By Fiona Wakelin
Turner & Townsend is marking its 75th anniversary this year. How is the company celebrating?
Our 75th anniversary is an opportunity for reflection. It is an opportunity to consider the impact we have had as well as the impact we would like to have for future generations. We have a renewed purpose to be green, productive and inclusive. Our purpose will help our clients meet their own goals; for example, by increasing delivery efficiency or helping them meet their own sustainability goals through our advice on greener solutions. Our purpose will help us assist our clients.
Please unpack the journey which led you to joining Turner & Townsend.
I joined the business as a young third year Quantity Surveying student looking to gain some experiential training from an organisation in the construction professional services space. T&T ticked all the boxes in terms of brand, reputation, track record, vision, global footprint and the opportunity to travel. After an initial six months of experiential training I really saw T&T as a potential springboard to an amazing career in professional services. I was fortunate enough to have impressed my bosses at the time for them to give me an opportunity to become a permanent employee, and I have never looked back.
As the mining and metals lead for Africa, what do you see as your key roles and responsibilities?
- To support in developing a truly Pan African T&T business.
- Growing our continued involvement in major mining projects across Africa.
- Creating a more inclusive mining and metals business at T&T, taking into account the importance of meeting local ambitions and also the role that women play in the sector.
- Grooming the next M&M leaders within our business and more importantly within the sector
- Supporting our clients across Africa in developing sustainable Mining operations that meet legislative and environmental requirements including supporting their net zero and decarbonisation ambitions.
- Mine closures – reimagining how we provide support in an environment friendly way.
- Enterprise & Supplier Developer Development and the ability to transfer skills into black-owned organisations that have the ability to deliver services like ours.
- Digital Transformation in mining – going digital, and helping clients realise their digital ambitions. We have established ourselves in a manner that allows us to be more efficient to our clients, and help them develop concepts through decision-making processes.
What excites you most about the position you hold?
I am excited by my ability to impact change in the sector and work alongside thought leaders in the industry. My role at Turner & Townsend allows me to identify new talent and help raise new leaders in the sector, as well. I also love that we are raising awareness on environmental issues impacted by the sector, and are also helping address social issues relating to communities impacted by the Mining sector.
What have been some of your major milestones?
I have been intentional over the last 2 years with the selection of employment equity candidates. Since I took over the South Africa Mining & Metals business, employment equity has been one of my key focus areas with my team currently at 61% equity candidates. It has borne fruits as clients are pleased with our business’s diversity and inclusion approach and to that end clients such as Anglo reach out to my team when they have challenges meeting their own equity requirements. Over and above that, I brought in two strong, senior, black female candidates into Associate Director and Director Level. At the junior level – quantity surveyors and graduates we have 100% equity commitment and filtering upwards as they develop to consider them for more senior roles.
I have developed a culture of mentoring in mining in line with our business’s overall ambition to drive accreditation of professional quantity surveyors and other professional bodies to help advance our people’s careers. Our senior people take this seriously and I personally mentor 9 people outside of our business too.
In my tenure at Turner & Townsend, I have helped our clients meet their commitment to Mining Charter III by partnering with QSEs/EMEs to deliver projects.
How do you manage conflict and stress at work?
I am a people’s person. So I find it easy to engage in difficult conversations, and I am good at conflict resolution. I also like to keep fit and I enjoy a round of golf occasionally. This assists with stress management. It is also important to me that I have some fun time with my 3-year old daughter who magically makes the stress go away with her smile.
How has Covid impacted on Turner & Townsend’s business model?
What Covid has done is emphasised the importance of a diversified business; one that operates in a number of sectors, allowing sectors that have positively navigated the Covid impact to prop up sectors that have been hard hit. The pandemic has also allowed us to get closer to our clients as we share best practice around new ways of working remotely, using a more digitally driven strategy and creating safe working environments. Our team has also relied on the use of SME companies to support our continued effort in delivering projects to our clients on mining sites.
Please describe what you see as the most important traits for transformative leadership.
- Inclusive approach to problem solving
- Continuous development
- Continued engagement with staff on softer issues – get to know them beyond the office
- Bringing staff to buy in together in to a vision and purpose
What exciting plans do you have for the upcoming year?
Personally, I look forward to traveling again (given the current restrictions). From a business front, I look forward to realising the potential in the Mining & Metals business for RSA and ROA; travelling into Africa and identifying regions of high potential with a focus on East Africa and West Africa where traditionally there would be potential, but not realised due to the investment climate and legislations.
Do you have a message out there for businesses and individuals struggling to survive?
Work hard to make your business an agile business. Have patience, believe in your people, and continue fighting!
*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.
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