Life at Lekela #9: Seipati Matli, Senior Plant Technician, Loeriesfontein and Khobab, South Africa

Lekela is an international organisation, with our people based in Senegal, Egypt, South Africa and the UK. We want to shine a light on the amazing work our people do across Africa and in Europe and hear directly from our employees on what life at Lekela is really like.

Each month, we’re speaking to different employees across Lekela to hear what they’re working on and what led them to this industry.

Today we’re speaking to Seipati Matli, Senior Plant Technician at Loeriesfontein and Khobab, two of our wind farms in South Africa, which we operate through the Service Management of Mainstream Renewable Power South Africa. Read below for some of Seipati’s thoughts on what led her to renewables and what a day in her life at work is like.

What led you to a career in renewables?

I was a student technician at a substation in the protection department, when we were asked to join a renewables team. Initially I wasn’t keen as I wanted to specialise in protection, but in time I realised that all the highly skilled and experienced engineers in my team had experience in renewables projects. I then became interested in the sector, and after a month knew that this was where I wanted to be.

Can you tell us a little about your experience of developing your career as a woman in a technical industry?

I used to be a personal assistant for an electrical construction company and civil consultant, but knew that instead of taking minutes and printing agendas, I wanted to be part of the team coming up with and implementing ideas. I decided to complete my studies, and have never looked back since!

It’s been a challenging, but interesting journey. As a woman, you must learn to be firm and work twice as hard as your male counterparts. Sometimes, it’s still also assumed that you won’t be able to performance tasks because of your gender, and on the flipside, at some points you can be expected to handle things more softly or in a more apologetic manner.

However, I’ve also been lucky to have had great mentors who have been willing to offer me guidance. I have developed confidence in myself, learning to trust my own judgement and opinion. Seeing every challenge as a stepping stone is all it takes to learn.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I deal with people and data. So, ensuring that figures and graphs collaborate with site activities is always interesting, particularly when I need to investigate something further. I also get to work with people from all different walks of life, whether that’s a highly skilled contractor in a different field to mine, or a community member who wants to see the windfarm. I really enjoy meeting and sharing information with different people, including industry experts, community members landowners, suppliers, government authorities and investors.

What does a day in your life look like at work?

My daily focus is making sure that the plant runs at its maximum capacity, and that it does so safely. This includes taking safety walks and observations, reviewing safety documentation and instilling a culture of safety among site staff. In addition, I liaise with different departments based on their particular needs,  as well as external stakeholders.

Most of the time I plan my day, but it’s very rare that things go completely to plan as I often have to urgently support internal teams or contractors.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your time working at Loeriesfontein and Khobab?

I have been working at Loeriesfontein wind farm since it was in construction. It’s fulfilling to see that this land that used to have nothing, now has 122 turbines and two substations that provide over 320,000 households with clean power. I’ve learned so much during my time here, particularly in terms of quality control and the challenges of construction.

Since working here I’ve also picked up a little bit of Afrikaans – just enough to make small conversation! I’ve also learned a lot about farming from the local farmers.