The statement that hard work pays off, is true for two City female engineers whose hard work has earned them the recognition and respect of their counterparts in a profession dubbed as a ‘man’s world’. 

‘It always warms my heart when we showcase the hard work of South African women in our city and country. I feel we don’t do it enough. As an Opportunity City we strive to attract a diverse pool of South African talent and create an institutional culture where that talent can thrive. These women are testament to that. 

‘They started at the bottom of the corporate ladder and worked their way to the top,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Alderman Felicity Purchase.

Jade Oliver and Melani Ohlson are civil engineers working in the City’s Transport Directorate – Jade works in the Roads Infrastructure and Management Department, while Melani works in the Public Infrastructure Planning and Design Department. 

Together, the women have been in the City’s employ for 47 years now. Jade’s career with the City started in 1992 while Melani started in 1997.

Melani says: ‘After high school I was not sure what career path to follow and opted to improve my Maths and Science results at a technical college. It was during this period that I was exposed to the civil and building sectors and started to appreciate the challenging environment. 

‘My mom was my inspiration and supported and always encouraged me. My dad was sceptic about my career choice but he knew it made me happy.’

Melani went to Athlone Technical college in 1992, and thereafter to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where she obtained a Civil Engineering BTech-degree. She completed her post graduate studies in Project Management in 2008 and Transport Studies at the University of Cape Town in 2011.

Melani started off her career with the City in 1997, in the Roads and Stormwater Department. There she dealt with development approvals, contracts and tender works for roads projects, road maintenance and construction of minor and major roads, road signs designs and geometric designs of major and minor roads.  

In 2005, she was promoted to the position as the Head: Public Transport Infrastructure Planning and Design in the Transport Department.

She says she enjoys working in this department with integrated multidisciplinary teams and believes that this way of working creates a better end product. Also, she says that working in this sector makes her feel valuable and that she enjoys seeing the change in people’s quality of life.

Jade on the other hand, is a rock from Rocklands in Mitchells Plain, and she attended Hillside Primary and Cedar Senior Secondary School, both in Rocklands. 

After matric, she went to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to study towards a National Diploma and B. Tech in Civil Engineering. 

In 2004 she obtained an MSc in Civil Engineering, majoring in Transportation at Trinity University in Dublin. In 2012, she obtained professional registration as a Chartered Engineer with Engineers Ireland. 

She has a total of 25 years working experience for local government, having worked abroad and at the City.

Jade started as an Assistant Professional Officer, then became a team leader traffic system analyst. In 2001, she left the City for Dublin, Ireland, where she continued to work in local government. She re-joined the City in 2014 as a Senior Professional Officer in Network Management, and was promoted to Area Manager of the Roads Infrastructure and Management Department in the southern region in 2015.

Jade says: ‘It’s very rewarding to see something that you have been involved in being completed and making such a difference in people’s lives. For example, installing a speed bump or traffic signal or resealing a road. I’m inspired by all the seasoned and some now retired engineers that I’ve worked with over the years. There is no price for institutional knowledge and experience.’ 

Her career highlight was when she was promoted to Area Manager of the southern region.

‘The directorate is doing a lot to bring more women into the labour work force by creating projects like the women-only road repair teams. The department has also provided access to computers at the depots and have dedicated computer rooms where staff can access their personal information, and also keep up to date with ongoing City info like vacancies via the intranet,’ says Jade.

Alderman Purchase salutes Melani and Jade, and all of the other women in the Transport Directorate who are contributing on all levels to make the City work better. 

‘I commend Melani and Jade for their hard work and perseverance. They know what they want and they pursue it. They are an inspiration, demonstrating each day that there is no such thing as a no-go career for a woman,’ said Alderman Purchase. 

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