Meet Amarildo Paulo, Oshakati Branch Manager

Smart, confident and charismatic, Amarildo Paulo was introduced to Lithon in June 2009, when the company gave him a bursary to continue his civil engineering studies in Cape Town. More than a decade later, he’s still with the consulting engineering firm, managing its Oshakati branch remotely from Windhoek. We spent some time with him recently and discovered a few interesting things about him – like the fact that he’s a gamer, he started playing drums in church as a teen, and his beautiful wife Adelaide (Adel Paulo) recently launched her career as a YouTuber.

What made you choose civil engineering as a career?

I’ve always loved drawing and have had a passion for numbers and problem-solving for as long as I can remember. While I initially considered a career in architecture, I also applied to study engineering and was accepted to the University of Namibia. Two years into my studies, I transferred to UCT to complete my degree. As for why I chose civil engineering in particular, I’ve had an ongoing interest in the built environment, so it was always the branch of engineering that fascinated me most.

When did you join Lithon and what do you enjoy most about the company?

Before officially starting at Lithon as a fully qualified civil engineer on 9 January 2012 (a date I’ll never forget!), I gained valuable work experience as an intern during my university holidays. Today, I’m part of the furniture. I’ve seen the company grow from its first premises (a house) into a building that accommodates over 35 staff members. Despite many changes over the years, Lithon’s commitment to its staff and the people of Namibia has remained the same. And one of the ways it continues to give back to the community is through the internship programme that launched my career. The culture of sharing and ‘team’ at Lithon sees senior engineers happily sharing their years of knowledge and experience with those just starting out – something that’s not always the case in our industry.

Can you tell us about your role as branch manager and the responsibilities that accompany it?

In mid-2014, Adriaan Grobler approached me to manage the branch in Swakopmund when Gert Maritz, who was overseeing it at the time, relocated to Windhoek. I accepted the position, and moved to the coast the following month. Swakopmund was an excellent training ground that stood me in good stead for my move to the Oshakati office in 2016. The smaller community and slightly more relaxed approach of the city provided the perfect environment to learn the ropes and prepared me well for the greater responsibility that I would shoulder in the North. Working across the country and among people from different cultures has helped me to establish a broad management style. And in Oshakati, where we’re relied on to solve problems outside of the parameters of our job description, I learned the importance of building strong relationships and dependable networks.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your management role?

I think the biggest challenge has been the isolation. Working in a satellite office, where it’s primarily just you and an undergrad engineer or an intern keeping things going, you’re not always available to connect with head office staff. Being back in Windhoek and managing the office remotely has changed that, but at the same time, the pandemic has brought challenges of its own. I also found the workload in Oshakati overwhelming at times, given the large distances between sites. This meant that most of my day was spent on-site, so there was always plenty of admin to get to in the evenings. That said, being in both offices was an incredibly stretching experience and gave me the opportunity to gain knowledge that might otherwise have taken me years to acquire. 

What is the most interesting project you’ve worked on and why?

I’ve always enjoyed more complex projects. For example, while I was in Ongwediva, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the construction of the Ongwediva NamCor fuel station.

The nature of this project meant there were several contractors on site at any given time, and I loved managing the process and bringing together multiple experts from various fields of engineering. I also love projects that contribute to the country’s infrastructure and that will continue to have a positive impact on Namibia and its people well into the future. One of the long-term projects I’m currently working on and that ticks this box is the 90 km-dual carriageway from Windhoek to Rehoboth.

What would your dream engineering project entail?

It would definitely include project management. I love this part of the job – working with engineers from the various disciplines and seeing how everything fits together to create a successful project. 

How would your colleagues describe you?

I’d like to think they’d describe me as someone who’s always willing to help, whether that’s with sharing information or problem-solving challenges that arise. Bringing the team together has always been a focus for me and I try to do this in any way I can. They’d probably tell you that I share my knowledge and encourage others to do the same, that I invite others to join me on site visits and I’m someone who brightens up the office.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’ve always believed in maintaining a healthy work-life balance and in staying healthy, so I gym regularly to keep in shape. I love music and have been playing drums since I was 13 years old. These days, I have an electric kit so that I don’t disturb the neighbours. And I’m a gamer, but only on weekends!

You speak Portuguese, English, French, German and Afrikaans. If you had to learn another language, which would it be?

Definitely Oshiwambo, which is spoken by the majority of people in Namibia. I spoke it when I was younger and I’d love to become fluent in it.  My wife is Owambo so that’s an extra incentive to learn it as well.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I feel strongly that my purpose is to set an example for and mentor younger men to become better leaders. I’ve been fortunate enough to encourage the interns I’ve worked with in Swakopmund and Oshakati and, looking ahead to the next five years, I hope to be able to lead a team of junior engineers.