Young Mdlalose makes waves in Maritime

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Growing up in the township of Umlazi, south of Durban, Slindile Mdlalose had a number of dream careers.

Like many children, she wanted to be different things when she grew up.  But there was one career that stuck in her mind -  she wanted to be a part of the maritime industry.  And so when she finally landed a job in the sector, Mdlalose never looked back.

SAnews writer  Gabi Khumalo recently caught up with the 30-year-old Mdlalose, who now occupies the position of Deputy Harbour Master in the Port of Saldanha, Western Cape.

Her duties and responsibilities there include managing vessel movements, the harbour environment, planning hydrographic surveys and maintaining port depth, among others. She also works closely with the harbour master to ensure that the harbour is safe, pollution free and that they give their clients effective and efficient service at all times. It’s not a job for the weak, she says, and very few woman make it into the industry.

Mdlalose says she had not considered a maritime career until being introduced to the industry by an acquaintance who informed her about career opportunities and bursaries in the field.

“As I got closer to matric, I grew to love engineering. It would  have been electronics or electrical engineering because I realised how relevant it was in everyday life. The planning, putting things together and seeing things come alive from your efforts is what attracted me to the field.”

After completing her matric at Our Lady of the Rosary Secondary School, Mdlalose went to the Durban University of Technology to study Maritime Studies.

“I did Maritime studies with a goal of becoming a marine pilot because it was an unusual career, complex in its own way and because the training towards that goal was to afford me an opportunity to travel - though limited to some extent but the travel was an additional selling point for me,” she smiles.

Her previous job in Durban focused on marine operation, focusing on safety.  Growth and a desire for change was the main motivation for her move to Saldanha.

“I started working in Durban as a trainee tugmaster in 2006 and all my work life had been spent there. I could not gauge my experience on anything else. I wanted to experience a different environment and work with different people.”

“Sometimes if we limit ourselves to only that which we know, we never know how good we can have it or how much better it could be. Currently I am involved in both operation and management. I am loving both worlds and I am looking forward to exploring the West Coast.”

Although the sector is a tough environment, Mdlalose maintains that gender in not an issue to enter Maritime.

“Being a young woman has been a part of the stages of my career progression and by now it is not so much on my mind, unless I’m being reminded.

“I was a tug master at 21 and I think I am fairly old now to be still referring to myself as a young woman. Also, I cannot overlook the support I have been receiving from those around me, it has made it so much easier to face a number of challenges,” she says.

She acknowledges that women representation in senior and executive management is still lagging in the sector. But she says one cannot overlook the strides made even though there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“Unless women are provided and provide themselves with the necessary tools, skills, recognition and especially respect to occupy these positions, then they will come and go and the desired and required representation will not be reached.” –