While the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on all industries globally, it is a temporary situation. The focus must therefore be on survival during these challenging times. “We continue to prepare for the future as best we can, and will weather this storm.” This is the message from Liz Brinkmann, who with husband Joe Brinkmann are at the helm of Jet Demolition.
Joe and Liz met at the Missouri School of Science and Technology in the US, where he was studying mining engineering and she metallurgical engineering. The young pair came to South Africa in the hope of entering academia, but changed their plans with establishing Jet Demolition in 1994.
“Joe and I are very different people, but also complement each other exceptionally well. We also have a common goal and vision. This enables us to collectively approach life from different angles, while working toward aligned objectives,” explains Liz.
The company “is fundamentally founded and driven by a sense of care: for team mates, clients, the environments in which we work, and our industry. By approaching our business and our lives from this point of departure, it is only natural for Jet Demolition to have evolved to being a business with family values at its core.”
Echoing this philosophy at Jet Demolition is Contracts Manager Kate Bester (NDip Civil Engineering), who believes that the industry in general is already diversifying and becoming more inclusive. “We are especially focused on nurturing talent and encouraging active participation, irrespective of your background or gender. This results in a diverse group of people collaborating on some of the most challenging and exciting projects, while growing our skills pool within our structure,” elaborates Kate.
An example of such up-and-coming talent is Nontobeko Zwane, who completed her National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2017. She is currently completing her BTech in Mechanical Engineering at Unisa. Nontobeko applied for in-service training at Jet Demolition in 2016, and has been working there ever since. As part of the technical team, she is actively involved with technical management, project planning, scoping, tenders and project administration.
Working at the company is a privilege, especially due to its reputation as the premier demolition specialist in Africa. “I have the opportunity to work with exceptional mentors who take pride in skills transfer and ensure I get the best experience in my career as a young professional in the demolition industry.”
Nontobeko thrives on being involved in all stages from inception to completion. “As a young professional, it is remarkable how much one learns from each and every project.” Her future plans include registration with the Engineering Council of South Africa as a professional project engineer.
Liz concurs that every project undertaken is inherently different. While many companies locally and internationally specialise in a single facet, Jet Demolition considers each project on its own merits and specific challenges.
“We have a very detailed, engineered approach to what we do: Continuously assessing how to improve the safety profile of the task at hand, how to improve the outcome for our clients, and how to improve the manner in which we work. The diverse environments in which we work certainly is a challenge, but is one we embrace.”
Kate reveals: “The beauty of our industry is that there are no ‘typical’ days! We get to see some of the most interesting processes and facilities out there, and get to meet and work with incredibly interesting and talented personalities. I love the sense of adventure a new project brings, but also the detail with which every project is planned and executed.
“To be able to walk the path with a client from a pre-demolition study to rehabilitation also affords us the opportunity to see the industry for what it is – we have heard the most interesting stories from days back when, and then get to share in the excitement of the new facilities to come. In all, I feel incredibly privileged to have such a diverse and exciting career, and to meet such incredible people along the journey,” Kate affirms.
In terms of the challenges faced by women in such a niche field, Kate points out that demolition does not present any more challenges than other STEM fields. “Yes, there are days that require you to get dirty or to travel to remote sites, and sometimes to face very challenging situations that you had not expected, but the vast majority of those challenges can neatly be side-stepped with confidence and support from your team.”
While the world of engineering remains male-dominated, Nontobeko pays tribute to Jet Demolition for giving female engineers opportunities to become leaders and pioneers in the industry. “The world is there for the taking; you just need to grab it with both hands,” she concludes.