June 2015 | Interview with Fadeelah Kenny
I am a professional electrical engineer, currently working at Eskom’s Distribution division as a Senior Telecommunications Engineer.
1) Briefly describe what your job involves.
My job is to manage the services received by Eskom by our service providers, some of which are outside of Eskom. I ensure that our contracts with them are in place and are honoured. I plan the growth of the Telecoms network, ensure that it is operating to acceptable levels, research the technology and plan the direction we should be taking in the business. I manage projects and offer my assistance as a Telecommunications technical expert to the rest of the business.
2) Can you describe the most exciting part of your job?
The most exciting part of my job is commissioning and closing off on a project after months and sometimes years of work and overcoming challenges and finally being able to sign off on something tangible as a team.
3) What are some of the challenges you had to face and overcome as a woman in your career?
Asserting myself in my position as a young professional by instructing men with many more years of experience than me in the field was something that I had to become comfortable with.
4) How did you make your career choice?
I’ve always wanted to be a scientist and chose engineering because it allowed me to be in the scientific field but have more of an action based approach in the sciences than the traditional pure scientist. I also had a role model in the form of my older sister Rogeema Kenny who had become an engineer.
5) How is your career directly related to your formal academic training?
It is quite closely linked as I studied Electrical Engineering at UCT and am a practicing engineer.
6) What qualifications do you require to work in your field?
One requires a technical engineering qualification such as BSc in Engineering at university level or BTech at technical college level. In order to become a professional one needs to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa and be awarded with PrEng (Professional Engineer).
7) Can you describe the most important skills you require for this work environment?
Problem solving skills, the ability to see the bigger picture, mathematical ability and the ability to plan and work outside of the parameters of the plan when required.
8) What does leadership mean to you?
To me leadership means being the forerunner that others can look to for guidance and an example. It means having broad shoulders to carry the burden when the going gets tough and accept failure as your own, not finding someone else to blame. It also means serving those who follow you while empowering them to reach or even surpass you.
9) What advice would you give
(a) girls who are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM)
Go for it! This is still a male dominated arena, but women have all the talents and tools to make a success of whatever career they choose, including STEM. We ladies tend to excel because we have something to prove, so grab the opportunity and show the gents how it’s done!
(b) postgraduate students entering the job market?
Get your hands dirty. Get as much time “in the field” as early as possible. No job is too lowly if it will teach you something useful, so take all the training opportunities that you get early in your career while you have relatively little responsibility. Where money is concerned, pay yourself first. Prioritise your savings and investments and grow them as your pay check grows. Find a mentor and actively seek out knowledge and skills. People are usually too busy to do active “skills transfer” but use every opportunity to question, engage and learn from the more experienced ones. Most will welcome the opportunity to help you.