“Similar to when I was growing up in the 80s, South Africa is once again experiencing turbulent times, but for different reasons. However, all the negative issues of loadshedding, failing infrastructure, collapsing healthcare, increasing
unemployment, poor housing and a failed education system are self-inflicted or own goals by leaders of this generation,” says Vishaal. One solution he proposes is ensuring that our country’s youth are empowered with a solid tertiary education. In this regard, institutions like SAICE have a fundamental role to play in promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to ensure that our future leaders excel in building infrastructure to sustain future generations by enabling sustainable socio-economic growth. This must be done with a selfless mindset and with society in mind. Unfortunately, many of our current leaders do not share this mindset or are not capable of articulating the complexity of infrastructure provision today.
Vishaal recounts his experience during his studies and professional career: “Inequality and empowerment were the uppermost priorities for some of my student colleagues during my university career, who chose to fight the legacy system of institutionalised apartheid within the institution and in the workplace. I concurred, but chose a different approach, to influence change in the system from a knowledge point of view. I needed to expand and ingest as much knowledge as I could to take advantage of my ‘privileged’ education and to effect change by applying my knowledge to help others that needed such knowledge. I believe that vision is as true today as it was then. It is about leading with a wide appreciation for complexity in infrastructure in a cognitive state rather than an emotional one.”
He adds, “A stimulating and dynamic consulting environment reinforced my purpose that everything we do is really related to looking after people, so my driving passion became about how I create an impact to benefit the lives of people.”
It is this leadership and vision that Vishaal believes will underpin his multi-faceted role within SAICE. He remains steadfast in his commitment to promoting STEM-related education as a priority, and broadening the vision of the country’s youth and young engineering professionals to think differently from a young age so that they become better leaders in the future. “I see my role as Vice President as being to promote these ideals and to help direct contributions towards sustainable strategies to meet the current and future challenges that we are sure to face as a country. This is what young engineers should aspire to – to think beyond just structures to changing the structural dynamics of infrastructure in our country to enable a better future for all. “It is not just about building infrastructure but driving socioeconomic growth. There are many initiatives underway to promote STEM education and foster strong mentorship programmes with our young professionals, fostered by like-minded individuals within SAICE, and I see it as part of my role to help consolidate these initiatives to help SAICE and support our industry to build a new identity and be a major contributor in the creation of a just society,” enthuses Vishaal.
“I recognise the passion expressed by younger engineers and their frustration with a government that allows the collapse of essential infrastructure through neglect, incompetence, and corruption. Becoming the best engineer you can be, where your skills and knowledge help to uplift living standards by providing essential life-giving infrastructure that can create a prosperous society where all can benefit, is a worthwhile determination,” he adds. Vishaal is therefore using his own story as encouragement. “Realising a purpose – a means to an end – has been my mantra in life. That is what engineers do, they apply their acquired skills and learn to design and create infrastructure – roads, bridges, water and sanitation, for example – for the betterment of society. Pursuing your passions in a professional career can bring you greater fulfilment in the contributions you make to society.”