By Tshegofatso Sibambato
The journey that led to engineering
I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. I developed a love for science and mathematics and believed that engineering was a good fit. I was inspired to study engineering because I love seeing the fruits of my labour coming alive through the building of civil infrastructure.
Engineering elements are all around us, and I wanted to be a part of building our country through the implementation of infrastructure services. Service delivery remains a huge concern for most communities within South Africa, and this speaks to the vast opportunities for us as engineers to implement projects to provide these essential services.
My current role is predominantly geared towards being a project leader and managing the planning, executing, monitoring, and controlling processes involved in the lifecycle of a typical project. I am also a Design Engineer, with my primary focus being on stormwater drainage design.
Challenges for women in engineering
The main challenge that I have faced as a black female engineer is that you constantly
need to prove yourself. You need to fight for what you know and believe you deserve and ensure that you have a solid support structure. The lens through which you are observed is usually more magnified than that used for males, and because of that you have a fear of failing. I have also identified bouts of imposter syndrome coming into play, feeling like I do not belong in the role that I am fulfilling, even though I have what it takes and do perform satisfactorily at the end of the day.
Always remember why you wanted to become an engineer and keep reminding yourself of that. Create networks of individuals who have your best interests at heart and who will help you to succeed. Determine what your career aspirations are and find mentors who can help you to obtain the skills that you need along that journey. And be careful who and what you choose to listen to.
Transformation in engineering
Efforts are constantly being made for the engineering industry to transform. Many women continue to excel in the industry and have paved the way for others to have better experiences than they did. Diversity brings strength, and because of that more women are needed in the industry so that the necessary corrective measures can be taken. There are many roles that one can fulfil as an engineer; you just need to find the one which best suits you. I have attained valuable mentors from Zutari who are helping to guide my technical and professional development.
My development has been holistically centred around becoming a high-performing professional. I have attended courses and workshops that have broadened both my engineering and management knowledge. In addition, I have gleaned a lot of nuggets of wisdom through impromptu office interactions with individuals who have a wealth of work and life lessons to share with everyone.