Engen employees have many inspiring stories regarding their careers with the company. In the stories below, find out how Engen is making the right investments in its talent and bucking an oil industry trend; how a graduate of the Engen Maths and Science School programme and Engen Bursary programme is inspiring a new generation of learners to work hard; how a Dangerous process was transformed by an employee’s ingenuity; and how a security guard transformed into an ace truck driver…
Phikolomzi has found his wings
Phikolomzi Gugwana grew up in Mount Ayliff in the Eastern Cape but attended a secondary school in Wentworth, Durban as there were no high schools in Mount Ayliff that taught in English.
From an early age, Phikolomzi (his name means ‘wings’) showed great aptitude for maths and science, subjects he describes as ‘low-volume’ because they are based on little content, rather, principles and formulae.
“Math and Physics are well suited to someone who doesn’t particularly like to read,” he says.
Having attended Engen’s Maths and Sciences School on Saturdays, and on completing his matric, he applied for an Engen Bursary to study a B.Com in Statistics and Economics at the University of Cape Town.
Whilst graduates join the company with no fixed position (their first year is spent across a variety of functions), Phikolomzi joined Engen’s Finance Department, which manages Engen’s liquidity and cash flow on a daily basis. Here he has been given clear roles to play in a programme created for him: these span two functions across each of three disciplines: Insurance, Africa Controller and Operations.
Phikolomzi has always expected a bright future and has found a real sense of belonging at Engen.
“I really appreciate the company’s culture and beliefs – they put their money into growing people skills,” he says.
His dream is to become a Data Scientist; a key strategic role which he believes will be significant in tomorrow’s world.
“There is so much you can learn and infer from simple data,” he concludes.
Phikolomzi currently lives in Rosebank in Cape Town, close to UCT. On his journeys into the City each day, he reflects just how far he has come in 22 years since his early years in Mount Ayliff, and what his future looks like, now that Engen has given him wings and space to fly.
Wendy remembers women of worth
South Africa celebrates National Women's Day annually on 9 August. It commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and as a result, it remains the day which represents liberation, strength and equality to millions of contemporary South African women.
Wendy Ntombela, a Senior Planning and Economics Engineer at the Engen Refinery in Durban, understands better than most the impact that women of worth have on our world. Wendy’s world would look very different today, had it not been for the love, encouragement, inspiration and support she received from the significant women in her life.
“For me, Woman’s Day reminds me that change begins with me: it means standing up for what is just and what you believe in, no matter the odds. Just like the women who marched 60 odd years ago,” says Wendy.
Born in Lamontville, Wendy Ntombela grew up in Wentworth, and later moved back to her place of birth, which is a township south of Durban. She was schooled at Collingwood Primary and Umbilo Secondary in Wentworth. Walking away from an abusive man, the roles of family provider, guide, protector and parent fell upon Wendy’s mother, Nair Nsibande.
“My mother is amazing. On a local dress maker’s pay, she had to hustle day in and day out – in a two room block with a leaking roof and no running water - my mother supported my older cousin, my two younger sisters and I through school and my first year of varsity,” Wendy recalls.
Wendy describes herself as an analytical introvert and attributes her mother’s love for maths and science as a real encouragement to her.
“Funny enough in grades two and three, I distinctly remember when other children wanted to be teachers, police and doctors, I wanted to become a Mathematician, then a Scientist.”
It was while at high school that Wendy started attending the Engen’s Maths and Science School at Fairvale Secondary where she was fortunate to “interact with a wider range of exceptional teachers and gain a broader exposure to a wider knowledge base of each subject.”
After school, she went on to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Durban-Westville, which later became UKZN. Wendy received an Engen Bursary in her second year at university and enjoyed the opportunity to work at Engen during her vacations.
Wendy lives by a simple mantra: keep at it, dream bigger and enjoy every moment! But behind her unstoppable optimism lies a deep faith and commitment to her family.
“I have always found that God sends Angelic people who pass through my life at a certain point and inspire me through the various chapters, from family to church, to school, to neighbours and friends,” she acknowledges. “But as to inspiration,” Wendy continues, “well my constant and unwavering inspiration remains my Queens, my mother and late Grandmother, who- through literally blood, sweat and tears - have strived to carry and support not just me, but our entire family - with broad shoulders, heads held high and smiles always.”
It is clear that Wendy’s roots are foundational to her views. After all, they moulded her and motivated her to choose Engineering as a career that would impact her world.
