While stationed as a full-time supervising engineer on a roads construction project in Oshakati in 2005, Gert met Lithon CEO and Founder Adriaan Grobler. Although Lithon was a young company at the time (founded in 2002), Gert was drawn to its stated purpose – to make a significant and positive impact on the lives of people.
This year, he celebrates his 15-year anniversary with Lithon, which has grown from one office in Oshakati to a multi-country operation with multidisciplinary engineering, project management, and development services. We caught up with him to find out more about his day-to-day life, both in and out of the office.
What drew you to become an engineer?
The short answer is that I saw a picture of a bridge when I was in school – the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, if I recall correctly – and it sparked my interest in engineering. I’m quite an analytical and logical person, and I loved maths and science at school, so it seemed like a good fit. I only realised the real impact that engineers have after entering the workforce.
What are some of the key aspects of your job?
My primary focus is to ensure efficiency in the workplace. I manage 25 staff members, and I want to ensure that they’re not only motivated but that they also understand their purpose in the company.
What does your average day look like?
After an hour in the gym, I spend some time in the Word of God and then prep for the day ahead. I usually get to the office at 7.30 am, where I spend 50% of my time managing the company and the other 50% focusing on specific projects.
What do you love most about what you do?
Seeing the impact of our work, how it changes people’s lives for the better. It’s very rewarding to see something come into being where there was nothing before. I think it’s one of the advantages of being an engineer – our work is tangible.
What challenges do you experience in your work?
Explaining my job to my wife! But joking aside, I wouldn’t say that I experience challenges; we engineers are problem solvers by nature, so we see challenges as part of the job. Time management can sometimes be tricky, though – finding the right work-life balance.
What has been a career highlight?
The recently completed Husab Mine Access Road has definitely been a high point. Lithon was tasked with designing a new 22 km road and a 160 m bridge over the Khan River, as well as managing the project and supervising the construction work. I was involved with the project from inception through to construction, and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see it successfully completed.
Who is your greatest business inspiration?
Our CEO, Adriaan Grobler. Along with being a great leader and mentor who has always believed in and challenged me, he’s also an authentic and God-fearing person who doesn’t shy away from his shortcomings. We are complete opposites, and that brings a good balance to our business management approach.
How do you spend your time when you’re not at the office?
I spend most of my time with my wife, Elmarine, and our three children, particularly on the weekends. We’re a pretty active family, and Elmarine and I do triathlons together. I also cycle with friends on the weekend and participate in events. I’m currently training for the Desert Dash in December, a 373 km mountain bike race from Windhoek to Swakopmund that has to be finished within 24 hours. I’ve done it three times before in a four-member team, but this year I’m planning to do it as part of a two-member team.
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