… Rises to the top in male-dominated cement industry
ESTELLE Alberts (EA) recently stepped into the hot seat of being Ohorongo Cement Plant Manager.
Despite the mammoth task that comes with managing the plant, which is situated on Sargberg farm, about 30km northwest of Otavi, she is unfazed by her new post.
In her new role, she is responsible for all activities related to the plant, including coordinating production and maintenance, as well as driving the implementation of new projects.
Alberts holds a bachelor and master’s degree in engineering, as well as a degree business administration, she obtained from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN), Alberts spoke with excitement about her new role, thriving in a male-dominated field and her love for outdoor activities.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are.
EA: I grew up on a farm and proceeded to study chemical engineering after school. My studies were supported by a bursary from Skorpion Zinc, at the time, and after graduation, I worked in the mining industry. I furthered my studies by completing an MScEng degree, while studying part-time. During my time at Skorpion Zinc, I also discovered my passion to work with people. At Ohorongo Cement I could further develop in this direction, when I received the opportunity to be a divisional production manager. So today I am a chemical engineer turned manager. I believe in a work hard, play hard philosophy and think that it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing. Would you say that it played a role in who you are today?
EA: I think our roots always have an influence, on how we develop in life. My parents always supported us to do the best we can. They taught us to be self-sufficient and resourceful and not to blame others or circumstances for not achieving personal goals.
MN: Congratulations on your appointment. Has the reality sunk in yet?
EA: I am very thankful for the opportunity to fulfil the role of plant manager, and I look forward to the challenges associated with this appointment.
MN: What does the job of a cement plant manager entail?
EA: The plant manager is responsible for all activities related to the cement manufacturing plant at Sargberg. This includes coordinating all production, maintenance, safety, health and environment and quality control activities, as well as initiating and driving the implementation of new projects. The plant manager reports to the managing director.
MN: What do you plan to do differently in your position? In other words, what innovations are you bringing to the post?
EA: A strong foundation was laid by my predecessor, Manfred Pirker. I plan to continue on this foundation, with the intent to keep firstly those aspects that proved to be successful in the past, and to improve the areas that can function better. I hope to grow a strong culture of teamwork in the company. In terms of the cement production plant, we continue to have a focused approach towards improving efficiency and developing the agility to continuously respond to the market.
MN: Tell us about other positions you occupied that helped prepare you for this job.
EA: My role as Divisional Production Manager at Ohorongo Cement, from 2013, has played the largest part in preparing myself for this role. As divisional production manager, I had the opportunity to learn the technical part of the cement manufacturing process, but also to get to know the Ohorongo team very well. While in this role I also completed my MBA degree part-time, and I therefore had the opportunity to learn, by applying the different topics to my work life and to our company.
MN: What is it like to work for Ohorongo Cement and how has that shaped you as a woman and professional?
EA: Ohorongo Cement is the daughter company of Schwenk Zement from Germany. Schwenk Zement is a fifth generation family-owned company. Ohorongo Cement, therefore, has the cement manufacturing experience from Schwenk Zement as a backbone, together with a solid organisational structure. Ohorongo Cement has retained the family values of Schwenk Zement, but has also developed its own unique Namibian culture. The leaders in the company are always willing to contribute to the development of Namibian talent, and supported me in my personal development process.
MN: How have you managed to rise in what is widely seen as a male-dominated sector?
EA: I like my work and have a keen interest and curiosity about the different parts of the process and equipment, and throughout my career I liked to be involved in every part of the process and company, whenever I had the possibility to be. I have never expected to receive any different treatment, because I am a woman. And at the same time, I must honestly say that all the men that I have worked with accepted me as part of the team, and considered my contributions similarly to those made by any of my male colleagues.
MN: What advice do you have for youngsters aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
EA: Set the bar high; strive to better your own past achievements. Be willing to work hard and achieve the best you can. Learn with enthusiasm – every day, all of your life and in all different aspects of life and work. Remain modest and be willing to listen to and learn from advice.
MN: What don’t people know about you?
EA: I originally wanted to study medicine, and then because of some last-minute opportunities, I changed to studying chemical engineering.
MN: What do you do for a little fun?
EA: I love camping, fishing and the outdoors.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015