10 Questions With …
Gugulethu Mnisi (Mechanical Technician)

The New Age Engineering Team was awarded a Benzene Alkylation in Cat Polymerization (BACP) contract at Sasol’s Secunda operations, which commenced in November 2022. The scope of this work includes both mechanical and welding services. On this project, our mechanical team will blank off lines, conduct pressure testing of lines, do final box up of flanges, punch out lines and sign off packs.

Blanking off the lines will ensure that the plant is safe enough for the New Age team to begin welding. Once welding work and pressure testing are complete, our mechanical team will then proceed with flange management to ensure there are no leaks during the start-up of the plant. Flange management is one of the services offered by our mechanical team.

This month we are shining the spotlight on Gugulethu Mnisi, one of our promising young mechanical technicians assigned to the BACP project.

Please tell us about where you grew up.

I’m from a vibrant township called Mkhuhlu in Bushbuckridge.

Where did you study?

I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg. I’m currently busy with my advanced diploma in Mechanical Engineering and after that I want to pursue an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering.

As a Mechanical Technician what is a typical day like for you?

I start my day with morning meetings. We meet with other mechanical technicians at Sasol’s Secunda plant. In those meetings, we discuss our plans for the day, get our teams together and do a risk analysis. After the meetings, we ensure that our teams understand the safety regulations and expectations, and then we go on site and start working.

What are your tasks on site?

Our team is in charge of repairs. We handle a lot of mechanical equipment on site. We have heat exchangers, vessels, reactors, pipelines, pumps, heaters and filters, and we repair them if they are faulty. The operations team will inform our department if something is not working properly in the plant and, once we get that message, we go on site and try to figure out what’s wrong and what is the cause of the defect. We then write reports and brainstorm on how we can repair the fault on site. While we are brainstorming, we must also consider cost, time and safety in our plan. Safety for us is the most important thing.

What do you enjoy the most about being a Mechanical Technician?

I enjoy working on a variety of equipment on site.

Some of the Secunda Mechanical team:
(Left to right) Hulisani Ramovha (Operations Manager) and his team of technicians, Sinenhlanhla Gumede, Happy Machaka & Gugulethu Mnisi

What is your experience of working at New Age?

I love working at New Age because I’m exposed to so many things. We are currently very busy with project work. I also realize that New Age doesn’t just shape you professionally, it shapes your character as well. You are taught that things don’t just come easy. When you come straight from university, you have a different perception of what things are going to be like on site. You have to start from the bottom, and I’ve learnt that, even though I’m from university, I will not start at the top. I have to work my way up in the company. Being a good engineer is not just about intelligence; you also need character and resilience.

How was the transition from university to the workplace?

The transition has been great because all you do in a lecture hall is see things in a two-dimensional view and it’s not always easy to use your intuition to understand what is going on, but when you come to site you get the bigger picture. It’s like a full-circle moment.

What has surprised you the most about the workplace environment?

A big surprise for me was noticing that we have very few women in our industry. It was surprising but at the same time it motivates me to inspire other women to come and pursue a career in mechanical engineering and to be confident that women can do this job as well.

What is it like being a woman in the mechanical engineering space?

It’s not easy being a woman in the construction industry because it’s not common to see a woman in this career field. People view women as the weaker vessel to men and because of this belief, some men assume that women won’t be able to do this job – but this is just a perception and not a reality.

What are your career goals?

I would like to start working as a Maintenance engineer because I want to understand how the equipment works. After that, I would like to become a Systems engineer and oversee systems. 

My end goal is to branch into Design engineering because it will allow me to have a bigger picture of how things function on site and then I will be able to understand what needs to be modified and improved.

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