Meet Cilliers Steyn, Graduate Civil Engineer

Cilliers Steyn was introduced to Lithon in 2015, when he completed a year of in-service training with the company while studying civil engineering. The encounter was a win-win – Lithon found a young engineer passionate about his chosen field, while Cilliers found a company with a culture that spoke to his heart and a team eager to get behind his career. 

After transferring from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to Stellenbosch University where he completed his studies thanks to a bursary provided by Lithon, Cilliers returned to the firm in 2020 as a graduate civil engineer. Since then he has immersed himself in his work, earning a recent promotion to Office Manager in Lithon’s Oshakati branch. We caught up with him ahead of his move to discuss his career, hear what advice he has for those considering a future in civil engineering, and find out what he gets up to when he’s not at work. 

What made you choose a career in engineering? And why civil engineering specifically?

I was sports mad at school and it was only in Grade 11, when I developed a keen interest in construction, that I began to think about the future. With very little in the way of career guidance on offer at school, I eventually found myself enrolling for civil engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2014. When I look back at how I arrived at my decision, I can honestly say that it’s by grace alone that I ended up in a career I love.

Did you always plan to return to Namibia once you’d graduated?

I loved growing up in Otjiwarongo in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia and it’s always been my plan to spend my life in this beautiful country. There are so many wonderful opportunities within my chosen field to make a difference to the communities here and I’m excited to take them on.

What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in civil engineering?

Civil engineering is a broad field of engineering with many specialist branches, so it’s important to spend time understanding them in order to make the right choice for your career. Secondly, always be an eager learner! Engineering is a constantly evolving discipline, so the learning never stops.

There are a number of hugely experienced engineers at Lithon. What do you hope to learn from them in the early years of your career?

There’s plenty I need to learn from a technical point of view and I’m incredibly fortunate to have Gert Maritz and Richard Laborn, two outstanding and hugely experienced engineers, to guide and mentor me. I’m also aware of how critical relationship-building is to the success of each project and I look forward to learning these skills from the senior members of our team.

If you could work on any civil engineering project around the world (past or present), what would it be?

I have a deep interest in the transportation side of engineering, so I would have to say the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, which runs through the heart of the city and was built under the most challenging conditions. I may also have watched way too many documentaries about this particular project!

What is something most people don’t know about you? 

Some people might think that I’m quite outgoing, however, I’m really more of an introvert and enjoy spending time on my own.

When you’re not at the office, you’re…?

Spending time with my wife or on my bicycle training for my next race. I completed the 83-kilometre stage of the Desert Dash in December and am keen to spend more time in the saddle this year. I’m also a keen fisherman.

If you weren’t a civil engineer, you’d be a…?

When my interest in construction was sparked late into my high school years, I considered a career as an architect for some time. But, as I’ve already mentioned, it was by grace that I ended up pursuing a career that I love.