Director Woman Fastrack Edition 1

Mmakgotso Sekhukhune: A career in Chemical Engineering

Mmakgotso Sekhukhune

After successfully completing the theoretical requirements of her Diploma in Chemical Engineering at Vaal University of Technology in 2011, Mmakgotso packed her belongings and returned home. “I had no luck finding a training opportunity. But honestly I also hadn’t applied for experiential learning, so after completing the theoretical modules, I went back home for 3 months.” Fortunately, one of her classmates referred her to a volunteering opportunity where she could complete her training in order to graduate. She volunteered there for a couple of months while applying for a paying opportunity.

As luck (and dedication) would have it, she instinctually applied and was onboarded for a Learnership Programme (from mid-2014 to early 2016) at AECI where she is currently employed. She shares that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and welcomed the people culture at the organisation. “[…] when you get a permanent offer, you would have worked hard, you would have stayed committed and excelled. So I pushed myself. I pushed myself to stay committed and gave my best because I had no reason not to. We had and still have the best motivators all around us,” she says. At the end of the learnership, Mmakgotso was offered a permanent role as a Plant Laboratory Analyst. “During that period I continued to be persistent – working hard, asking smart questions and adding value to the company. I also participated in the extramural activities afforded to us. If you see and appreciate value, you will want to do better.” In 2017, she was promoted to Acting Quality Control Laboratory Analyst where she continues to thrive.

A day in the life of Mmakgotso

“What I like about my company is that is sees and appreciates women, it nurtures feminism. I work in a male dominated environment, my job requires a lot of physical lifting of heavy bags and pulling and pushing of pipes. We’re never side-lined without us trying to complete physical tasks, which I do extremely well in.

Every morning I test and calibrate my equipment including my pH meter and testing my boiler. Every 30 minutes I perform various tests. I make calculations and adjustments and filter reports up to my supervisors. There is a lot of support and no judgement in my work space. I’m also appointed as the Safety Rep for my department. I check for housekeeping and PPE adherence, tripping hazards and other unsafe conditions and Acts and report those to my Safety supervisor. I use my discretion and approach individuals before escalating anything if I’m unhappy.”

From Limpopo to the top!

Mmakgotso credits commitment, patience and value appreciation/add for her continued success in her field. “Nothing happens overnight, you have to stay committed.” The young scientist is by all accounts, a smart girl with big plans for herself. She shares that she is currently in her third year of a BCom degree funded by AECI. “They’re paying me to be a better person and improve my skills. I mean it when I say my company looks after its people – my education is on them!” She hopes to graduate this year with only a few modules standing between her and that milestone. Mmakgotso also holds various other short-learning certificates including one from NOSA and Toastmasters International. “It’s been a great journey and it looks promising. You basically use the same recipe with an ever-increasing appetite for risk. The plan is to complete my degree, a post graduate qualification and ultimately my Master’s in Personal Finance. I see myself adding value in the personal finance space as a teacher. But Chemical Engineering will always be at the core of my career success. I truly believe that the universe has conspired in my favour. All that’s left for me is to apply myself and focus.

About Author

Director Woman Fastrack is a monthly, in-depth publication that profiles African business and career women. The feature articles are designed to inspire, impact and inform readers interested in starting their own business or pursuing a particular career field.