”In grade 10 when I visited the Engen Career day, I was sold on engineering. What inspired me is how the profession is able to transform and enhance our daily living, by taking the simplest raw materials and transforming them into value-adding everyday products which undeniably and profoundly uplift our society.
“Just as Elon Musk says: Engineering is the closest thing to magic that exists in the real world and who wouldn’t want to be a magician?”
On a professional level, Wendy admires Ms. Nona Chili, CEO of Makwande Energy Trading for her character, intellect and drive.
Married to her varsity sweetheart of 12 years (“my God-Engineered Promise, Sithembiso”) and blessed with two children (Mfundo and Nontsikelelo), Wendy has every reason to look ahead with confidence.
She plans to broaden her solid refinery experience by gaining experience in the supply chain area of the petrochemical business over the immediate future, before exploring the many other opportunities in the sector further down the line.
And when she does, Wendy will tackle these career challenges with typical confidence. “I don’t believe God has brought me this far, to leave me now,” she says.
Wendy Ntombela’s faith and self-belief will take her far. No matter where she goes or what she achieves, she will – no doubt- remember forever that she stands upon the broad shoulders of women of worth: women whose sacrifice, encouragement and humour carried her through really tough times, into her new world, where she will grow the rich gifts she has received.
Tilting the gender balance
The oil industry remains remarkably male-dominated, with comparatively few women coming through the ranks to hold critical positions and wield influence.
Bucking the trend, Engen channels considerable investment into female leadership development, making the task of profiling its women leaders positively easy.
Jackie Marais – HSEQ Supervisor
Jackie joined Engen in 1989 and rose through the ranks to her current role, which involves overseeing compliance of the depot with health, safety, environmental and quality (HSEQ) standards and laws.
The company’s extensive supply chain sees it manufacture, package, transport, store, transfer and dispense lubricants and chemicals, some of which are hazardous substances. It must therefore comply with a mass of regulations, laws and standards intended to protect staff, the community and the environment. Jackie’s position is not only extremely sensitive but also central to the company’s operations and public safety.
What got her to this key position? Jackie credits honesty, communication, commitment, a positive attitude and fairness. “Taking the easy way out is no way to succeed,” she says.
For inspiration and motivation, she draws equally on a loving family and some tough obstacles. “I have realised through setbacks that I can never give up.”
One example of things not always going according to plan is her teaching qualification. “I didn’t foresee being in this industry, but there is a teaching component. Engen focuses heavily on mentorship in skills development, and places special emphasis on women, especially women of colour.”
Jackie’s biggest challenge, she says, lies in creating a safe working culture. “My department can’t do it alone. We must inspire others to play their part. It’s very difficult, but patience and persistence win out over time, even if your decisions make you unpopular.”
To get her mind off the work’s stresses, she finds peace in music and gardening.
Tersia van Eeden – Administration Supervisor
Tersia van Eeden, Jackie’s counterpart in the administrative function of the depot, joined Engen the year before. Their long service record supports the view that oil companies are hungry for female talent and will provide a rewarding work experience for women of value.
Subscribing to classic job-defined concepts of leadership, she nonetheless believes life is about taking risks. “We never know what blessings await us until we take the first step. It doesn’t always work out, but then you walk away learning something.”
Like her colleague, she draws inspiration from family, and acknowledges the recognition and trust of management giving her a platform to excel, trying to pay it forward by being a trusted confidante for colleagues.
But it’s not always easy. Forced to turn in a poor performance appraisal for a subordinate, she regained his trust only by explaining that it had not been malicious and was moreover necessary as a starting point for improvement. “Taking ownership of failure builds the foundation for success,” she explains.
Asked about the lessons she has for other women coming up through the ranks, she comes up with the following gem: “Vision without action is a day dream, and action without vision is a nightmare.”
“Also, never compromise on integrity, moral standards, trust and work commitment,” she adds.
Pictured above: (L-R)Tersia van Eeden and Jackie Marais
Engen graduate soars, inspires new generation of learners to work hard
In 2008 Mzwandile Harmans attended a poor school in the heart of the rural Eastern Cape. It was his matric year; but with frequent student boycots and meagre resources at Masikhuthale Public Secondary school, the pass rate was low and the learning environment less than ideal for conscientious learners.
Then one day a teacher came round to talk about Engen’s Maths and Science Schools (EMSS) programme, and everything changed for this young man who was determined to realise his full potential.
