she adds.

Jabu emphasises the importance of embracing diversity in the workplace. She believes it is crucial to welcome people from different backgrounds and cultures and with various voices. Doing so allows a business to attract the best skills and talent. She stresses that the quality of future professionals is partially determined by our willingness to impart knowledge and skills.

Her message to young girls is to consider the great opportunities in technical professional fields. There are also new emerging fields and disciplines due to rapid changes in technology. This presents growing opportunities that can be leveraged.

“Make a deliberate effort to educate and expose yourself through the resources you have available to you. Find opportunities to job shadow and intern to further develop your understanding of the world of work you will ultimately enter into,” she advises.

Jacqueline Floor, Lead Process Engineer

Jacqueline obtained her chemical engineering degree from the University of Pretoria. Concurrently, she worked in the ferrochrome smelting industry for two years while pursuing her honours in metallurgical engineering. Following this, she spent 13 years in the petrochemical industry, initially serving as a plant support engineer at Sasol before transitioning to a role in projects and process improvement.

Recently she took on the role of Lead Process Engineer at Zutari where she oversees a team of six skilled professionals dedicated to diverse projects spanning multiple countries. Her responsibilities encompass the entire project lifecycle, from concept to detailed engineering design, all while collaborating closely with other disciplines such as mechanical engineering. Each project presents its unique challenges, ensuring an engaging and ever-growing journey for all.

“In the vast field of engineering, there are countless avenues to discover where you truly belong, and you will surely find your happy place. I am passionate about engineering because it ticks so many boxes: challenging, satisfying, teamwork and with purpose,” says Jacqueline.

Zutari plays a significant role in promoting inclusion and diversity through various strategic initiatives, such as enabling leaders with transformational capabilities, enabling teams to develop an inclusive culture, and proactively assisting all employees to feel welcome, understanding and learning more about diversity.

“Engaging in engineering and pursuing a career as an engineer enriches and enhances one’s personal growth, elevating a person to greater heights. This journey contributes to becoming an even more adept mother, wife, daughter, or person,” says Jacqueline.

Women in engineering have made significant contributions to the field, paving the way for others to follow. “Do not underestimate yourself. Push ahead to become what you aspire to be, making a positive impact in the world and the lives of those around you. Being an engineer is a fulfilling career,” she concludes.

Janeke Volkmann, Structural Engineer

Janeke studied civil engineering at Stellenbosch University, followed by a master’s in structural engineering. After her studies, she started working for Zutari in the built environment unit. She is part of a team focusing on high-rise buildings in Cape Town. Her role involves detailed building design, project management, and regular site inspections.

“I appreciate the fact that engineering is project-based, and every project is different, which means that my work is never dull, and I learn constantly. I enjoy going to sites where I can physically see my work come to life,” says Janeke.

Women who showcase their engineering skills grow in confidence and inspire others to pursue careers that are traditionally thought of as male-dominated career paths. Her advice to young girls is: “Do not be intimidated by the fact that engineering used to be a male-dominated environment. The industry is changing. In my experience, I have never felt side-lined as a female in office nor on-site.”

Terresha Moodley, Professional Structural Engineer

Upon completing her civil engineering degree in 2016 as a bursary student, Terresha joined the eThekwini office as a graduate engineer. She commenced her career in the Water Unit and then worked full-time on-site for the PSH unit for two years as an Assistant Resident Engineer on an infrastructure project. She joined the Structures Unit in 2018.

As a design engineer and project manager, Terresha is responsible for the delivery of structural engineering projects in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Her experience includes the commercial, manufacturing, and government sectors.

The challenge posed by engineering is that every day presents a new problem. “As a structural engineer, it is especially fulfilling seeing your work come to life. A big part of my interest in engineering was my curiosity, understanding the underlying science behind how things work and finding ways to make it better,” says Terresha.

Women can contribute to the 2024 INWED theme by being bold, unapologetic, and unafraid to speak their truth. Women have different mindsets and offer different perspectives to problem-solving and decision-making. Solutions are generally framed from a more personal outlook, which is wonderful and refreshing, she adds.

Terresha’s advice to young girls is to embrace every challenge. “Growth happens when you are at the end of your comfort zone. Also, be unafraid to try something new and take every opportunity you are afforded. Be persistent in finding different, exciting projects, and always be willing and enthusiastic to learn.”

By Admin