SAIMechE Webinar - 11 September 2020

The Early Career Development of Engineering Professionals

Most would agree that the proper early career development of engineering professionals is key to them achieving their potential and making a significant contribution to their career development and to society.  There are many challenges facing the recent graduate in their early work environment, not least of which is finding gainful employment to begin with.  This panel discussion seeks to offer a platform to engineering professionals to share their experiences of early career development and to offer insight, guidance and support to those at this critical stage of their careers. 


Sewela Portia Moketla

Senior Product Engineer

Komatsu Mining Corporation 

Portia completed her BSc Mechanical Engineering qualification at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2011.  In 2016, she graduated with a BEng Hons from the University of Pretoria.  

She is a registered Professional Mechanical Engineer with 7 years of industry experience in Defence, Energy and Mining industries.  She has a passion for developing the engineering profession and is currently part of the review panel for Mechanical Engineering at  ECSA.  

She is currently employed as a Product Engineer at Komatsu Mining Corporation

Cillia Molomo-Mphephu


Centre Of Engineering Excellence

Ms Cillia Molomo-Mphephu is an engineering and management professional registered with Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). She’s also a member of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMechE); and South African Asset Management Association (SAAMA). In addition to her Engineering qualifications, Ms Molomo-Mphephu also holds Business qualifications.

She is currently a Director in Centre of Engineering Excellence Pty (Ltd), the company that she founded earlier in 2020. She previously held various other positions in the engineering industry within Armscor, City of Cape Town, Sasol, Department of Correctional Services and Denel.   Ms Molomo-Mphephu is currently a National Council member of SAIMechE, before which she was the chairperson of SAIMechE Vaal branch that she also founded.  

She has more than 25 years’ experience in the engineering profession and has built a wealth of experience especially in the area of enterprise asset management. She has authored a number of publications on the subject of Physical Asset Management and is still pursuing other endeavours to contribute further to the body of knowledge is this regard. 

Sy Gourrah

Business Development Executive/ President


Sy Gourrah has been part of the energy industry in South Africa for over 25 years. She started her career as a Consultant and later was appointed as the City Electrical Engineer for East London. With more than two decades of experience as an electrical engineer, Sy Gourrah also holds a number of qualifications including a Bachelor in Engineering (Electrical & Electronics), Masters in Business Administration and Government Certificate of Competency.Currently, she is the Business Development Specialist for Transmission & Distribution & EPC within Actom.  In this role, she is involved with the business development of the different products manufactured within Transmission & Distribution as well as the service offerings of the EPC division. Sy has also served as the president of the Association of Municipal Utilities (AMEU) from 2008 to 2010 and been on the executive council since 2001 until 2011. She was the first female president of the AMEU. She was instrumental in changing the AMEU constitution to include more women on the executive thus paving the way for the next female presidents.

She is also a fellow member of the SAIEE and serves as a council member since 2012 to date. She has chaired the Professional Development and Finance committees and is currently the President of the SAIEE. She recently launched the SAIEE Women in Engineering Chapter which will strive to promote women interests and champion empowerment programs within the SAIEE and broader electrical engineering fraternity. She is a professionally registered Engineer and was an active volunteer with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) where she was the Chairperson of the Engineering Program Accreditation Committee (EPAC). She is an international accreditor for engineering programs in Washington Accord recognised countries and participates in accreditation of South African University programs. She was also part of the advisory team to the Deputy President on the Eskom turnaround strategy in 2014.

Prof Deborah Blaine 

Associate Professor, Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering

Stellenbosch University

Debby studied mechanical engineering at Stellenbosch University, graduating with her BEng in 1996. She continued her postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch University and the Pennsylvania State University (PennState) in the USA, eventually earning her PhD in Engineering Science in 2004. 

She stayed on as a researcher associate at the Centre for Innovative Sintered Products at Penn State, where she had completed her PhD research. In 2005 she moved to Germany to work as part of the Materials R&D team at Bleistahl Produktions in Wengern, Germany. Bleistahl is the leading manufacturer of powder metal valve seat inserts and valve guides in the EU. She was promoted to Deputy-manager of the Materials R&D team and worked in this position until she left for home, to take up a position as a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University in 2007. 

She was the first woman to be promoted to Associate Professor in the 75 year history of the Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering department at SU. She is a fellow of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineers (SAIMechE) and was national president for 2018-2020 term – the first female president. She is a founding board member of the South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE) and was national president for the 2017-2019 term. She continues to serve on the SASEE board.

Alicia Celliers

Project Engineer Single

Destination Engineering (Pty) Ltd

Project Engineer at Single Destination Engineering (Pty) Ltd. Alicia is a Mechanical Engineering specialising in power plant design. She graduated from North West University (NWU) in Potchefstroom in 2013. Her experience was gained in a wide range of projects regarding mechanical and process engineering disciplines. 

Key projects include power generation ranging from industrial plants to IPP/ utility plants of several hundred MW and biogas project serving an elution plant by displacing liquid fuel for oil heating and electrical heating for carbon regeneration. She is a Shareholder of Single Destination Engineering and member of the Management Team. 

Her responsibilities include Design, Procurement, Client liaison and Work Packages Contractor Co-ordination. Management, Tracking and Organising of project finances, deliverables, and programs throughout the project life cycle.