Monthly Profiles

Sonja Basson

July 2013 | Engineer, Eskom

Sonja BassonSonja Basson Pr. Eng is an engineer who has managed the design process for the control rooms of both the 3rd & 4th largest Coal Fired Power stations in the world.

1) Briefly describe what your job involves.
I manage the design process of all the Eskom control rooms for Power Stations. I manage this engineering process from pre-contract phase through to design of the rooms & furniture installation.

2) What would a typical day at the office/clinic involve?
I could be at a Power Station wearing safety boots doing a site inspection. The next day I could be wearing high heels as I am in meetings leading discussions with contractors and clients. Or I could be at my desk working on reports & reviewing drawings. I could be on the road or in a plane going to meet with contractors or to attend courses and seminars to stay up to date with current trends.

3) Can you describe the most exciting (coolest) part of your job?
Every day is different. As your interests grow your job takes shape. This excites me about engineering. Engineering is a wide field. At the moment my focus is changing to energy efficiency and I plan to develop more in the field of Renewables which involves for example Solar and Wind energy projects. This is a field of Engineering to watch if you are planning on studying at university or college in the next few years.

4) What would be your favourite part of your job?
The sense of accomplishment when you go to site and see a design you reviewed 10 times over on paper finally being built. The sense of achievement in knowing that my work will still be around in 15 years’ time and is making a difference to SA.

5) What would be your least favourite part of your job?
Engineering can be stressful. You have to learn to manage home, work and social life. You must have hobbies to escape from stress as it will help you balance your life.

6) How did you make your career choice?
In Grade 4, I went on a school field trip to visit one of the Power Stations. I still remember standing next to a cooling tower and thinking how huge it is, I saw the boiler and turbine and it stuck in my mind for the rest of my life. I knew then, I wanted to be an engineer and wanted to make a difference through my education and to help people.

7) What qualifications do you require to work in your field?
General Roadmap: Take Maths & Science up to matric (Grade 12) and if possible take Applied Maths in Matric it really helps with 1st year Maths at university. Check with the University what the minimum criteria is for enrolling for a degree in STEM and make sure you take the required subjects in High School. Check-out : www.ecsa.co.za, This is the Engineering Council of SA and take note of the requirements for the different types of engineering.

8) Can you describe the most important skills you require for this work environment?
The ability to listen, to problem solve and to always have a keen mind that wants to learn.

9) What does leadership mean to you?
The ability to make a decision even when it is not popular. For example, the decision to study engineering when everyone else is enrolling for something different.

10) What advice would you give girls who are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM)?
The biggest barriers that you could face are: money, transport, family issues and finding a quiet place to work and concentrate. The biggest rewards you could reap are: independence, opportunities to travel, good earning potential, scarce skills & continued career growth.