AS a civil engineer and project manager at Burmeister & Partners Consulting Engineers, Diana Katjiuongua never gave up her love for the hair industry. She started doing research about the lucrative industry since 2007 and years later established a hair salon in Windhoek – Hair Goddess – renowned for its excellent customer service.
In an interview with Confidente, Katjiuongua talks about juggling her engineering career and running a hair salon, the importance of learning and spending quality time with family as a way to relax after a long day of work.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
I was born in Gobabis and raised in Windhoek with my six siblings. My fiancé and I are also proud parents of two girls and one boy.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
I grew up in a home with a large family with both my parents. My mother has always been a very strong and loving woman. Her strength and loyalty to her family is what inspires me when I’m faced with life’s challenges and has taught me the importance of being a devoted individual in my personal and professional life. My late father was a disciplinarian and a very wise man who taught me a lot of what I know today about business.
What triggered your interest in civil engineering?
Initially, I applied to study Medicine in South Africa, but my father insisted that I take the civil engineering route, as I was studying in the science field in high school. I then applied and studied Civil Engineering and Project Management at the University of Science and Technology (NUST), then the Polytechnic of Namibia. As my interest in the engineering industry grew, I also obtained a Bachelor of Technology Degree from NUST for Water Engineering.
Looking back at your career, what memories are you most fond of?
The fondest memory of my career was being privileged to work with 44 hardworking men from my previous employment. They taught me the importance of communication. Through them, I also learnt how to persevere as a woman in a male-dominated industry. They were dedicated and hardworking and it was an honour to have had the opportunity to supervise their daily works and make challenging situations a pleasure to tackle together as a team.
Tell us about the establishment of Hair Goddess salon?
Hair Goddess was born from a frustration of salons in our local market, particularly those that provide services for ethnic hair. Local hairdressers were not properly trained on the structure of the hair and what damage putting specific chemicals on clients’ hair can do to hair follicles. From my science background, I wanted to know more about the structure of the hair and what products are suitable for various hair types. I am however a businesswoman and not a hairdresser, and for that reason, Hair Goddess’ hairstylists are therefore fully trained with a 3-year Diploma in hairdressing; and that, coupled with regular update of current hair trends and latest technological advancements, ensure that our clients get the proper care for their delic a t e tresses.
Hair Goddess Salon specialises in hair and nail treatments.
Engineering and a salon are two different worlds; tell us about your passion for each and how you juggle the two?
I work full time as a civil engineer and project manager for one of the biggest engineering consulting companies in Namibia. I enjoy the challenge engineering offers and it is the core of my professional being. It is extremely demanding, but the excitement kicks in when you are given a challenge and you are expected to deliver at all times, no matter what. What is fulfilling about engineering is that all our projects are relevant to each and every community that the project originates from.
I have had an interest in hair since I was a teenager and I started doing a lot of research about the salon industry since 2007. However, what is most gratifying about being a salon owner is the fact that I have created employment for four very hardworking and talented ladies.
Being a civil engineer and owning a salon is not as diverse as people might think. My current work has taught me the importance of delivering a project on time and on budget and to the satisfaction of the client. That is basically what business is all about.
How has running the two shaped you as a professional and businesswoman?
Both have taught me how to see challenges in a different perspective and have given me the ability to solve problems. When working in both industries, clients are key as they are the primary variable that can make your business succeed or fail. If a client is not happy, you find out why in order to improve on the next client. It is however much easier with a salon, because of the frequent feedback we get from customers and how to quickly mitigate any issues they have had. All in all, the goal remains to be professional at all times. I am constantly learning. I learn something new every day; from projects I’m given, interacting with my coworkers, listening to the wiser generation in both industries; and from my staff at the salon, as they also guide me on how to carry out certain tasks.
What advice do you have for women?
Whatever you choose to pursue as a career or a business, study the industry and learn everything you can about it. Keep learning as all industries change with time. If possible, get a mentor in the same line of business or career as you who will guide you through your journey of success. This is very important, as we are surrounded by so many naysayers in our society, and a mentor is someone who doesn’t want to compete with you, but mainly providing a transfer of skills as a social responsibility. Also, a young man who runs a business taught me that in order to succeed and beat the competition; you need to look at your own business as a competitor. This will ensure that you stay on top of your game and remain relevant. Challenges are inevitable, so don’t get discouraged. Most importantly don’t forget that all success comes from hard work. For aspiring female engineers; engineering is an exciting and diverse career path with abundant opportunities in Namibia for women to succeed. Do not be intimidated by the lack of gender diversity in this industry.
What is your secret indulgence?
A huge slice of the rich chocolate cake from Mugg & Bean
Just what do you do for a little fun?
Watching business related shows, reading newspapers and listening to old school 90’s RnB music. The best fun I have is doing anything that creates laughter for my children and spending time with family and the love of my life.
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