Dr Emma Molobi Details Her Journey in the Railway Industry

Dr Emma Molobi Details Her Journey in the Railway Industry
Dr. Emma Molobi

Growing up in Bethanie, a village in Brits, a small town in the North West, I always had a passion for science. Space science was my first love, I dreamt of working for a space agency and travelling to space. The science discipline is so multifaceted and growing up I was particularly intrigued by how matter transforms and is conserved, such as energy, which “cannot be created or destroyed.” My curiosity about the creation and merging of materials to make superior alloys paved my path into material sciences.

Pursuing this interest, I studied Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Wits University, where I was awarded a Transnet Bursary in my second year of studies. This field of science focuses on concentrating, extracting, and refining metals and materials, as well as developing new alloys, ceramics, and composites.

At an early age, I would have never considered a career in the railways but my passion and curiosity for the railway industry was ignited by the realisation of the importance of material sciences in this field. The railway industry, with its plethora of knowledge and history, has provided me with invaluable learning opportunities. As a “Railway Woman,” I have adapted to an industry historically dominated by men, thanks to the diverse and gender-neutral training provided by my Engineer in Training Mentor and Supervisor.

I have gained extensive experience in manufacturing and refurbishing various railway assets, including foundry practices for railway castings, welding, and the repair of traction motors and engine components such as crankshafts, crankcases, radiators, and cylinder liners. I have also gained business, interpersonal and leadership skills that have enabled me to make my mark in the sector over the years. The broad and multidisciplinary nature of the railway industry has driven my belief that diversity will lead to a successful revolution in the field.

Among my most notable successes is my qualification as an International Welding Engineer (IWE) with the International Institute of Welding, fuelled by my welding knowledge and experience. As of 2023, South Africa has 16% female International Welding Engineers and 13% female International Welding Technologists, and this narrative must change. To promote women’s involvement in welding, I presented at the 14th Annual Women in Engineering Africa Network Conference and Expo in 2023. I am also a Chapter Ambassador for Women in 3D Printing, an international non-profit organisation that aims to increase visibility and encourage women’s involvement in additive manufacturing.

In my role as Principal Engineer of Rolling Stock Technology in Technology Management at Transnet Freight Rail, I continue to nurture and promote the involvement of females, and males, in the railway industry. Currently, Rolling Stock Technology boasts more than 55% representation of women in various roles, including artisan welders, welding engineers, failure analysts, non-destructive testing specialists, mechanical engineers, and metallurgical engineers. The journey towards gender inclusivity and skills enrichment in the railway industry is making visible progress and I take pride in playing a leadership role in this much-needed transformation.

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