SAINT Interview with Amanda van der Westhuizen – GE
Full Name: Amanda van der Westhuizen
Position: Sales Leader – Sub-Saharan Africa: GE – Oil & Gas
Q: How long have you been with General Electric?
Four and a half years.
Q: How did you get into the industry?
By accident! I was recruited to study Metallurgy and they told me about this new course called NDT and it sounded interesting. Then, of course, a man told me that I don’t belong, so that was the only motivation that I needed!
Q: What are your current qualifications?
At the moment none - only my T3. Our qualifications are only valid for five years, and need to be renewed. I didn’t renew at the time because I got cancer and so I didn’t practise.
Q: What Industries or Sectors have you worked in?
All of them. Power generation, Petrochemical, Engineering, as well as Aviation. NDT by itself is my passion. I was an examiner for many years, and a trainer for many years. I was involved in 2 training schools – including SAQCC and ANDTc. I also started the African NDT Centre.
Q: Which Method do you enjoy most and why?
Radiography, especially radiation safety. Years ago, it felt as if you had “super powers” when seeing inside material. Then, too many people got hurt with radiation due to unsafe working practices and I wanted to make a difference with safe working practices.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing NDT?
I don’t really know because my whole career was a challenge. Mainly because I was a female - it’s a man’s world!
Q: Person who has the biggest influence on your life?
My daughter, Marlene. I wanted to prove to her that you can rise above any hardships that life gives you and use them to elevate yourself to higher calling in life.
Q: Person who has the biggest influence on your NDT career?
Dr Manfred Johannes and Hugh Neeson. They pushed and motivated me to be more and achieve the highest goals in my career.
Q: What challenges did you face?
People didn’t take me seriously in the beginning, but after five years in the industry, they knew who I was! I just kept on studying. Six years ago, I was the highest qualified person in the country. I had PCN (UK) qualifications, French qualifications, VUT qualifications, aviation qualifications, industry qualifications - all of them!
Q: Who has the biggest influence on your life?
Hugh Neeson from Eskom, who said I couldn’t do the job because I’m not an international Level 3, so I flew to England to get it. I got my French qualifications because I worked at that stage for Airbus. The French director said French qualifications were too difficult for South Africans. So I flew to Paris and did my French qualifications! Then we flew an examiner in to South Africa and I wrote my Aviation Level 3.
Q: Outside of NDT, what else is your passion?
Cooking. The industry doesn’t know that; they know me crawling pipes and scaffolding and things like that, but that’s my biggest escape, going into my kitchen. It’s a great stress reliever. I started cooking when I was 10-years old.
I love experimenting with herbs and spices. I grew up with South African food; I know it very well, so I experiment with Moroccan and Middle East spices. I was in Kenya a few weeks back, so I’m now experimenting with their types of food and spices and stuff.
I love reading; these days it’s fiction, but my whole career I was reading specifications. I’m a strange person. I’m luckily one of a kind! That’s me!
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?
At the moment, financial challenges are the biggest struggle everywhere, because of the exchange rate. Equipment costs more than double what it did three years ago. Now if we need equipment, we buy it cheaper from China.
Q: What is it that you love about NDT?
It’s never the same. You can do a production line, you can manufacture hundreds of the same products per day, and they never look the same. Each weld has a fingerprint of its own and that has always been the most interesting part of NDT. The same welder, the same material, the same welding technique, everything is the same, but every weld that comes to us is different. You never know what to expect. So, to me it’s never boring. Every technique has its own story to tell.
Q: Most humorous NDT incident that you can remember?
When I was examiner, the question was what to do when you are in an accident. Answer received: “If still alive, I will cover the dead bodies with lead”.
Q: A must-visit NDT website that you recommend?
HAHA. GE Inspection Technologies website. https://www.gemeasurement.com/inspection-and-non-destructive-testing