Interview: Jet Demolition’s Kate Bester

Kate Bester (NDip Civil Engineering, PMP) is contracts and project manager of South African business Jet Demolition.

As International Women in Engineering Day (Inwed, 23 June) was being celebrated worldwide, Kate shared some of the highlights of her life in demolition so far.

Kate Bester Kate Bester joined Jet Demolition in 2014 but says every day brings something new. (Photo: Jet Demolition)

They include being close to a controlled implosion for the first time.

“I was expecting a typical movie scene with huge fireballs, rubble being thrown everywhere, and people running and panicking,” recalled Kate.

However, this could not have been further from the reality.

“Yes, it was loud and overwhelming, but also controlled and elegant.”

Ironically, the point that truly struck Kate was the silence.

When a building is ready to be imploded, the exclusion zone is cleared for safety, resulting in city streets being somewhat desolate and eerily still.

“The surreal quiet, contrasted to the absolute exhilaration of a controlled implosion, describes our work perfectly, an absolute rollercoaster.”

Kate graduated with a National Diploma in Civil Engineering from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth in 2009. During her studies she carried out her in-service training with Aurecon, the former Ninham Shand.

She started out as a student technician and worked her way up to resident engineer on large-scale, remote sites, joining Jet Demolition in 2014 and currently serving as an executive committee member in addition to her role as contracts and project manager.

Eight years later, Kate says that due to the heavy industrial demolition works undertaken by the company, she experiences something new every day.

Her role gives her insight into a project from inception to close-out. When a request for quotation is received, her duties include visiting the site, validating the scope, determining methods and approaches to the works, followed by preparing a commercial bid and offer based on provisional resource allocations, durations, and methodologies.

If the bid is successful, Kate is then responsible for managing the project, including all commercial and contractual phases, and providing technical support to the on-site team as required. In addition to her primary role, Kate also looks after the company’s marketing efforts.

A major challenge that Jet Demolition has to contend with is the construction industry being under intense pressure.

“There is an increasing focus on commercial competitiveness as opposed to the quality of the service rendered,” said Kate.

She pointed out the common practice of immediately entering commercial negotiations, without consideration of the nuances that large, complex projects typically require, saying that while price is a critical factor that must be considered, this should not be at the expense of responsible contracting.

As for being a woman in her role, Kate believes that today’s industry has made leaps and bounds compared to the first time she set boots to ground.

“There is still the odd person who immediately assumes that you are the appointed safety officer, but generally after a quick correction we have a good laugh about it and get down to business.”

Inwed from the Women’s Engineering Society celebrates its ninth year in 2022, but figures as of June 2021 indicate that only 16.5% of engineers are women.

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