Isobel van der Stoep (45) had to break down many stereotypes in Mzansi’s agricultural sector as a female agricultural engineer. Never wanting an office job, she pursued agricultural engineering and is now an irrigation engineer specialist.
Today she manages a team of mechanical, civil and chemical engineers and technicians as the design and consulting manager at Cherry Irrigation.
Her career highlights include becoming the first female president of both the South African Irrigation Institute (SABI) and the South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers (SAIAE).
She advises learners to “take any possible opportunity to obtain work experience, if achievable in something that you enjoy. Urging, “Do not be scared to change direction when you find the work environment that excites you.”
Irrigation is a multi-disciplinary field, says Van der Stoep. “You need to have a good maths and science background in order to learn the engineering, soil, water and agronomic science principles it entails.” She also highlighted the other skills you will learn once you start working, including client relationships and the ability to perform under pressure.
If you think you have what it takes to follow this career or field of study, follow the links below to find out more about to get involved. Over the next few weeks we will feature many more careers to choose from in the agri sector on Food for Mzansi and 19 radio stations all over the country.
Now for today’s AgriSETA Learner Connect with Isobel van der Stoep, design and consulting manager at Cherry Irrigation. She will tell you how to become an irrigation engineer.
1Could you sum up your job for us? I manage a team of mechanical, civil and chemical engineers and technicians who design irrigation systems. I also manage the installation of the equipment and supply irrigation monitoring equipment.
2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? I coordinate the activities of the team of irrigation designers. Projects are assigned to different members of our team, who undertake activities such as topographical surveys of the areas to be irrigated by our clients. Irrigation system planning and design, compiling design reports which consists of technical information, drawings and material lists. Project managing teams of skilled installers, commissioning the systems, as well as providing clients with advice on system operation and maintenance.
What qualification do you need for this career? A national diploma or bachelor’s degree in agricultural, mechanical or civil engineering.
4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? Irrigation is a multi-disciplinary field. You not only need to have a good maths and science background in order to learn the engineering, soil, water and agronomic science principles it entails, but once you start working, client relationships and the ability to perform under pressure is of great importance.
5What subjects do I need to become a irrigation engineer? Mathematics and science is a must.
6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? Working with natural resources and being able to work outside are great benefits.
7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments?Registration as a professional engineer was a real milestone for me. Becoming the first female president of the South African Irrigation Institute (SABI) and the South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers (SAIAE) were certainly a highlight too.
8What do you do when you’re not at work? I love travelling to new places.
9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? Work hard at school so that it opens up the best possible opportunities for you thereafter. Take any possible chance to obtain work experience. If you can, do something that you enjoy, and do not be scared to change direction when you find the work environment that excites you.
10Where can I study to become a irrigation engineer? The University of KwaZulu-Natal is the only tertiary institute that offers a degree in agricultural engineering. Alternatively, a national diploma or a BTech degree in mechanical or civil engineering from various universities of technology in the country will also provide you with a good background for irrigation design.
How to listen to AgriSETA Learner Connect:
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Catch AgriSETA Learner Connect on these radio stations:
Waterberg Stereo: Bela Bela, Brits, Naboomspruit, Pietersburg, Pretoria, Thabazimbi, Tzaneen – 104.9 FM
Waterberg Stereo: Thabazimbi, Naboomspruit – 104.9 FM
Laeveld Stereo: Nelspruit – 100.5 FM
Lichvaal Stereo: Lichtenburg – 92.6 FM
Overvaal Stereo: Viljoenskroon, Parys – 96.1 FM
Maluti FM: Bethlehem – 97.1 FM
Rosestad FM: Bloemfontein – 100.6 FM
Wild Coast FM: East London – 98.6 FM
Gamka FM: Oudtshoorn – 87.6 FM
Kouga FM: Humansdorp – 97.8 FM
Eden FM: Hessequa, Kannaland, Karoo, Oudtshoorn, Plettenbergbaai, Riversdale, Uniondale – 93.8 FM
Radio Overberg: Bredasdorp – 98.4 FM
Caledon FM: Caledon – 89.3 FM
Whale Coast FM: Hermanus – 96.0 FM
West Coast FM: Vredenburg – 92.3 FM
Lara FM: Springbok – 91.6 FM
NFM: Okiep – 98.1 FM