How did you prove yourself?
When I was promoted to plant manager at Implats, I had only been with the company for just over a year. The plant I had to manage was the “problem child”, frequently bottlenecking the entire process. I had very little experience but my chemical engineering degree and the “women in mining” MSc degree.
The refinery manager was desperate for change and decided to venture into unchartered territory and try me out. I had nothing to lose and no reputation to protect, so I thought I’d take the chance. It’s interesting that it was a man who decided, “Forget the gender, forget the age, let’s take a chance on this one.” And it worked out.
Where does your resilience come from?
I’m from a small village in Limpopo, which remains my reference point and reminds me of how far I have travelled. Growing up, it was my father who always assured me that I was good enough. So while there were kids around me who were probably smarter than me, they didn’t have anyone saying, “You’re going to university, you’re going to be a success.” I also believe life is larger than just me, there may be a few younger people who look up to me and I owe it to them to always bring my A-game.
Trust that if you put the right building blocks first, the dots will connect and everything else will fall into place.
So your dad was a major influence for you growing up?
He was very progressive. I’m the second born and have an older brother. Right from the beginning, whenever we needed to make decisions as a family, it would be the three of us – my dad, my brother and I. My dad always gave me a seat at the table to join in family discussions. That’s why when I got to a point where my world was male-dominated, I took my seat at the table because that had always been my reality.
What advice would you give other young women wanting to study engineering, or enter the mining sector?
Steve Jobs said, “Do your work, and hope that later on, the dots will connect.” I’ve worked in remote areas, I’ve worked in Messina, Kimberley and Springs, and today I can tap into all that experience. At the beginning, and even now, I wasn’t chasing money – I was chasing experience. So my biggest advice is to chase that experience. Trust that if you put the right building blocks first, the dots will connect and everything else will fall into place.