Dr. Gabrielle Wojtowitz
I am Proudly South African, a geotechnical engineer, wife and working mom of 2 little boys (4 years old and 1 year old). Three roles, 24 hours a day. It defines who I am.
After matriculating from Pretoria High School for Girls, I completed my BEng (Civil Engineering) at the University of Pretoria. Thereafter having been a bursary student with Ninham Shand, I joined their Transportation team in Pretoria. A few months in I realised this field was not for me and started a post-graduate degree at UP (part time) in Geotechnical Engineering. In October of that year, I was still not happy in my current position and met with my professor at UP. He mentioned a potential PhD in the UK. I had never considered doing a PhD and after my final year research project, I swore I would never do research again. Within two months, I arrived in the freezing wet UK with two bags, a laptop and one jacket. The University of Southampton became my home. What an amazing experience! A PhD is not only about research, one learns valuable life skills such as self-motivation, self-management and self-determination. I met who would become my future husband the first weekend I arrived.
Three and half years later my funding ran out and I was still writing up. I desperately needed to find a job. It was 2010 and the UK had been hit hard by the recession. No-one was employing, and the industry was severely struggling. After 3 months of no success, I needed an action plan. I entered a poster competition at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London and won. This allowed me to talk to one of the judges who gave me a contact. After an interview I finally had a job as a junior geotechnical engineer for the innovative company BuroHappold, so we moved to the beautiful city of Bath. This experience showed me how important first impressions and networking are.
After over five years in the UK, we decided to move back (South Africa would always be home). Jobless and homeless, we took the long way back via Singapore, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia each with a backpack. I joined Aurecon’s Ground Engineering team in 2012 where I am today. I serve on the SAICE Geotechnical Division committee and am the geotechnical division member for South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Technical Committee TC60 (SANS 10400). I am an external examiner for the UP and the University of Cape Town (UCT) and am an invited lecturer for a part of the UCT Masters course. I have been mentored by some amazing engineers and professors who without their guidance and support I would not be the engineer I am today. Along the way, there were one or two “not so good” mentors but I moved away from them as soon as I could. At Aurecon, I head the Modelling Forum which I use as a platform for knowledge transfer and development of junior engineers. I have also published several papers. I believe that we open ourselves up to opportunities by being passionate in what we do and being involved. I love what I do, and I think that’s key.
Advise: study further (never stop learning and developing); get good mentors (that are interested in you and your career); give back (join your institutes, councils; mentor your juniors, inspire the youth; working moms – try and have “me time” once a week (a yoga class, run, walk) it’s important for your personal wellbeing and sanity; Love what you do if not make a change.
Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity.
Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them.
Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS.
Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.