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One woman’s road to roofing

One woman’s road to roofing

By Candace Sofianos King
With a passion for empowering women and youth, Pearl Makitla, business development consultant for Motseni Engineering Services, shares her roofing business journey.

Growing up, all Pearl Makitla wanted to do was work in the banking sector. Armed with this goal, she went on to complete a BCom degree in banking from the University of Pretoria, and after 10 years of working in the financial industry, it dawned on her that she wasn’t where she wanted to be.

“I knew that I did not belong there. I resigned and embarked on an entrepreneurial journey to search for business opportunities and to discover what my passion was,” she says.

Fast forward to 2018 and Makitla is now a business development consultant for Motseni Engineering Services (MES), a company that specialises in infrastructure related work including repairs, maintenance, root cause analysis, research and development, capacity improvement, supplier product quality development and safety assessment on rolling stock and infrastructure.

MES has been awarded an opportunity to be the distributor of Italian based roofing product Ondulit. “To be awarded an opportunity to grow the roofing division of MES is an achievement on its own, I am very excited and looking forward to the opportunities that this role will bring. My responsibility is to create and act on a funnel of high quality prospects to introduce the product to the SADC region,” highlights Makitla.

Constructing a meaningful career

Makitla was exposed to the construction industry when she was offered an opportunity to be a project manager for a small building project in the Free State. As the only female working on the project, Makitla realised how scarce women are in the sector.

“I was motivated to deliver results as I needed to earn the respect of male counterparts. I was new in the industry and I knew very little about construction. I was not discouraged by the shortcomings or any challenges I came across, in fact I got even more determined and dedicated to learning as much as I can and that saw myself having my own project to run.

“Like most of the SMMEs in the industry, I struggled to get new projects and resorted to going back to the finance industry where I got an opportunity to develop and structure lending products which were offered to SMMEs that needed capital to fund their orders. As much as I did well in that role, my passion still largely remained construction. I am very humbled to be offered an opportunity back into the industry and this time I plan to make a difference, kitted in my hard hat, overalls and safety boots,” says Makitla humourously.

Breaking ground on the glass ceiling

Traditionally male dominated, the roofing industry is very difficult for women to enter, highlights Makitla. She says while the installation of roofing is in its nature highly labour intensive, contractors and roofing manufacturers are continually looking for qualified and certified roof installers, something which is lacking for women and youth.

“MES business strategy is to utilise the expertise of international roofing installers to transfer skills to women and the youth particularly based in rural areas and I am responsible for driving this initiative. What I hope to achieve is to motivate more women to consider roofing as a career. Firstly, we need more women to compete in this space. In modern society, where women are developing rapidly and taking the lead in many male dominated work fields, roofing cannot be an exception. Currently, women are showing efficiency in every field of life. We have proved that we can perform both easy and difficult tasks like their male counterparts.

“Secondly, we need to bridge the skills shortage gap. Currently the industry comprises of older roofers who are mostly at retirement age. We need to make it easily accessible and more interesting to the younger generation. Lastly, we must place more emphasis on educating the consumers on new ways of doing things. For example, does the roof system they are investing in lead to environmental, social and economic benefits?”

Endless possibilities 

Business development is the heart of a healthy company and it is extremely rewarding to see a business grow on the back of one’s own decisions and actions, says Makitla. “The role exposes me to the whole new world of construction. I learn a lot daily and I enjoy interacting and meeting with experts of the industry. I love to work with others. The advantage of working in a team is that two heads are better than one. I invest a lot of time in networking as it opens doors to accessing more ideas and discovering new markets,” she enthuses.

Currently completing an honours degree in financial management with Unisa, Makitla feels her growth path is limitless. “Being part of developing a structure from the drawing to finish is the most fulfilling feeling. They say ‘Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life’ – this is exactly how I feel. I enjoy what I am doing, and I look forward to each day.”

She says there’s still more room for growth and achievement. Looking towards her future goals, Makitla says she’s interested in venturing into the manufacturing of construction products. She believes there’s a gap in the industry for women in roofing and brick manufacturing, also training and development in the same field.

“That’s the space I see myself going into the near future. It is not about how you start your journey in life, but if you have a vision, it does not matter how long it takes you to reach it, just do everything possible to achieve it!”

Pearl Makitla’s business philosophy

  • Stay motivated: If you are committed, dedicated and loyal towards your work, you will bring in the best results.
  • Be unique, be you: I believe in making a difference in whatever endeavour I am involved in by adding value and uniqueness.
  • Do your best: Contribute your best skills, experience and 100% effort to achieve optimal productivity.
  • Lead by example: Become the leader you want to follow!

 

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