I recently had the opportunity to interview, Murendeni Matshinyatsimbi, member of the EWB-SA board of directors. Matshinyatsimbi’s engineering journey started as early as high school, when he attended a technical school in Thohoyandou, Limpopo. He later attained an Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town. He also has certificates in International Trade Law and Mining Law from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Matshinyatsimbi, can be described as a social developer, educational analyst and a critical observer. His role as EWB-SA board member is to support the CEO and ensure that the organization remains focused on its commitments. His interest in community development began when he reached the realization that, “a man is not an island, we exist in communities. I enjoy serving people.”
Matshinyatsimbi works as as an electrical engineer at Hatch Goba. He was nominated as one of the young African leaders by Hatch Goba to be part of the prestigious Kumvana Program (leadership development and cultural exchange expertise program). He believes that engineers are more than just technical people and that engineers need to equip themselves with other skill sets to help improve the way in which they solve problems, he refers to this as Holistic engineering.
He has also liaised with the Johannesburg Road Agency on behalf of EWB-SA for previous projects and is in discussion with them on ways in which they can collaborate to solve traffic light challenges in Johannesburg. When asked about how he manages his time between his work at EWB-SA and his other commitments, he simply says, “doing anything one enjoys, one cannot really separate the tasks. I try to merge the two wherever I can.”
Find the rest of this informative, inspiring and succinct interview below.
1) Describe your engineering journey.
I don’t even know where to start in response to this question because of the broad engineering definition. Allow me to start from high school. I went to a technical school in Thohoyandou at Limpopo. After matriculation, I furthered my studies in Electrical Engineering at University of Cape Town. After completing my undergraduate degree, I joined an engineering consulting company, working predominately in mining. I was exposed to engineering design at an early stage of my career and that was complemented with site experience for the same project. I’ve worked on multiple projects, both locally and international. It has been an interesting journey, I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn and develop in the field of engineering.
2) What prompted you to volunteer at EWBSA?
It was a simple vision Wiebke (Toussaint) shared with me. I could see myself fitting in and contributing to make that vision a reality.
3) Describe what your work at EWB-SA entails.
I am currently a non-executive board member at EWBSA. My role is to support the CEO and ensure the organisation stay focus on its commitments.
4) What sparked your interest in community development?
It’s a simple realization that a man is not an island, we exist in communities. I enjoy serving people.
5) How have you been able to utilize your skills as an engineer to assist/ empower communities?
I’ve used engineering education and public engagement to share my experience in the industry. This year we engaged with the Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) to link them to our two chapters in Johannesburg, i.e. University of Johannesburg and University of Witwatersrand. The idea was to create opportunities for our members to apply their skills in real life challenges.
Look carefully around you and you’ll see opportunities for you to serve.
6) What do you feel you have acquired/gained (both for your professional and personal development) through your association with EWB-SA?
EWBSA allows one to ask difficult questions our communities face on daily basis. We don’t have all the answers but we have a platform we can safely try and fail. I’ve gained experience to engage communities in a sustainable way and learn from people alike.
7) How do you maintain a balance between the work at your day job and your work at EWB-SA?
Doing anything one enjoys, one cannot really separate the tasks. I try to merge the two wherever I can.
8) Are there any interesting projects that you are working on currently or in the near future?
I’ve learned a lot from the JRA experience. I am still exploring ways we can engage further to help solve the traffic lights challenges in Johannesburg.
9) What advise would you give to aspiring engineers?
In the mining industry, there isn’t much innovation but a lot of optimization opportunities. You can only optimize something you’re familiar with. Get your hands dirty as early as possible and keep asking lots of stupid questions.
Murendeni Matshinyatsimbi interviewed by Dhruti Dheda