Meet SAICE Young Engineer of the Year 2018, Ntseuoa Motsieloa
Ntseuoa Motsieloa (NM) was recently recognised as the South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE) Young Engineer of the Year 2018. The HardHat Professional caught up with him to find out about the award and what it means to him.
THHP: Congratulations! Tell us more about this award.
NM: The Young Engineer of the Year Award is given to a young engineer, under the age of 36, who has rendered outstanding service to the profession or has made a contribution of distinction to civil engineering.
The young engineer should be an inspiration to other young engineers and society and show dedication to the industry regarding time, resources and effort. He or she must be a current SAICE member and registered as a professional engineer.
THHP: What does the award mean to you?
NM: This award means a lot to me, in terms of the recognition and exposure that come with it, and the responsibilities that it carries to live up to the title. It also reminds me of my journey when I started a mentorship program in 2013 to get experienced engineers to mentor students and graduates.
The overall program wasn’t a success, but the journey was. I got a poor turnaround from the engineers than the students, which showed me that mentorship in the engineering industry is not as effective as it should be to bridge the gap between academia and practice.
Winning this award will add weight on my future initiatives and will open more opportunities to serve on boards of engineering and infrastructure bodies. Stakeholders will now recognise my efforts, compared to the time when I started my mentorship program as a graduate.
THHP: What do you think set you apart from the others who were going for the same award?
NM: I believe the category for Young Engineer of the Year was very competitive and I didn’t expect it. The nominees were excellent engineers, as those who have worked on amazing projects, i.e. PWC Tower at Mall of Africa, Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHDP).
However, I noticed something that my entry possessed, and theirs didn’t. Those entries were technically-oriented without emphasis on social and community-related projects to uplift the unbalanced South African economic society, whereas my entry was both technical and socially inclusive.
I have also worked on multi-million/billion Rand projects such as the Wild Coast Bridges and the Zuickbosch Pumping Station. I do have personal initiatives and do presentations to students at universities regarding career progression, and serve on various committees with interests in transformation, technical leadership and mentorship.
THHP: What does this award mean to your career?
NM: I believe this award is going to expose me to new networks and future business opportunities where I can also follow my initiatives to empower those less privileged even better. I am looking forward to meeting like-minded business partners in civil engineering and infrastructure delivery.
THHP: Are these awards important to engineering careers?
NM: When I accepted my award in my speech, one of the things I mentioned was to thank SAICE for organising these type of initiatives to also honour excellence for Young Engineers. Awards for Young Engineers are so beautiful because they give hope for us to keep on keeping on.
Our industry is experiencing a lot of challenges currently, including pricing lower fees to be competitive, and lack of proper mentorship. Many young engineers are losing hope. There is a lack of recognition by political leaders of engineers in our society, thus engineering talent is lost to other industries like finance.
These awards, however, instil hope in the form of positive reinforcement, as they say in psychology. Most importantly, the recognition is awesome. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to get noticed by my peers and future business partners and stakeholders.
THHP: What would you say to a young engineer who aspires to what you have achieved?
NM: Every person’s journey is different. I suppose part of my journey is the one that paved the way for me to be where I am today, including both challenges and opportunities, changing jobs for better opportunities or getting retrenched in some instances.
However, one thing that probably helped me the most was to be true to myself and my passion for being a structural engineer. I started initiatives and personal projects that resonated with me even outside a formal employment setting, like the mentorship program in 2013. Be true to yourself, and have personal mentors even outside formal work if need be.
THHP: What does it take to win such an award?
NM: One needs to be a well-rounded engineer. Technical excellence alone is not enough; as non-negotiable as it is, there are other important factors to consider to have a full career and to win awards.
I learned that at the University of Cape Town as a civil engineering student when I joined the industry full-time in 2012 post my master’s studies. I knew I had a lot of boxes to tick including leadership development and personal development alongside professional development.
THHP: According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the interest in the built environment industry by the young generation has declined. Why do you think this is the case?
NM: The world we live in today is fast- paced, and many young people want instant gratification. Engineering knowledge is a long-term investment. Nonetheless, there are some things that I believe need to change to attract and maintain young talent, such as teaching finance and business as a co-requisite to engineering.
I would recommend all engineering students and graduates to study the model of China and its technocrats, who are mostly engineers and scientists.
THHP: What are your words of encouragement to civil engineering graduates struggling to find employment due to the downturn in the economy?
NM: Volunteer, learn new skills, never cease to learn and to invest in yourself. Never look for a job without knowing what you want, you will fit in somebody’s plan if you don’t have your plan. Know yourself and what you want, and do your research. Start a company if you can. Employment is not the only way to build a career. Take risks. They will pay well in future.
THHP: Last words to share with HardHat Professionals?
NM: I would like to thank THHP for the opportunity to share my story once again, especially after this award that means so much to me. Please keep sharing our stories in civil engineering. One day these will reach the right person, and in so doing, we will slowly change our environment for the better.