During August, operations and maintenance service providers to the steam and boiler sector, Associated Energy Services (AES) celebrate the pioneering, energetic women who are challenging stereotypes within the engineering and industrial space, says managing director, Chris Paterson. This is part two of a two-part series.

…continued from part 1

Building a safe, nurturing environment

Sonika Kock joined AES in November 2013 as regional administrator in the Eastern Cape, a role that she says involves being everything, from mother to psychologist to team player!

A career highlight was being part of AES’s ISO for 9001, 14001 and 45001 implementation and certification in 2015. “With no prior ISO exposure and experience it was extremely challenging, but a highly rewarding process. After the certification, I was appointed the Integrated Management System (IMS) representative in the region,” she says.

Kock’s next career goal is enrolling for a NEBOSH international qualification in environmental health and safety.

Another important role for Kock is building and facilitating inter-staff relationships: “This is where my passion is – heart and soul – and we have an open-door policy where everyone feels comfortable discussing their issues and concerns. We offer a safe environment where everybody gets treated equally and with respect, understanding and support. Good employer relationships in the workplace result in satisfied employees and a positive environment increases operational efficiencies,” she maintains.

This nurturing environment is just one of the factors that makes AES an employer of choice for its employees, she adds.

“The AES way or ethos rests on three focal points: people, plant and performance, of which the first is people. Everyone is given the same resources and opportunities regardless of gender and circumstances.”

Women as role models in engineering

Caitlin La Reservee graduated with a diploma in Mechanical Engineering in April 2020, and joined AES in November 2020 as a production technician. Two years later, she was promoted to her current role as production supervisor, Eastern Cape.

She believes women have a vital and dynamic role to play in engineering: “Engineering allows one to be creative, inventive and to solve real life problems. Engineering can make a meaningful impact on the world. So, by including women in this space, it allows them to infuse the industrial space with fresh experience, ideas and perspectives.”

La Reservee also says it is important to change the way that women in the engineering and industrial sectors are perceived.

“We must address misconceptions about what engineering actually is – and how broad the sector is. If women had a better understanding of what engineering entails – particularly from secondary school level – I think they would join the profession. We need more women as role models in engineering,” she observes.

Though offering bursaries and apprenticeships for women in engineering, La Reservee says companies like AES can help to bridge the gender gap.

“During my time at AES, I have completed numerous short courses specifically relevant to my duties and responsibilities, equipping me to grow within my career.”

She also credits associate director and Eastern Cape regional manager Raymond Lund, with not only recognising her potential, but ensuring she is constantly challenged.

Her advice to those wishing to follow a similar career path is encapsulated in a quote from the character Dory from Finding Nemo: “‘Just keep swimming,’ and you will be noticed, rewarded and come out on top!” she concludes.