Tell us about your early life and your role today
I studied engineering at the University of Pretoria from 1977 to 1980. Still enjoing student life, I decided to continue with Honours in structural engineering on a full-time basis in the next year, 1981. During this year, I was also a junior lecturer within the department, which was quite enjoyable. I got the opportunity to interact with the students, to prepare and to mark test papers.
In 1982, I joined the construction company, Basil Read. I found working at the “coal face” with various construction projects very exciting. Obviously, this was a period of intense training and learning about the newly acquired profession, civil engineering. I spent some time on the Broodsnyersplaas railway construction project, and the rest at the construction of the Ulundi sewer treatment works.
After Basil Read I joined the then Van Wyk & Louw. After a brief spell in the bridge design department, I spent three years as RE on various bridge construction sites, one of them on the 320m long bridge over the Hartbeespoort Dam. In 1986, I joined a specialist traffic and transportation consultancy, Jordaan & Joubert. It was a privilege to work under the guidance of people like Prof Piet Jordaan and Prof Herman Joubert.
In 1997 Jordaan & Joubert merged with Gibb Africa, at that stage a company being owned by Gibb in the UK. I stayed with Gibb Africa for two years. During my period at Gibb I was exposed to the international engineering community and learnt about the business of consulting engineering.
What was your training like?
I completed by degree in civil engineering in 1981, and an honours degree in structural engineering in 1981, both at the University of Pretoria. In 1987, I obtained my masters degree in the design of low volume roads – under the leadership of Prof Archie Rohde, also in Pretoria. In 1993, I obtained a PhD degree with the title: The management of tertiary road networks in rural areas, again at the University of Pretoria. A further highlight was obtaining my professional registration in 1986. Looking back after all these years one is grateful for the opportunities you have had, and all the engineers who contributed to your training and development.
What does the role of being Executive Director at Nyeleti mean to you?
Colleague Stanford Mkhacane and myself started Nyeleti Consulting, in 1999. People often ask what our previous name was, but in this case, there was not previous company! We started as two engineers and a secretary and grew to approximately 120 staff currently. We have offices in Pretoria, Alberton, Polokwane, Durban and Mozambique. The focus from the beginning was to establish an empowerment company, and we felt at that stage that we could better do it by starting a new company. We adopted the slogan, “Engineered to Excel”, as high quality work forms the cornerstone of our business. A former mentor said: “Good enough is not good enough” and this is a very true in the very competitive consulting engineering industry. Our approach at Nyeleti is on teamwork, each manager and staff member accepting responsibility for his or her part of the business. It has been a privilege to lead a group of very talented and devoted people over the years.
What are you currently working on and what can we expect from you going forward?
We are busy with some very exciting projects, including:
- A number of freeway upgrading projects for SANRAL
- Design and construction at the Medupi and Kusile Power Stations
- Construction of a filter-block for Rand Water
- Design of a low volume access road for the Maputo Special Reserve
- We recently completed the design and construction of a new roof structure for a BMW manufacturing plant, while manufacturing was continuing underneath us! This was a particularly challenging project but was successfully completed.
What initiative(s) (if implemented) would leave the greatest impact for you and for Africa as a whole?
Effective implementation of the National Development Plan 2030 will certainly have a positive impact on the South African economy, and indirectly on myself as a citizen and participant in the economy. I believe that it will also benefit Africa as a whole: Job creation, strong new infrastructure, clean renewable energy, inclusive planning quality education, quality healthcare, fighting of corruption, a capable state serving its people and unity as a nation – wonderful!
What would you say are the most critical resources for your successful leadership? How would people describe you as a Leader?
David McQueen, business leader with the Westpac group in Australia, recently said: Leadership isn’t about being great, it about enabling others to be great. At the end, it is about unlocking the potential of the people in your organisation, creating an enabling work environment, consistency but also flexibility when required, humility as leader and integrity.
What is the legacy that you would want to leave by the time you retire?
I would like to leave behind a company continuing to live our statement of excellence:
- Integrity – do what we said we will do, acting in good faith
- Equality: Acknowledging the rights of others and providing equal opportunity to all
- Quality: Providing services of the highest professional standards
- Responsibility: Taking ownership and being accountable.
How has the organisation done in terms of business growth objectives?
Nyeleti has managed to grow steadily over the years. This has generally been achieved by means of relatively conservative organic growth.
How do you maintain ethics, integrity and professionalism?
Ethics, integrity and professionalism form the core of the Nyeleti value system. These values can only be maintained if supported by all, with the senior staff setting the example.
How do you participate in mentorship, if you do?
Mentorships form an important element of the Nyeleti culture. We have a formal mentorship system in place, with mentors guiding and assisting younger staff to gain the experience required, to grow in their understanding of the technical principles underpinning our work and eventually, to register professionally.
How does the Institution contribute to the community?
Nyeleti is actively involved with the Ya Bana Village of the Mabopane Foundation. This project is aimed at providing vulnerable and needy children with permanent housing in a family environment where trained house mothers offer love and structure on an ongoing basis in order to holistically address the emotional, educational, spiritual and cultural needs of the children.
How is the organisation doing in terms of Transformation objectives?
Transformation is one of cornerstones of our business and is highly valued. We are proud of what we have achieved to date in terms of creating an enabling environment, professional development and industry leadership.
How do you ensure the organisation is delivering quality customer service?
We believe that each and every staff member has a crucial role to play in terms of quality assurance. No-one should hand his work to anyone else if he/she is not 100% happy that the work is correct and meet the required standards. We do, however, also have a formal quality system in place, ISO 9001 accredited, which is of great value.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night?
I enjoy my work and get great pleasure from working with the Nyeleti colleagues.
What have been the highs and lows in your working career?
The lows? A stage during 1997/98 when we had to retrench staff
And the high: Receiving an honorary fellowship from the SA Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE)
How does the organisation take part in developing the profession you belong to?
One of our most prominent contributions is to encourage our staff to take up leadership positions within the industry. So, for example, have we in recent times made available Abe Thela as president of Consulting Engineering SA (CESA), and Stanford Mkhacane and Sundran Naicker as presidents of SAICE. A number of other staff members serve on the boards and committees of industry organisations.
What awards has the organsation won during your term?
Nyeleti received the following awards over the last few years:
- Engineering firm of the Year award from the SA Professional Services Awards (SAPSA) on 3 November 2016.
- Business of the Year award from the Capital City Business Chamber in November 2015 (the Pretoria Business Chamber)
- Thee IMESA/CESA Excellence Awards in the “Roads/Stormwater” category for the BRT Section 5 City of Johannesburg project in 2014.
- The Business Excellence of the Year Award at the annual CESA/AON Engineering Excellence Awards Function in 2014.
- Winner of the Mentoring Company of the Year Award at the annual CESA AON Engineering Excellence Awards Function in 2014.
- Winner in the open division of the Company of the Year Award of the AHI (in collaboration with Business Partners/Ontbytsake/Rapport/Santam) in 2013.
- The Joop van Wamelen/SASTT Award of Excellence was awarded to Nyeleti in 2012 in recognition of exceptional and excellent contributions to the active promotion, development and implementation of trenchless technology in Southern Africa for the Alexandra phase 3 project.
When you not at work, what do you get up to, including family life?
I enjoy my sport – used to run the Comrades and now do plenty of cycling. Holidays with the family are always enjoyable, and we love to travel.
Where can people follow you online?