#CareerFocus With Susan Bothma, Technical Design Authority At Saab

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Lephalale, a town in the Limpopo province, and later moved to Pretoria to study for my BSc Computer Science degree at the University of Pretoria.

While I was studying for my Honours degree, I started working part-time at Avitronics, which is now known as Saab Grintek Defence, an aerospace and defence company. Throughout my years at Saab, I had the privilege of wearing many hats that has shaped me into a well-rounded engineer.

In my private time, I like to spend time with my husband, two children, and dogs. I also enjoy experimenting with different food recipes and doing any activity that involves creativity, such as dressmaking and painting.

2. What work do you do?

I’m the Technical Design Authority for Saab’s Emitter Processing System (EPS-50) product line. There are other projects within Saab that I’m involved in such as the IDAS Radar Warning Subsystem (RWSS) and the development of the new Digital version of the RWSS. 

3. How long have you been in the industry?

For a good 20 years.

4. Has your work always been your passion? Tell us why?

Yes, problem-solving has always been a passion of mine. This forms quite a large part of my daily activity at work, and so does software development, which I love. When I took computer science as a subject in school, I was immediately hooked and knew one day I would be a software developer. I enjoy the creativity, problem-solving and that no working days are similar – each day brings new challenges. 

5. Being a woman in the industry – what does it take?

Being a woman in the engineering industry (especially at Saab) for the most part has not been that challenging. In the past, women really had to work hard to prove that they can do the work just as well as their fellow male colleagues. However, times have changed and we are seeing that STEM fields have become inclusive, with more women pursuing careers that interest them without worrying about gender stereotypes, which is great to see.

6. What has been the most difficult challenge of your career?

Most mature economies have no restrictions on female employment in a technical field and engineering, but there are exceptions. There have been cases where I was not allowed to travel to certain countries even though my expertise was required, which meant that I had to assist remotely and that wasn’t ideal.

7. What advice do you have for other women in your industry?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do something because you are a woman. Although, for me, that motivated me to want to complete every task I was assigned to the best of my ability. Also, this is a dynamic field therefore you must be open-minded and have the willingness to learn.

8. Plans for the future?

To expand my technical expertise even further, where that will lead me, we shall see.