HomePeopleInterviewsMoving the needle for women in the engineering industry

Moving the needle for women in the engineering industry

Pushing boundaries in a male-dominated industry, heading the bid & transformation of an engineering powerhouse, Moud Maela is the Group Head of Bid Management and Transformation at GIBB Engineering and Architecture. While her title may be a mouthful, it conveys the breadth and depth of her role in the organization, one that has grown significantly since she was first appointed to deliver strategic bids and manage transformation in 2018.

Not only did Maela oversee the transformation agenda for GIBB and its architectural subsidiary, SVA, which led to them achieving their first in history Level 1 black economic empowerment (BEE) ratings in 2019 and 2021 respectively, she has been playing a strategic role in driving the bidding management processes, as well as coaching and mentoring coming proposal administrators and implementing initiatives to improve the organisation’s bid win ratio.

Over and above the two challenging roles, Maela was enlisted to form part of GIBB’s business development team, which is focused on increasing the business’s turnover, improving efficiencies and growing market share including identifying and participating in game changing corporate social investment programmes.

Maela’s journey in the largely technical and male-dominated construction, mining and engineering industries began after she completed an honours degree in Business Studies (Marketing) in 2006.

“I have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge in different sectors, Information Communication Technology (ICT) as an intern, FMCG as a branch Manager in training and Construction and Mining Industries as a graduate trainee, which gave me enormous insight into various aspects of marketing, business development and project management (PMBOK principles) as well as the key challenges each area faces,” says Maela.

After her graduate trainee programme, she moved to an entrepreneurially-driven construction company where she was heavily involved in project management, project delivery and proposal management, leading teams in submissions that won multi-million-rand tenders for key national infrastructure projects in South Africa’s in the power generation and construction spaces.

“Working for an entrepreneurial-driven organisation was enlightening, because it exposed me to different facets of the organisation such as HR, finance, supply chain and technical. It gave me a holistic view of how all of the elements involved in running an organisation fit into the big picture,” she says.

On completing a master’s in business leadership (UNISA SBL) degree, Maela then joined a multinational organisation where she was tasked with leading and directing submission of strategic opportunities (minimum of USD 5-million) in Africa at pursuit and bid stages. “I strive to be an influential changemaker in my field of expertise at every organisation that allows me to flourish and rise to the occasion in the boardroom.

“During this time, I also established my own shuttle business. It was initially focused on school transport, but later evolved to an airport shuttle operation, a move that was largely prompted by my broad qualifications and the experience I gained while working at the entrepreneurial company,” she adds.

Now at GIBB, Maela’s future plans include getting more involved in overall business strategy and hopefully managing a delivery unit. “I’m interested in being able to manage the balance sheet and explore ways to improve efficiencies, as well as to drive growth, team development and mentorship – not only within the business, but for school leavers when they are making decisions about their futures.”

Mentorship is particularly close to Maela’s heart. “I believe I could have made smarter choices for myself if I had been exposed to better guidance during my school-going years. In my younger years, we had limited exposure to what the world has to offer. Career guidance in most Group B schools was non-existent and being from a previously disadvantaged background did not make it easier either.”

She believes succeeding at a career has a lot more to do with willingness to learn, resilience, emotional intelligence, and personal wellbeing over and above qualifications and work experience. That said, her extensive experience is backed up with a master’s degree in Business Leadership and various other post-graduate qualifications. She is also registered with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals.

Working in male-dominated industries has had its own challenges at times. “It requires pushing boundaries. Often, women’s’ contributions are less valued than that of their male peers, mainly because the tasks and roles have been gendered. Over and above this, the assumption that with limited technical understanding it is not possible to contribute as meaningfully has required that I work extra hard and prove my competence levels by being consistent, delivering results and ultimately earning each team’s respect. I believe l have broken new ground at GIBB and will continue to do so, accepting additional challenges and extending myself beyond my current orbit of experience.”

She says her time at GIBB has afforded her the opportunity to not only look at one organisation, but consider the multiple subsidiary companies within the organisation’s fold. “I have to think about the aspects that make them unique, as well as those that unite them and apply appropriate approaches to each to deliver and exceed expected results,” adds Maela.

Knowing that she has tangible goals she needs to deliver on gives Maela a sense of purpose and satisfaction. “When a proposal goes out and we are appointed, it’s something I take pride in, because I was part of the process. Leading the team to get BEE accreditation has been rewarding. I’m also excited to be part of needle-moving initiatives in the business that fall outside of my portfolio.”

Maela urges young people climbing the corporate ladder not to be too fixated on job titles and financial rewards alone. “It is crucial to be diligent at every stage of your career. Don’t be fixated on financial gains either, because it is not always everything. Learn as much as you can at every stage, invest in yourself, not only in education, but in the spiritual, emotional intelligence and resilience aspects too. You will need them at every stage of your career. Develop relationships: you will pick up insights and skills from inspiring people that you’ll be able to use in your senior roles.

“Finally, womanity is magnificent, we are just as capable of delivering what our male counterparts do. Never doubt your capability, even the boardroom needs to hear your female voice,” she concludes.

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