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Khanyisa Mabala is a quantity surveyor, a profession that involves visualising a development before it’s built. To put it very simply, the job involves a team of professional consultants bringing a development from paper to life.

But women quantity surveyors are almost as rare as unicorns. Khanyisa tells writer Ondela Mlandu why she’s boldly stepped into this supposed “man’s world”.

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Khanyisa dishes industry-insider advice, and how to get your foot in the door

First off, forget cold canvassing. “I would not like to admit that the industry is becoming saturated, [but] it is getting harder, particularly with the state of the economy,” says Khanyisa. Here’s how to go about getting in there…

1/ Research and find a place of work that best suits your personality and aligns with your values. After all, it is for your growth.

2/ Study maths and science in school and ensure that you pass both with at least 60%. Thereafter, study towards a building diploma, do construction studies or a construction economics degree.

3/ Find someone in the industry who can help you with the job-seeking process.

4/ Put yourself out there, attend networking events (online webinars) and engage with industry insiders.

5/ Lastly, we live in a visual and digital world. Establish yourself on social media platforms and let the masses know what you’re about.

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You can thrive in a male-dominated industry

“I am most passionate about seeing young women grow in my industry. It’s amazing to see the great strides and spaces women are taking up in the industry and it’s even more amazing when you’re afforded the opportunity to contribute towards that growth,” says Khanyisa.

Lessons learnt along the way…

1/ Khanyisa has learnt that while it’s all good and well to shine at maths and science, no one really understands the fulfilment you attain from discovering your niche and running with it.

2/ “We are all different and it’s so imperative to determine what makes you different, to harness that energy and to go for it. I’d love to tell all the women all over the world – from sunny cities to remote villages – that they can do whatever they want to do, including working in a male-dominated industry. No one can tell you otherwise,” she says.

3/ “I appreciate education and enhancing myself as a professional. We can never know too much. Like, did you know that there is a shopping mall every 1.7km in Johannesburg? And why is that so? It’s liberating to hold discussions and present with firm educational backing,” she adds.

4/ Learn from your peers – especially from the women who have walked the journey before you. “Create your own journey, but also observe and follow in their heels,” she says.

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Here’s how to score a quantity surveying (QS) internship

“All companies need more resources. [But] they are not in the best financial shape to employ. With that being said, you can create your own internship opportunity without any company posting their ‘vacancies’. Approach the companies and tell them what value you can bring to their company. Research the companies, get in contact with the relevant individuals, and sell your pitch until someone says yes. Thereafter, work hard and prove [yourself],” she says.

Four steps to owning your place in the QS industry

Women in QS generally lack confidence, says Khanyisa. “We often want to fit into the boys’ club or carry out the job the way a man would. Typically, that’s considered the standard. Most of the time I was hindering my own growth and I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I overwhelmed my mind with: What if people don’t agree with me or don’t like what I have to say? Is what I’m saying even of value or importance?” she explains.

1/ Get out your head and just do the work.

Recognise, as SA businesswoman Dr. Judy Dlamini would say, that we are equal but very different. It doesn’t mean we can’t use our differences for the greater good.

2/ Carry out the job to the best of your ability and everything else will fall into place.

After all, look at Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. She’s doing a phenomenal job, all the while showing the world what a wonderful mom she is. She doesn’t hide that one can successfully run a state and possess all the beautiful qualities of a woman – the strength of a woman.

3/ Speak up!

4/ Just go for it – there is no right time.

And always, always practise self-care

As a sociable individual, Khanyisa gains her energy from interactions with others (so, you can just imagine how tough this lockdown is for her). “Recently, I’ve opted to contact my loved ones daily via WhatsApp video or FaceTime,” she says. “We have virtual wine and games evenings most Fridays.”

But she also understands the importance of spending time with herself. “In my alone time, I enjoy reading African literature (in any form, whether it be via books, articles, novels, journals, dissertations, etc.) completely unrelated to my profession. I’ve also acquired a profound interest in chemistry and neuropsychology,” she says.

Khanyisa enjoys light walks on sunny days and long, essential-oil infused baths on cold ones. Self-care rituals include guided mediations, cooking her fave meals and binging on Girlfriends or Sex in the City reruns.

Connect with Khanyisa

LinkedIn: Khanyisa Mabala

Instagram: @khanjmabanj

Twitter: @Khanji7

Email: [email protected]

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