Keene Nkoane (38) works as an Asset Management Engineer – Reliability based at the Debswana Corporate Centre in Gaborone. Her job is basically to ensure there is delivery of improved equipment performance across Debswana operations. She leads the definition, development and implementation of the Debswana Asset Management Programme. From the very beginning, Nkoane says, she has always been one of the few women in her field, right from when she started her electrical and electronic engineering training at Nottingham University in the UK on a Debswana scholarship. In fact, Keene says, she was among the first women to be sponsored to do an engineering degree by the mining company. This, she says, never deterred her from pursuing her dream and was in fact a push, because she has naturally been one to be intrigued by challenges. Upon graduating Keene worked for Debswana in Jwaneng for nine years as a Projects Engineer and later a Maintenance Engineer. It was never an easy process.
Even though she had to constantly deal with the cultural shock from her predominately male colleagues, the pintsized engineer says this motivated her even further to prove that she truly deserves to be where she is and can perform just as good as anyone else. In her current position Nkoane says she too is tasked with driving Debswana’s Women in mining initiative. This, she does by working with other colleagues to identify strategies that the mining company can use to raise the number of women (especially high school leavers) in mining. Her word to young female aspirants looking to choose a profession in mining especially engineering is that they should pay less attention to misconceptions that the profession requires one to put their feminine side on hold and adopt a rugged and dirty look. In her own experience, the beautiful married mother of three boys says one can still be a ‘woman’ and perform her job to the expectation of her employer. “You do not need to be a man, or act like one to be a good engineer,” Keene insists.