I BELIEVE the sky is the limit and that only you can
restrict yourself. If somebody else can do it, then any woman can do it just as
well or even better and that drives me every day.
On the surface, Lafarge's Lichtenburg Plant is built for
men. Powerful machines and industrial facilities loom large, and there's the
distinct earthy smell of cement in the air.
My name is Tsidi Luse. I am a chemical engineer and I am a
woman working in this landscape as a quality manager at the Lafarge plant,
which I must admit takes gritty determination - but then, I love my job.
I credit Lafarge, as the company likes to see its people
succeed. I realised when I started here that there were a lot of opportunities
and an intense focus on people development.
Lafarge really cares for its employees. Also, there is an
incredible knowledge base and the fact that the company is international really
helps with knowledge sharing.
I am 33 years old and became inspired by my chosen
occupation when, as a high school learner, I attended a science festival for
Grades 11 and 12 in Grahamstown.
While there I met students from the chemical engineering
department at Rhodes University who made me aware of the role of chemical
engineers in the various manufacturing and processing fields.
Needless to say, there was immediate chemistry and from that
visit I never turned back. I became determined to get a chemical engineering
I grew up in Cradock in the Eastern Cape in a close-knit
family. My first inclination was to follow my parents' lead and, like them,
become a teacher, but my mathematically-inclined brain and instant attraction
to chemical engineering put me on a very different path indeed.
After I matriculated in Cradock, I moved to Cape Town to
study chemical engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in
1997. For a small town girl, it was a big move.
Little did I know that I would be making a bigger move yet,
when after my graduation I joined Lafarge as a graduate trainee in 2005 through
the Mining Qualification Authority. I took the big leap from one province to
Moving from the Cape to Lichtenburg in the North West to
work at the Lafarge Plant was originally quite a big challenge, simply because
of the language barrier – I speak Xhosa and so I quickly had to grasp the
region's language of Tswana.
Fortunately, I am a quick study and I learnt the ropes in no
time, language and all. In fact, I familiarised myself so quickly as a trainee
that before my two-year training period was complete, I applied for a position
as process engineer advertised at Lafarge, and got the job.
Living up to my ambition, I was promoted into the position
of environmental engineer in 2007. To further my knowledge in the environmental
field, I enrolled for a BSc Honours degree in environmental engineering at the
University of Pretoria, where I studied while I worked.
I graduated in 2009 and was promoted yet again, only this
time into a corporate position at Lafarge's head office in Longmeadow,
Johannesburg, as business development manager. It entailed me sourcing
alternative raw materials and fuels for the Lichtenburg plant.
But after three years at head office I really wanted to get
back to my roots. I missed life at the Lichtenburg plant, and so I returned
there to fill the position of quality manager, to which I currently dedicate my
In 2011, I received an MBA at the University of North West
and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, not quite because being ambitious,
I already have big plans for my future.
I believe that my current position is preparing me for a
role in operations. I see myself in this area because I enjoy working where the
action is most. I love working at the plant and I thrive on finding solutions
to the challenges we are presented with daily.
I must say that I find working in a male-dominated industry
exciting rather than threatening. In 2005 when I came to Lichtenburg, I
discovered I was the only female engineer but that didn't stop me. I was able
to adapt because I had the desire to learn and the ambition to go places.
Women in my field should have the drive and ambition to
forge their way ahead. Yes, it is a male-dominated industry and there are the
obvious stereotypes, but I don't let that get in my way.
I have stuck to my goals as I was very sure of what I wanted
to achieve. In Lichtenburg, only seven years after I first joined, we now have
many young female engineers so there has been a strong increase in the number
of women employed in technical positions over a short period of time.
My biggest challenge to date was studying environmental
engineering and setting up the new environmental engineering position from
scratch at the Lichtenburg plant.
It helps that I have received such incredible support from
the management team at Lafarge. Also, I think one of my biggest strengths is
that I organise and manage my time properly.
During my downtime, I enjoy life with my fiancé and our
kids. I often work quite late, so I am really grateful that he gives me so much
He is also in the engineering field, so he understands the
pressure surrounding my work.
Luse is a quality control manager at Lafarge's
Lichtenburg plant. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in
Fin24's Women’s Month campaign celebrating women in business. Fin24 welcomes
your participation in the campaign. Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could get
Previous women's month
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like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore
tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at
a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest
be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group
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