A chance to succeed
“We were given a chance to take a test to qualify for the EMSS programme, which ran on Saturdays at a different school with better resources, 25 kilometres away,” remembers Mzwandile. “Fortunately, I took it seriously and I got in.”
Making the long round trip every weekend to attend the programme saw a steady improvement in Mzwandile’s maths, chemistry and physics marks, so much so that he was awarded a full Engen scholarship to study Chemical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
Mzwandile later impressed with his tertiary studies and after two-years was offered a one-year internship at Engen’s oil refinery in Durban, which he passed with distinction. On graduating from CPUT, he landed a two-year employment contract with Engen, as part of the company’s graduate development programme.
Today, Mzwandile is permanently employed as an Environmental Technician at the Engen Refinery, and working on a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. Meanwhile, back home, his old headmaster still uses his success to motivate others.
“I am so grateful to Engen for all of this,” says Mzwandile. “I never thought it could happen to me.”
But Engen says many of its EMSS graduates have been known to achieve similar success. All it takes is talent, lots of hard work, and tons of faith in oneself. Who knows, a helping hand might just arrive to pave the way for you. The point is that you must forge your own path in life.
Thandeka Cele, Engen Refinery Public Affairs Manager, says Engen is proud and excited to be supporting students of Mzwandile’s calibre and dedication. “It does the EMSS programme proud, and we’re pleased to play a part in helping develop South Africa’s talent pool of scarce Science, Maths and Engineering skills.”
Engen EMSS programme
The EMSS programme has supported students from under-resourced schools across South Africa for over 27 years. The school Mzwandile attended, Masikhuthale Public Secondary, is in Cala in the Eastern Cape.
He says he used to work very hard to achieve relatively little at the school, but after joining the EMSS programme he started working smartly and greatly improved his marks. “Before, I had many questions no-one could answer to my satisfaction. EMSS helped a lot. From then on I never got less than 92% in Mathematics and Chemistry.”
At the same time, Engen provided logistical support. “They provided buses to travel to the EMSS centre and back every weekend. The programme included students from other high schools. We were given complimentary uniforms, stationery, lunch, and of course we felt very special. At the end of the year I passed with top results in my EMSS group.”
The bigger lesson
Through the EMSS programme, Mzwandile has been made aware of the true nature of his circumstances and how widespread the problem is – affecting students and families who cannot get ahead, schools and towns in desperate need of help, while many companies and the wider economy suffer because of a lack of skills.
“Many South African schools lack resources and dedicated teachers, especially in rural areas,” he says. “Having no resources limits students from obtaining broader information, and of course that results in high failure and dropout rates. EMSS can make a big difference, even if it cannot help every willing school and student. I wish them all good luck, and want to tell them to work hard, because people, who have a talent and are prepared to work, get noticed.”
Mzwandile has another message too, that of caring for the environment – an ideal that is woven into Engen’s operations at every level as the company strives to minimise its impact on the earth and air and the communities in which it does business.
“Having been exposed to environmental management for more than two years now, when I look back to where I grew up on the farm, I realised how wrong the community was to dispose of some its waste in the manner it did. There are many people in SA that still have not realised the impact their actions have on the environment and I am very concerned about the pollution that is going on. I would like to grow within environmental management so that other young individuals can see how important it is to look after our precious earth by taking steps to reduce our carbon footprints.”
Pictured above: Engen Environmental Technician, Mzwandile Harmans
Innovative thinking improves safety
Over the years, the disassembling and reassembling of flanges in pipelines, vessel nozzles, vessel man-ways, channel heads, dome covers and rotating equipment connections has been tackled using the ‘Flogging’ method – something that has resulted in many hand and finger injuries.
All this is about to change at the Engen Refinery as “flogging” is now being transformed thanks largely to some inspired thinking by a plant mechanical technician.
But what is a flange?
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a projecting disc-shaped collar or rim on an object for locating or strengthening it or for attaching it to another object.”
At Enref, flanges are commonly found in pipelines, vessel nozzles, vessel man-ways, channel heads, dome covers and rotating equipment connections.
Flogging involves striking the end of a “flogging spanner” with a hammer to loosen or tighten a nut. This often proves dangerous as once the ring of the flogging spanner is placed on the nut, there is no effective way of holding the spanner in place to ensure it does not separate from the nut if struck incorrectly by the hammer.
The result of this has been that flogging becomes either a two-man job where one artisan holds the spanner and the other strikes it with the hammer, or a one-man job in which the artisan holds the flogging spanner while striking it. Both of which have proved dangerous says Safor mechanical technician and Inventor of the Flog-Nut Nicolas Ricardo.
