By Charndré Emma Kippie
Louise Buys (Pr. Eng. PMP), is an Executive, Transport Lead: Western Cape, Civil Infrastructure, Africa at AECOM. She firmly believes that diverse teams make for successful teams. Louise Buys is proud to have broken into this space, being able to work with great, bright and professional women on a daily basis. For Louise Buys, the success and quality of projects at AECOM are directly linked to their versatility and ability to focus on multiple tasks all at once.
Louise’s duties include managing project teams, client liaison, stakeholder liaison and schedule, cost, quality, risk and scope management. She is also an active member of the transportation business development team, assisting with various proposals and tenders.
Upbringing, and how you eventually decided that this would be the right career path for you?
From a very early age I loved being creative, drawing, creating and presenting. Therefore, it was no surprise to my parents when I told them I wanted to explore the engineering world. I have always been excited at the thought of being part of design teams creating infrastructure that improves quality of life.
I started my career working on-site during the preparation period for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa. I was overwhelmed, but in a good way! I have been with AECOM for the last 11 years. Part of my job includes the privilege of managing several projects in the Western Cape.
I joined AECOM in 2009 and first worked as a design engineer in the water department. A couple of years later I was given the opportunity to manage technical deliverables on an extremely exciting multidisciplinary project. This provided me with a good understanding of team dynamics, the importance of coordinating project deliverables and how clear, effective communication ensures good and cost-effective design solutions to benefit not only the client, but also the company I work for. This sparked my interest in project management, and shortly thereafter I applied for a project management position within our transportation sector. I am part of great teams and great projects – I have never looked back!
Why are you passionate about the work you do and your impact on the upliftment of local communities?
We sometimes take everyday conveniences for granted. Like driving along a road, walking across a bridge, working in a building, or turning on the lights – the list goes on. However, at some point it was an idea, it was planned, designed and then implemented. In a way, communities depend on inventors, engineers and creative people to do what they do best to allow the general public to thrive. Infrastructure is one of the great pillars of a country’s economic development and sustainability. When investment in infrastructure is high on the priority list, it plays a significant role in improving quality of life.
What are some of your core values of diversity and inclusivity as a woman in Engineering?
We always say, in the office, that our AECOM transport team is one big family, and I truly believe it is because we have diverse teams (everyone is unique in their own way), as well as strong leaders that make team engagement a priority. People are amazing, and if you invest in them, you can achieve anything – I just realised this again during the pandemic. I always try to create an environment where team members feel free to contribute. There are no bad ideas, and every question deserves an answer.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to work in your field?
My message to any young woman contemplating the idea of entering the engineering field would be: If you are passionate about improving the day-to-day lives of communities with great design solutions, engineering is your thing! There are a lot of things that can distract you from your end goal, but stay focused. Women are sometimes put in a very specific box, but don’t allow anyone else to shape your future except you.
What 3 tips do you have for implementing solutions in your field?
- Don’t underestimate the importance of planning.
- Communication is key. Most of the time, the lack of proper communication is where it all goes wrong. Communicate with your client, communicate with your team!
- Learn from your role models. We have brilliant experienced engineers in South Africa, and most engineers love to share their knowledge, experiences and lessons learnt.
What have been the major obstacles in your career and how did you overcome them?
We are currently experiencing a trend whereby the end product is severely impacted by tight budgets and short timelines. To continue ensuring high-quality deliverables is sometimes a major challenge, but it also forces us to work smart and think outside the box. On projects where we were required to roll out deliverables quickly, we saw the importance of having short regular meetings, with the focus on short! This helped the team to focus on the most imminent task at hand. Finding new ways to work more efficiently and solving problems are the reasons we became engineers in the first place.
What major milestones have you achieved in your career thus far?
Becoming the Transport Lead in our Cape Town office, but also obtaining my PMP registration. AECOM has given me several great opportunities to grow my career, and I was often required to push hard and step out of my comfort zone.
Have you read any important/life-changing books?
The last book I read was Screw It, Let’s Do It! by Richard Branson. However, being a young mother, I also find myself reading Paw Patrol books and anything by Dr. Seuss’ – some valuable lessons are to be found there as well!
What special message do you have for South Africans celebrating Madiba Month this month?
I recently read the following quote: “Your attitude determines your altitude.” This stuck with me, and I really do believe that. I meet a lot of great people, and sometimes their stories inspire me so much. It proves that, if you put in the effort, you will get where you want to go. Who better to have as an example than Madiba!
*Interested in discovering more inspiring stores about Top Women? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.