Mentorship programme sees growth in engineer’s career

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Chris Tshivhidzo started working at Stefanutti Stocks in 2001, after completing his civil engineering diploma at the Technikon Northern Gauteng (TNG), which is now known as the Tshwane University of Technology or TUT. His first project was working as a trainee engineer, at a weir that Stefanutti Stocks Civils was constructing for the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

“In my early days I worked with a few great contractors including Billy Howes, Shaun Butler and Martin du Rand. Under Shaun Butler my career progressed from site engineer, site agent, and senior site agent to project manager. During this period I attended the in-house Site Leadership Development Programme as well as various concrete courses.

“About ten years after first starting to work in the industry, StefanuttiStocks enrolled me in the Construction Management Programme at Stellenbosch. This intensive and elite course entirely changed my mindset on how we contract in South Africa - you have to put all the negatives to one side, look at the positives and weigh in on those when you are gunning for new projects. It felt like a momentous occasion, intensified by the birth of my daughter a week before I returned home from the Cape.

“During the mentorship programme which began in 2014, I began working with Mike Stevenson, my contracts director, and Graham McIntyre, our division’s commercial director. We identified the key competencies that I wanted to focus on, which were costing and business development. My goal was to become the person who bring sin a project and then manages it all the way through to completion.

Each of our sites represents a small business within the bigger Stefanutti Stocks Civils business, and ensuring that my business was profitable was of course also a key objective of mine. We covered a lot of operational aspects during the programme, but a key aspect that stuck with me was what we learned about the need to be accessible on site, to encourage communication, engage with people and develop better employee relationships.

“The mentorship programme was a massive wake up call for me, in that I realised that I was underutilising those parts of my brain that dealt specifically with communication and listening. With regard to operational aspects on site with different clients, I always made peace with the operational and safety requirements of our clients, and tried to understand their challenges. This included understanding the pressure our clients were under, in particular the parastatals, to deliver what they had been mandated to deliver. My positive mindset meant that I actually embraced working in difficult environments, as I thrived on finding solutions.

“In April 2016 I was promoted to senior contracts manager, reporting to Mike Stevenson. In March 2017 I was appointed as alternate contracts director. These promotions have certainly motivated me to work even harder to fulfil my career goals.

“The mentorship programme definitely grew my business skills and confidence, and it was a career coup when we were awarded the Cleveland project by PRASA, as it was the first time I had fulfilled the role of a successful bid leader. It has also helped me reach a point where I can capably mentor young BEE companies, such as 4Phase, our joint venture partner on the PRASA project (see p36). I’m looking forward to playing my part in their story.”

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