Quality in her hands

By Warren Robertson

As quality controller and site representative for Abbink Consulting on the Acsiopolis project, Nancy Ronoh stands out.

Being a woman on one of the largest current developments in Johannesburg, she is a rare sight as she bustles up and down the stairs and scaffolding to inspect and approve the work being done. Coming from an educated and ambitious home, one could be forgiven for thinking it was only natural for Ronoh to be where she is today — tackling a very male-centric world. Her father, a doctor, always encouraged his daughter to go into a technical field and she admits that growing up, she always assumed she would go on to become a mechanical engineer.

IMG 20181023 103318 main“During matric, I realised that going into the building industry would be a better choice for me and I then studied construction management at Wits University in Johannesburg,” she says.

It was to be the practical experience at university that set Ronoh on the path she is on today.

Nancy Ronoh handles quality control at Abbink Consulting. Credit: Nancy Ronoh

“At the time, I hadn’t decided whether I wanted to be in construction management or quantity surveying, so I set out to get on site and see what it was all about,” she says. “I was fortunate enough to be able to be given the opportunity to work with a construction manager by the name of Nic Strehler, who was managing the construction of the Wits Mathematical block. I learnt a lot in those six months about structure and foundation and the building process. Every year after that, I did part-time work with Murray and Dickson at various sites, and in my final year, I worked with them at the Tembisa private hospital owned by Lenmed.”

This process cemented her passion for construction management and after graduating in 2015, she found work as an intern with W.F. Kroon Projects in Pretoria. Always quick to credit her mentors, it was at W.F. Kroon where she was guided by Russell Boyd and Jaco Enslin, but she says her life really took a turn when she met Susan and Robert Abbink while working on the Thembelihle Village housing project.

“At W.F. Kroon, I was the construction manager’s assistant and so worked closely with all the consultants, doing quality control and managing the subcontractors. Abbink Consulting were the wet services engineers on that project,” she says, adding that she met the Acsiopolis plumbers Arnold Retief and the others from Thermowise on the project.

Speaking to Ronoh, it is apparent that her business relationships are everything to her. She never forgets a name or someone who has helped her, and it is nurturing these relationships that has seen her leap up the corporate ladder to where she is now, working for Abbink Consulting.

“My job would be a lot more difficult if I did not have the trust and support of my employer, Robert Abbink, or the trust and support of the architects and my colleagues,” she says when asked what her one lesson in business is that she would like to pass on.

In her private life, it is her relationships with her family and the people around her that Ronoh says give her strength.

“I spend regular time with my friends and my family. I am lucky enough to have my family live in Pretoria now, so I am home for Sunday lunch every two to three weeks,” Ronoh explains.

Her current workday is varied and takes her all over the building in search of snags, challenges, or more efficient ways of doing things.

“What I love about my job and about being in construction, is that no day is the same. Every day has a new and different challenge,” she says. “Succeeding at my job hinges a lot on understanding the architect’s perspective, the client’s perspective, and the installer’s perspective, and incorporating that with my own perspective so that we can achieve the common goal of producing a functional building. An engineer I recently met on a project said to me that to be a successful wet services engineer, you need to ‘consider all the aspects of a building, not just the wet services. Ask yourself, how does my design affect the architect, the ventilation, the fire rating, and the structure’ — and that is my daily challenge.”

As an integral part of that process, Ronoh has a lot on her plate on any given day, which always starts with writing emails and catching up with the latest developments on site.

“Next, I meet with my team: the plumber’s contract manager, Byron Stroud, and my colleague, our draughtsman, Alex Mabulana. They usually let me know of any issues that may not have escalated yet, or new issues that may have arisen,” she explains.

“After that, I usually dedicate time to doing inspections — at this stage of the project, the majority of my inspections involve the plumbing in the various units, which is all checked before the walls are closed. Generally, I check about 20 units in a day.”

Work is not done yet for Ronoh, whose average day then involves returning to completed floors to double-check installations with plumber’s site project manager, Stephan Fouche, and raise any final fix issues that might still remain, with a final burst of admin at the end of the day to ensure everyone is up to speed with what is going on.

Her obsession with the details puts her in a good position for her career, and it seems her ambition of one day either owning her own company, or working as a director at a large company, is certainly not out of reach, but that’s not to say she is all about her job to the exclusion of everything else.

“On public holidays and long weekends, I read; I am a big fan of Sydney Sheldon and Paulo Coelho novels. Otherwise Netflix is my new favourite pastime. I try and bake as often as I can too,” she says.

At the end of the day, though, Ronoh’s real satisfaction comes from watching the building go up.

“Something I have always loved, not just in my job but in my life as well, is being able to physically see progress,” she says.

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