How Industrial Engineering has affected my life

Tumisang Orapeleng is a final year Industrial Engineering student at the University of Botswana. She is also working part-time at the Botswana Engineers Registration Board. She speaks about what has changed in her life since she started her course and where she believes her career is headed.

Question: Why industrial engineering?
Tumisang: I didn’t plan on doing engineering, but when the choice was between engineering or a science major, engineering won. Of the three engineering courses, that I had listed, I was picked for Industrial engineering. I didn’t really know what it was about. I just figured it had something to do with industry. In my 3rd year of study, I was attached at BCL at the mines. There, I met industrial engineering consultants from South Africa, who were working on optimizing the mine. It is from working closely with them that I understood the broader purpose of industrial engineering.

Question: What is Industrial Engineering all about?
Tumisang: Industrial Engineering is about processes. We try to increase efficiency while ensuring  less costs. It is actually very applicable to general life as well.

Question:  You have been actively involved in the Engineering Students association. Tell us about that and the role it has played in your fledgling career?
 Actively participating in the Engineering students association was, for me, a means to get out of my comfort zone. I have been an introverted personality for most of my life, so I was initially very uncomfortable in this new group of people. I initially joined the University of Botswana Engineering Students Association (UBES) committee as an additional member and participated in various activities: adopt-a-school program where we would do tutoring in schools; volunteering at conferences within the faculty and organizing expos for engineering students. I was part of the fundraising team whose job was to identify potential sponsors and raise funds for specific activities. Our largest event was the expo where we had to get both event sponsors and exhibitors, and handle the logistics for the event. It was great experience! In my 4th year, I became the treasurer for the association, with more responsibility, as the head of finance. I can say that the the expo in that year was bigger and better, and succeeded in exposing students to potential employers.

Question: Are you still working with the association? If so, in what capacity?
Tumisang: I am currently an advisor for the University of Botswana Industrial Engineering Association(UBIEA). I was the first president of UBEIA, which was started as a club specifically for industrial engineering students.  Since I was also in the committee of UBES at the time, I voiced the concerns of the industrial engineering students through UBIEA, which was an advantage for us.  One of the most notable benefits for UBIEA has been employment. For example, we once held a talk by an industrial engineer for the IE students. This engineer facilitated employment for 4 graduates!

Question: What opportunities have you had as a direct result of being in the engineering association?
Tumisang: The Engineers Registration Board (ERB) was one of the sponsors we visited while looking for funding for the expo. Because of that initial interaction, they called us and contracted the association to undertaking a survey, on their behalf, to determine the number of engineers in Botswana. We created a leadership team of 4 people, brainstormed, planned the activities over the period of 3 months, and recruited students from both UBES and UBIEA. Overall, we had 30 students working on the project all over Botswana. Personally, I applied a lot of what I learnt in Industrial Engineering; optimization, increasing efficiency, presentation of data and professionalism. The project also groomed the students who participated. One student got a part time job just because of the relationship he created with one of the firms that he interviewed. I am also currently working part time at ERB because of this work.

Question: What do you do everyday at ERB?
Tumisang: I am currently working at the Standards department, which ensures that engineers’ reports submitted to ERB are standardized. I am under training to  check these reports. One of the projects that I am working on is to create a record of reports received and their status, for ease of tracking. I have done this for a few months now, and we are now able to develop monitoring reports based on these records. I am also actively interacting with other Boards worldwide for some projects that ERB is working on such as  training and mentoring of engineering graduates and Continuous Professional Development.

Question: Any challenges that you have faced as a woman in engineering?
Tumisang: At BCL, I was one of two women working at the mines at the time. I realized quickly that my youth and gender put me at a disadvantaged position. ‘This young girl is giving us instructions?’  However, the power of reasoning came into play. I learnt to explain to the miners why certain things were being implemented and how they would improve efficiency and also make their work easier. They finally caught on that I was part of their team. So when I went back to class, I was very confident in my abilities as an industrial engineer.

Question: What is your highest point and lowest point in industrial engineering?
My highest point was when I found out that my final year project had the highest mark in the whole of faculty.  My lowest point was having a retake which delayed my graduation. I have learnt to hustle because I have to pay my own tuition. It also doesn’t help that my colleagues are working and I am not.

“Be something different next year than I was this year. Everyday, I grow.”
My Personal Mantra, Tumisang Orapeleng 

Question: What is next for you as an Industrial Engineer?
: I am currently under training in ERB and hope to become a monitoring officer within the Board. I have also been working with my mentor in her consulting company, which is great experience for me. I am also very entrepreneurial so, eventually, I would like to work for myself and let my money work for me. This is what I am actively pursuing. I don’t want to work in one place for a long time and Industrial Engineering allows you to work anywhere, because it is all about processes.

Question: What is your favourite quote?
Tumisang: You only live once.

Question: What is your largest fear?
Tumisang: Failing other people. I try to work harder to avoid failing people. It hits hard when i fail and I beat myself up for it.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who wants to join Industrial Engineering?
Tumisang: Go for it. Industrial engineering is a way of life. It influences all that you do, you will not even notice yourself  applying it! It will increase your reasoning capability, time management, and make you more efficient.

Question: What are your hobbies?
Tumisang: Swimming. Reading. I try to read 10 pages a day. My current read is “Go out there and make a mess of your life one day at a time”. I also like interacting with other people and meeting new people, something I couldn’t do before.

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