In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on 23 June, Zutari highlights the achievements of two exceptional women. The engineering design and advisory services company values contrasting voices, alternative perspectives, and insights into cultures different from our own. It fully supports the vision of a non-racial and non-sexist inclusive democracy by creating opportunities for all.
Biance Huysamen completed her undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 2017 at Stellenbosch University, followed by a Master’s in Industrial Engineering, whereupon she commenced her career at Zutari in the Asset Management Department.
Nancy Neema Supaki is a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kenya in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. She has been employed at Zutari Kenya Ltd. since 2017.
In her brief two-and-a-half-year stint at Zutari to date, Biance has worked on projects such as assisting the Public Housing Department of the City of Cape Town to identify strategic goals and future planning. “Working on a project where you can see the real-life impact has been very rewarding,” says Biance. She cites another highlight as being part of Zest, Zutari’s emerging professionals committee that is a sounding board for emerging professionals.
Nancy has been at Zutari Kenya for over five years, joining a small team of three when the office was established initially. That team has now grown to 20, affording Nancy the opportunity to be involved in diverse projects and engage clients in various markets. She has been exposed to roles from administrative duties to design and project management. “This has made me appreciate the diverse nature of the engineering field, as there are so many avenues to learn from,” says Nancy.
The bulk of Nancy’s professional experience has centred around the built environment, allowing her to be involved with proposals, due diligence surveys, design, tender documentation and administration, construction supervision and administration, testing, and commissioning of mechanical, hydraulic and fire systems.
Biance currently assists with data analysis, reporting, and modelling projects run by the asset management department. Still in a junior position, she has however been provided with great experience and challenges to help her grow and improve her knowledge. “Being part of Zest has also allowed me to work with other leaders and assist them with feedback and insight from the more junior staff,” says Biance.
In terms of challenges, Biance says simply that self-doubt is her biggest enemy. “As women we often feel we need to be 110% sure about something before we can share our thoughts. This has often made me doubt the skills and knowledge I know I have worked hard for in life. Fortunately, I have had great mentors along my career path to encourage me.”
Another challenge is that consulting engineering is a high-pressure, high-performance career. “I have had to learn how to balance my professional career and mental health by spending time doing things I enjoy to unwind such as cooking and art and staying fit and healthy.”
Nancy says the challenge for a woman in her chosen career is to find your voice and establish your presence in a male-dominated industry. “I have surrounded myself with individuals who help me navigate this space whenever I feel stuck and unworthy.”
A core value of Zutari is ‘we are one’. Nancy has been fortunate to have engaged remotely with project teams in various offices busy with different project phases. She also points to a range of learning and development programmes within the company that promote personal and professional development to build social capital and promote career growth.
Biance concurs, stressing that Zutari is an African company. “We work with and share experiences with people right across the continent, including the challenges that others face. We are also able to celebrate our different heritages. I have met and made friends with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Personally, this has been such an amazing experience.”
As for advice to young women contemplating a similar career path, Biance says: “Make a conscious decision to rise above limiting beliefs and gender stereotypes. Also, surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams, aspirations, and potential.”
INWED from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) celebrates its ninth year in 2022. Figures as of June 2021 indicate that only 16.5% of engineers are women. INWED gives women engineers around the world a profile when they are still hugely under-represented in their professions. As the only platform of its kind, it plays a vital role in encouraging more young women and girls to take up engineering careers.
Nancy concludes: “There are enough seats at the table. Women need to take on more leadership roles and expand that table. We need each other to make the difference that the world needs.”