Meet Dalene Vries, Incorporated Engineer in Training

Dalene Vries has a family she loves, a career she’s passionate about, and she’s about to start work on her dream project. But it took plenty of dedication and hard work for her to get to this point, including studying civil engineering part time, while being a mom of two with a full-time job! We caught up with her to find out how she got into engineering, what she loves about Lithon, and what success means to her.

Why did you choose a career in engineering?

I initially wanted to go into architecture or accounting and hadn’t even thought about engineering. However, my father (who always supported me in my studies and career) encouraged me to apply for an engineering bursary. He pointed out that engineering and architecture are closely related, so I thought, okay, I’ll see how it goes, and here I am today.

How and when did you join Lithon?

I first joined the team in 2011. I got on really well with Adriaan and Bertie in my interview and immediately felt like this was where I belonged. In 2014, I left to be a full-time mom but continued to do part-time work for Lithon and a couple of other companies. Then in 2016, I came back to Lithon on a permanent basis, and I’ve been here ever since.

What does your role entail?

While I’ve been a structural technician for most of my career, as of January 2022, I’m officially an Incorporated Engineer in Training. My role entails draughting and designing the steel elements of a structure, e.g. roofs, water towers, reinforced concrete beams, etc. When my kids were small, I explained to them that I design the skeletons inside buildings that allow them to stand up straight.

What excites you most about what you do?

Seeing projects come to life. I love being able to show my kids the structures I’ve worked on.

What stands out for you about Lithon’s culture?

We live by values at Lithon, and the one I really love is People Focus, which the company defines as “showing real care and giving priority to relationships”. When you’re part of this team, you’re not just a number – everyone knows everyone. We work well together, we respect each other, and we’re always ready to help one another when needed.

What would be your dream project?

My dream job has actually landed – my first multi-storey building project. It’s for NAMFISA, and I’ll be using the software programme Revit to do 3D modelling. In fact, I’m aiming to do most of my projects in Revit this year. 

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

I love art and sketching in particular. I haven’t done it in a while, but I used to do quite a few sketches of family photographs. I need to dig out my old sketchbook and get back into it.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy spending time alone listening to music, watching movies or just sitting in the garden, watching the sunset – it helps me relax and recharge. I also love visiting friends and family on the weekends; creating memories with them means a lot to me.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in engineering?

If you like taking on challenges, problem solving, learning new stuff regularly, working in a team, drawing, drinking lots of coffee, working in the office and outdoors, and you love your calculator, then engineering is for you!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I’d like to learn to play the drums. I’ve wanted to learn for ages and just haven’t gotten around to it, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.

What does success look like to you?

Mastering a skill and implementing it, loving what you do, and doing your work with pride.