SENIOR ENGINEER | ESKOM

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR TEAM SUCCESSFUL?

Efficient planning and keeping the team, which is responsible for renewable grid integration in the Western & Northern Cape provinces, in synch and up to date on all the projects we are working on. Also, ensuring each member understands their individual contribution is crucial to the team performance and standards of excellence.

HOW DO YOU INCLUDE INNOVATION INTO YOUR STRATEGY AND FUTURE OUTLOOKS?

We find ourselves at the edge of an energy shift with the South African and African perspective in mind. What could be seen as disruptive technology has brought a wealth of opportunities for the energy industry as well as future benefits with greenhouse gas emission reduction.

These disruptive energy sources have introduced new operating philosophies for the South African power system; more so at our end as the distribution power system operators. My team remains abreast of developments within the renewable space and projects that are coming up within our province to ensure we plan ahead for the requirements prior to connecting these plants onto the distribution grid. We also keep all internal stakeholders abreast of developments to ensure minimal impact to our operations and eventual connection and operation of the plants.

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME?

The challenges we face as a country and a continent call for tenacity and an optimistic outlook. The skill to see opportunity amidst the political and other noise and ultimately to ensure we improve on the services we provide, especially to the less fortunate.

WHAT ARE YOUR TEAM’S GREATEST BLIND SPOTS?

Aiming to meet and exceed stakeholder’s expectations sometimes leads to us going beyond our normal outputs to ensure timelines are met. There are times where working beyond the 8 to 5 workday becomes the new normal for a period. A focus ‘IT team’ was unintentionally formed and in recent times we are working on entrenching the operations of renewable plants within distribution network operations to the larger team to create sustainability, shared focus and tasks, and to cultivate an environment for continual learning and growth.

HOW WOULD YOU SHIFT THAT LEARNING TO ADVICE FOR OTHERS IN THIS INDUSTRY?

I would say integration across functions brings strength, especially for brainstorming and eventually the implementing of ideas, which would break barriers enforced by a silo mentality.

HOW DO YOU SELECT WHO TO PARTNER WITH?

It is important to identify and establish an alignment of strategy and goals. Having checkpoints throughout the process to assess if the alignment is maintained and the objectives are still going to be met. I also believe it is critical to create synergy with the organisation as we are working towards the same end goal.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?

I’ve found the most challenging has been to develop confidence in my leadership abilities and that I have something to contribute to engineering solutions. It has been a journey where reading books like Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg; and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, have been empowering in pressing in and pushing boundaries, which most of the time are self-created mental barriers.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

Everyone that you behold with eyes of admiration didn’t start off where they are today. They also weren’t as wise and knowledgeable as they are today. The lesson I have learned to embrace is to adopt an attitude of lifelong learning; of continuous self-development. This has helped me not stagnate in my career and within the company – where I get to work on exciting projects that are at the turning point of a technological revolution.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

My chosen field of study: I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. The only compass that helped navigate and reach my destination (completing my studies) and ultimately working in the field of electrical engineering, was the compelling idea that my day-to-day function in society is contributing positively to another’s life in some small way.

WHAT IS YOUR ‘SECRET SAUCE’ FOR FOCUSING ON THE GOAL AMONGST THE NOISE?

I remain focused on what needs to be achieved by being task-oriented while remaining passionate about the work I am involved in.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN THAT OTHERS DON’T?

I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. People behave according to what they fundamentally believe and not what they say. Beliefs are about trust, emotion, instinct and faith while opinions are what people say. This is where cognitive dissonance can cause issues, especially in the workplace. When people believe one thing but say something that contradicts that belief, it causes internal conflict and sometimes ethical and moral problems.

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK?

Globally, energy storage technologies are gaining momentum and will play a fundamental role in power system stability as the market share of renewable plants increases, particularly within the South African energy landscape.

WHAT INDUSTRY CHALLENGE KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT?

The changing energy landscape provides an interesting and welcome challenge for power system operators. Today’s disruptors are providing additional capacity and new dynamic challenges for real-time operations, particularly with the expected shift of independent power producers (IPPs) from the current 5% to 48%. Novel technological solutions are required to ensure system stability and the required levels of power quality for consumers. Capacity building for the future generations through training and development will be even more crucial. I believe in mentoring and passing on the baton to ensure those that follow will ensure sustainability of the system considering the novel technologies.