In our #WomenofUP series this August, we speak to Prof Susan Adendorff, Director: Facilities Management, about her work at UP. She is in charge of the University’s property portfolio.
Tell us about yourself.
I was the first female graduate in industrial engineering at UP – BEng (Industrial) cum laude. I then obtained an MBA from the Graduate School of Management at UP. I subsequently obtained a PhD in Industrial Engineering from UP – I was the first woman to obtain a PhD in industrial engineering in South Africa.
What exactly do you do at UP?
I am the Director: Facilities Management at UP (since 2013). My department is responsible for all facilities-related matters on the UP campuses. The UP property portfolio includes 1 200 hectares of land of which approximately 400 hectares are gardens and sports fields, more than 1 000 000 square metres of floor space in 704 buildings. The department has more than 1 100 staff members looking after the portfolio providing hard and soft facilities management services.
Prof Susan Adendorff and members of her team
Can one say that you are responsible for the smooth operations and maintenance of facilities at UP?
Yes, maintenance is part of the portfolio – it is handled by the Technical Services Division of my department. From an operational perspective we also provide campus services (industrial hygiene, landscaping services, environmental and waste management, transport services, residence logistics and we manage the stores – 12 in total). In addition, the department is responsible for campus planning and development, which includes the new buildings, refurbishment and spatial planning. The Department of Facilities Management is further responsible for UP’s compliance to the OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) Act and the management of all properties owned by UP.
How does it feel to work in a male-dominated industry and how do you cope?
I have always found myself in a male-dominated environment – ever since I commenced with my studies. I just do my work to the best of my ability – that seems to lead to the men having respect for me.
Describe a typical day in the workplace.
Because of the nature and scope of my portfolio, I tend to have many meetings – hence a typical day could easily include up to eight scheduled meetings. However, the portfolio also leads to frequent crisis management – which could be at any time of the day or night. It is a 24/7 job. The scope of the portfolio is however such that one has new experiences on a daily basis.
What are you passionate about in your job?
The University of Pretoria is my alma mater in more ways than one. For me to make a contribution to UP’s success is incredibly satisfying – whether we are opening a new building, decreasing UP’s carbon footprint, or seeing the results of a newly planted water-wise garden, it gives me great pleasure. I am extremely proud of the work done by my department.
What are the achievements that you are most proud of?
I have been a pioneer in many fields for professional women. I am also the first woman to be asked to serve as the president of the Tuks Rugby Club. Because of my achievements, I have throughout my career been fortunate enough to act as a mentor for many young people, often young women. Being able to share my experiences with them has been a privilege. I hope they regard their interaction with me in the same way.
Prof Susan Adendorff
What are some of the challenges you face?
At present, the Department of Facilities Management is trying to reach a steady state after the insourcing of more than 1 000 employees. It has been a challenge in many ways. In addition, the construction sector has had serious challenges impacting on some of the current UP projects.
What advice would you give to women who want to follow male-dominated careers?
If you do your job well, you will be successful.
Look out for more profiles of amazing #WomenofUP and read about those we have already featured as we celebrate Women's Month: