Refilwe Mosue joined the MegChem Piping Engineering Group in 2015 as a young female engineer in a predominantly male environment. Refilwe’s positive view on meeting her objectives, smoothed the way for her to adapt to the MegChem culture.
Question: What made you decide to join MegChem from a major construction company?
Refilwe’s reply: The construction site only shows you the final product in the installation phase. I wanted to dig deeper into how the final product came into being, and all the technical aspects that are applied in the design phase. I did my research on MegChem and what the company can offer and hence saw an opportunity to get exposure in the design environment.
Question: What was your experience in the first couple of months after joining the company?
Refilwe’s reply: My first impression of the company, particularly my responsibilities was that my job does not entail me to be confined in an office space only. I was exposed to the field work and then went back to the office to do the designs. I was also exposed to the financial side of things – how to compile quotations and to schedule my work based on workload and the client’s expectations. This showed me that besides honing my technical skills, I will also be exposed to the financial side of the business.
Question: Considering the company culture – first impressions and has that changed?
Refilwe’s reply: I believe that culture is driven by people. My first impression of the company culture from when I first started working here to the present time has indeed changed. A good example of this is the way in which the personnel who has been in the company for many years are accustomed to doing things in a certain way. There tends to be resistance if something new is introduced from someone who has just joined the organization. Previously in the design phase the role of the piping engineer was limited to the technical engineering aspects and did not overlap with the role of the piping designer/draughtsman. This has since changed as the engineers are now the projects drivers; this is a positive change which has given the engineers the reins to manage the projects effectively.
Question: How did your colleagues receive you? Did they give the support you expected?
Refilwe’s reply: The reception I received was undoubtedly professional and very welcoming. Even though I was the only female among twelve male colleagues sharing one office, I felt like I was part of the team. Everyone in the team had a lot of information to share ,whenever I needed clarity on something and referred me to the relevant people if they could not assist. I also received a lot of support and guidance on how to interact with clients and to market the services the company can offer, which is something I was not familiar with previously.
Question: Did the team help you to establish the relationships you consider important to be successful in your role?
Refilwe’s reply: They have played their roles in guiding me. It has been quite essential for me to also be eager to learn – to always ask questions if something is not clear. The client base that I have built up and maintained has given me the assurance that I have built strong relationships between the clients and myself.
Question: Engineering (specifically mechanical) has traditionally been a male environment. Luckily that is changing, as we see more and more female colleagues in the discipline. What is your views on this – in general and in MegChem?
Refilwe’s reply: I believe that though there are platforms to educate the young female generation, there is still more that needs to be done to attract more females to the engineering field, as most of the female students are not particularly certain of what it entails and the different industries that they can work in.
MegChem along with other companies drive the Engineering Expo, which gives me and other engineers the platform to encourage learners to pursue mathematics and science. To ultimately consider pursuing engineering studies. During my schooling years such initiatives were not common and I am proud to be part of a team that breaks this cycle and make a difference.
The stereotyped views in the workplace, that female engineers are weak and may not necessarily be technically strong in this field still exists. This views also echo’s in society as a whole (both males and females) who are of the view that a male engineers’ opinions or views are mostly favored over a female engineers’ opinion. The fact is irrespective of gender, we are both mentally and equally able to perform any task given to us, if not better 😉
Question: Any advice to female learners considering a career in Mechanical Engineering?
Refilwe’s reply: Mechanical Engineering to me is a career which, like any other has its own challenges and victories.
Personally, it was not a career path I thought I would one day embark on, but I have no regrets. I am constantly inspired to know more, putting aside people’s opinions and fixed mind sets because of my gender. My view on this is to see it as a window of opportunity for me to excel as an expert in what I do.
The ultimate goal in this industry is not about competing with my male counterparts. The focus is rather on self-growth, loving the work you do and being proud of proving the stereotypes wrong.