• Lindi Engelbrecht

Mpho Maje, talks about why one needs to be open to learning and strive to learn while you work hard.

Editor’s note: @winatwork4.0 features no-holds-barred in-depth interviews with female leaders in industries to give you insight into how they have harnessed the power of purpose, and how they are empowering others by being a voice and a role model. Their stories provide inspiration and valuable insight for us all.

Obstacles and challenges are just part of the journey and they should not stop the plan

Mpho Maje is a strong, inspirational woman, a mother of two energetic boys who attended the University of Cape Town (UCT) to complete her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating from UCT, she started working at Impala Platinum Refinery as a Junior Engineer, and grown to an experienced Plant Engineer. Her quiet confidence is contagious, having adopted the problem-solving principles of engineering, she decided to embark on an entrepreneurial journey that is allowing her to solve society's issues, which she is passionate about. She #winatwork by lifting and empowering others.

Who’s your role model? Why?

I have a few role models as they inspire me in terms of different aspects of my life. I admire Oprah Winfrey for her spiritual awareness. I would like to reach her level of spiritual awakening as it will lead me to be in control of my inner self. I admire Richard Branson for serial entrepreneur lifestyle. I enjoy solving problems for people from a business point of view. I also admire Graça Machel and Dr Judy Dlamini who are the Chancellors of UCT and Wits, respectively. They hold what I consider to be my dream job.

What is your one liner? What’s your inspirational quote that describes you?

My 1 word is Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. I apply this in everything I do, from my spiritual journey to my career. I believe that I should always strive to improve in all areas of my life.

What’s been your most memorable moment in your career in mining?

Successfully shutting down the plant during one of the strikes. That experience showed me how capable I was at leading a group of men to do what needed to be done in a stressful situation. #embraceyourplace

In your opinion what skills will be required in the future mining environment?

The mining environment is changing with the increase in technological changes. The safety issues faced in the mining environment, had led to the development of technological solutions that will assist in ensuring that people are not injured. This means that technology will take over some of the employees’ functions. This means that the mining environment will required technologically-savvy employees to manage these system.

Be unapologetically ambitious

What attributes do you need to #thrive in mining?

One needs to be open to learning and be emotionally intelligent with respect to dealing with employees from diverse backgrounds. The mining industry is dominated by males. One does not need to be as physically strong but needs to work harder as most of the time you need to prove your worth as a female. So strive to learn while you work hard.

In what way has your male and female network inspired you to thrive in mining?

I have been extremely lucky that I worked with supportive mentors who have guided me along my entire career. They shared what my options where in terms of my career and allowed me to thrive in whichever path I decided to take.

Is there a role/job in particular you had where you felt you are thriving in. And what was the main contributing factors (e.g. trusted team, supportive leadership, company culture?)

Plant Engineer of the Utilities plant – I had gotten to a point where I understood the company culture as well as the team. I knew the strengths and weaknesses of my team and I was able to guide and lead them effectively. My team trusted me to lead me and my leaders were supportive enough to let me lead my people, my way.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced up until this point in your career (in general)?

From a female perspective, I have faced the normal challenges that most ambitious females face in their careers and life. I believe that balance is the most critical factor in our lives. We are often expected (or even have expectations of ourselves) to go to work and do our utmost best, then go home to be the best mothers for our children then still cater to the needs of our partners and then repeat the cycle again every day. Balancing all these different roles that we play and being the best version of each role is the biggest challenge that we face. Obviously, with each role comes different challenges that one faces but balancing the roles are the biggest challenge that we face.

If you could go back and teach your younger self-something, what would that be?

I would tell myself to go after the things that make me feel good. My younger self should have not let fear put them down and to know that it’s ok to do whatever it is that makes me feel good and happy. It’s ok to be unapologetically ambitious. Lastly, I would tell my younger self to start now. Starting something new that will take years might seem daunting but time goes by so fast before you know it, it will be a few years down the line and you will have achieved everything that you wished for yourself. #unapologeticallyambitious

What message/advise would you give young woman entering the industry or interested in a career in the resources industries?

I would tell them to start by understanding their options in terms of their career path. Then they must pick the path that they feel will make them happy. Once they have chosen a path, they must compile a plan for that path they have chosen and then execute the plan. They also need to understand that life happens and that it’s ok to adjust and even change the plan as they get older and more mature. Obstacles and challenges are just part of the journey and they should not stop the plan. One overcomes obstacles and challenges as long as you have your eyes on your objectives.

What advise can you give for young woman to up-skill themselves?

Make sure that you up-skill yourself in something that interest you. If you don’t enjoy something then chances of failure are high. Make sure that you have a plan for yourself and don’t wait for someone to tell you what the plan is for your life.