“This has led to many hand and finger injuries over the years as two artisans can never be 100% in sync with each other and a single misplaced movement can lead to the hammer coming into contact with an artisan’s hand or if the artisan is working alone, a simple lapse in concentration can lead to an artisan striking his own hand with the hammer” adds Ricardo.
The numerous hand and finger injuries experienced by artisans holding the flogging spanner prompted him to come up with an innovative solution. Enter the ‘Flog-Nut’, Ricardo’s innovation that has transformed flogging into a one-man job in which no persons hands are required to be anywhere near the strike zone.
“The tool is placed behind the flogging spanner in order to keep the spanner in position without another person holding it. It ensures that the spanner cannot come adrift from the nut if the spanner is struck incorrectly,” he says.
The ‘Flog-Nut’ requires no maintenance as its purpose is extremely light duty. It is both small and extremely durable, ensuring that jobs can take place in small confined spaces. Artisans who use it need virtually no training in order to put it to effective use.
The hand injury rate (flogging related) is expected to decrease by over 90%.
“Finger and hand injuries, due to flogging, are an unnecessary suffering that no artisans need experience,” says Ricardo.
Pictured above: Enref safety officer Brent Miller (left), and the inventor of the Flog-nut Nicolas Ricardo (right).
Steven’s incredible journey!
Steven Mashala was named Driver of the Year (Articulated) at Engen’s 8th annual FormulaE awards at Sun City in 2013. The prestigious accolade comes after a remarkable sequence of events allowed the former South African National Defence Force soldier who served in 115 BATALLION from 1992-95 to acquire the expert skills needed to be a Bulk Truck Operator.
This is Steven’s story…
Ten years ago, in early 2003, Steven arrived at Engen’s Waltloo depot on the outskirts of Pretoria to start work as security guard in the employ of G4S. Just a year and some months later, GS4’s contract came to an end, and so too Steven’s job. All seemed lost for the cheerful father of sons, Keitumetse (8) and Kgotso (3).
But as fate would have it, then Waltloo depot supervisor Louis Taljaard, and then Waltloo Depot Manager Quinton Fisher had spotted something special in Steven. Fearing the loss of his talents, they were quick to offer him a position as a Yard Operator. Steven jumped at the opportunity and soon excelled.
Silas Malefo, in his position as Dispatch Supervisor at Waltloo Depot (he is now Nelspruit Depot Manager), then asked Steven if he would be interested in training as a driver. As Steven recalls, “I knew that destiny was calling.”
Upon induction into Engen’s Bulk Truck Operator Learnership Programme, he was soon learning the ropes, seconding the extraordinarily disciplined driver George Maluleke.
Later he would cross paths with Mervin Reddy, a former national driver of the year and BTO instructor. With aplomb Steven set about picking up as much knowledge as could from this mentor, a man Steven credits with, “Polishing my driving ability and the reason for my victory in the 2013 Driver of the Year (Articulated) category.”
Steven, who hails from Ga Matlala in Limpopo but grew up in Moloto in KwaMhlanga, made his Formula E debut in 2011. That year he won the theory and fire assimilation categories but failed to secure a top three overall position. “Even though I didn’t make it into the top three, I was very excited to come away with some reward,” he recalls.
As a man who seeks continuous improvement in everything he undertakes Steven was determined to make his mark in future events. So when Waltloo Depot Manager Niel Jansen named Steven the best performer in 2012 and he went on to win the regional Driver of the Year knockouts, he knew that the 2013 FormulaE event at Sun City would be his chance to shine.
As they say in the classics, the rest is history. Steven performed brilliantly at Sun City and was duly named Driver of the Year (Articulated) at Engen’s 2013 FormulaE awards.
When asked what kept him motivated over the years, he says: “If you have a plan, stick to it no matter what, you will be successful.”
Louis Taljaard, the man who first spotted Steven’s special character, is not surprised of his success. ”The commitment and passion shown by Steven as a G4s security officer, a yard operator through to becoming a professional bulk truck operator is highly commendable and his achievement is just reward for his effort,” says Taljaard.
The ever-humble Steven sought to pay tribute to all those who helped him on his incredible journey from security guard through to the pinnacle of the Bulk Truck Operating profession. “I thank my wife Mashale Matlala as well as all my colleagues from yard operators to the CEO for allowing me to realise my dreams and help ensure Engen becomes the oil company of choice in sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean islands”.
Pictured Above: Steven Mashala