In recognition of August being Woman’s Month, Kaytech is celebrating its very own “Women in Civil Engineering”. We posed a few pertinent questions to some of the female civil engineers working in the geosynthetics engineering field at Kaytech today.
Samantha Naidoo of Kaytech
Samantha Naidoo, Winnie Botha, Chanel Pillay, Monique Albertyn and Yugeshnee Naidoo are Kaytech’s inspiring women engineers.
1. What made you decide you wanted to be an engineer?
SAMANTHA: I have always been fascinated by developments and new infrastructure around me, and the impact it had on its surroundings. Engineering was my preferred choice because of the career opportunities it offers as it’s always in demand.
MONIQUE: My father, who is also an engineer, said that he had always seen me in construction, so I took a chance and fell in love with this industry. Engineering is a key element of society and I wanted to be involved in making a difference.
CHANEL PILLAY: I studied technical drawing in high school and was passionate about it. I always knew I wanted to work in the built environment industry so it was meant to be when I got accepted to study Civil Engineering.
Yugeshnee Naidoo of Kaytech
2. What do you perceive to be the barriers for females starting engineering?
WINNIE BOTHA: The simple straight forward answer – this is a man’s world. Men are in the majority in engineering so it’s a challenge for females to make a success of their career in this industry.
CHANEL PILLAY: I noticed immediately that men and women were not on the same playing field being the only female technician on site. The industry is perceived to be physically tough and no place for women. I felt I had to work extra hard to prove I could do what the rest of the guys could. This was a challenge I gladly welcomed and conquered.
YUGESHNEE: In my opinion, there are none. I have designed and managed various sites and seen many female colleagues do exactly the same, on even larger scales. A lot of the time we put these barriers on ourselves. If a man is expected to climb up a ladder and inspect roof tops, why shouldn’t we?
Winnie Botha of Kaytech
3. What would be your advice to parents whose children would want to get in this field?
WINNIE BOTHA: I would say the future of engineering is co-dependant on girls/women bringing some fresh ideas to this industry.
CHANEL PILLAY: Studying engineering involves a lot of hard work and long nights, with parents’ guidance and support it makes the journey a whole lot easier.
MONIQUE: To support them fully; with parental support you can develop a stronger character you might not have discovered in most other careers.
YUGESHNEE: Children and their parents should research engineering and understand what the academic requirements are and what will be expected at university level. Once you have established that they are capable of the academics find out if the actual work is something they enjoy.
4. How does Kaytech facilitate your learning in such a fast-paced and evolving field?
YUGESHNEE: Kaytech is revolutionary in its approach to educating their staff across the board and the exposure we get to various fields ranges from structural environments to waste management. We receive regular training and development at lectures and conferences.
SAMANTHA: Kaytech offers a multitude of learning facilities to our staff; we attend conferences, seminars and workshops to keep abreast of new advancements in the field. This also encourages brilliant networking within the geosynthetic faculty. We have an in-house training programme run by our senior technical staff. Kaytech has the biggest library of Geosynthetic material about global geosynthetic applications.
WINNIE BOTHA: We work together as a team in the Central Region to ensure that we are all au fait with new products, on site demos, and of course internal training on a monthly basis.
CHANEL PILLAY: Being at Kaytech is such an advantage to us in the industry as we get involved in site installations and in the design process, which gives us the opportunity to expand our skill set and grow within our industry.
Chanel Pillay of Kaytech
5. There is a lot of talk about engineering companies and how they need to be more family-friendly to keep their female employees, do you think this is an issue?
SAMANTHA: It’s definitely a struggle to maintain a balance between family and work. It just means we have to work smarter and efficiently.
WINNIE BOTHA: I know at least three engineers that decided to work half day when their children were born. I think that with technology today female engineers can easily work from home and fulfil their job obligations at the same time.
CHANEL PILLAY: As a female within a male dominated industry, I knew what I was getting into. Yes, we have more responsibilities when we have families and kids but we are able to multitask and take on any challenge.
Monique Albertyn of Kaytech
6. What do you love most about your job and geosynthetics specifically?
YUGESHNEE: Every single day is different; projects vary from pavement optimisation to retaining structures: Variety makes for a very enjoyable job because I could never do a standard 8 to 5.
SAMANTHA: I am able to practice engineering, but also grasp a bit of sales, marketing and business administration. The ever-changing challenges keep me on my toes thinking of workable solutions. What I love most about my job is that we are always at the forefront of new technologies and the advancement in the geosynthetic field.
WINNIE BOTHA: I have been with Kaytech for 11 years now and have grown so much in the field of Geosynthetics and love every minute of it. I have built strong relationships with my clients and love dealing with people.
CHANEL PILLAY: I love that I get to travel and work both in the design and construction aspect of our industry, and working with such experienced and mentoring colleagues is an added benefit. Geosynthetics fascinates me, it is an unconventional approach to solving engineering problems. In this job every day is an adventure, we go to different sites, experience different problems and come up with innovative Geosynthetic solutions for these problems.
MONIQUE: I love that we are kept up to date with construction methods and that we cover such a variety of products. Our sites take us from roads and bridges to marine life and solid waste projects. Geosynthetics replace the conventional way of thinking and the benefits are that we save on labour, materials, plant, maintenance, and create a simpler way of construction; it excites me to be a part of all these changes.