Tersia Baker is a prime example of how the SAIW has been instrumental in laying a career foundation for many executives across the country and the continent. Now General Manager at PSC Integrity, she was inspired by her father who worked at Sasol. Encouraging her to pursue a career that she felt passionate about, she was offered a learnership programme with the AIA Department at Sasol Secunda in partnership with the SAIW.
Following a gruelling series of interviews, exams and aptitude tests, she was chosen as a candidate. With her philosophy of ‘becoming the greatest through integrity and innovation with strength in partnerships’, there was no doubt Tersia would excel in her chosen career.
She explains; “The learnership was no walk in the park. As a young woman in an industry dominated by men in a very technical environment I had to push harder and work harder. I was part of the first ever learnership programme, so it was a huge learning experience”. Being lectured by dedicated staff, she was constantly in awe of their technical proficiency, practical experience and work ethic. “All the lecturers and mentors from the South African Institute of Welding (SAIW) were admired and they really set the tone for what was expected of us”.
Tersia says they were given the best lecturers from the SAIW and lots of help from senior experienced inspectors who worked at Sasol. She recalls, “We completed nearly every quality and inspection course offered by the SAIW over the course of 10 months. It was a demanding programme of lectures and exams on a continuous basis”. The workload was challenging and she studied everything from SAIW Inspector level I & II into all NDT methods, plant inspectors courses, codes courses, CP boilers and pressure vessels as well as courses in paint inspection. She admits the most fun she had was during her introduction to welding where she mastered a manner of welding techniques over a period of four weeks. “Getting practical knowledge is key in understanding the technical part of quality and inspection”.
After the programme with the SAIW, which was over a period of a year of studying, Tersia completed two years of practical training onsite. After many hours logged and interviews, she was given a full time job at Sasol Secunda and completed her in-service training over the course of a further three years. Here she was exposed to all sorts of processes and refining and power generation. Involved in vendor inspections at Intertek and the opportunity to work on incredible projects, she was able to travel into Africa and abroad, continually furthering her knowledge and expertise.
Rising through the ranks
She has now found her home at PSC Integrity, one of the leading black owned AIA companies in South Africa, focusing on power generation and working on Eskom projects. Passionate and dedicated to her career, Tersia explains, “I have grown from a very technical background into understanding the commercial aspects and the business of engineering. We’re making progress through innovative perspectives in finding solutions to our client’s quality and inspection challenges”.
Tersia maintains that programmes like the one SAIW offered are critical. “There are so many disadvantaged students who would greatly benefit from programmes like these. I feel we really need to start promoting engineering in schools, and not just the basic head title engineering courses, there’s so much more than that”. She further adds that, “Our economy needs industrialists, artisans and engineers. South Africa has produced some of the world’s best engineers and engineering solutions. We are a country rich in minerals. This is where our opportunity for economic growth lies. Gearing up our youth to become industrialists will be our strength”.
Women are the best
Coming from an all-girls school, Tersia was not exposed to career options that included engineering, and without the programme she did through SAIW she would never have known about this exciting industry. “There are very few women in the welding inspection and engineering fields and yet we possess the most potential. I find I am very often the only female amongst my male colleagues, and as result, often underestimated”. Working harder and learning quicker to prove herself, she affirms that women are excellent engineers and some of the best welders she knows. “More and more women are being accepted in this industry as leaders but I feel we really need to push the envelope and make a careers in inspection, welding and engineering for women the norm”.
Tersia believes it would be a great service to all young South Africans if there was more knowledge sharing in terms of career options and programmes like the one she did through the SAIW. “I would encourage any women interested to test themselves in this industry, it’s so exciting to be a part of larger projects and in knowing the work we do in engineering is for the greater good of growing our country. There are so many programmes available, find one. Stick through it. Find a mentor! And if you’re knowledgeable find a mentee! Knowledge sharing is growth for all”, concludes Tersia.
SAIW Business Development Manager Etienne Nell is in awe of Tersia’s incredible career accomplishments and says, “She was once a student at SAIW and now is MD of PSC Integrity, an extraordinary achievement”.