Making her mark in the world of draughting

Buildings, bridges, aircraft, machinery, gas pipelines, air-conditioning systems all started out as the drawings of the draughtsperson – the interpreter between the creative mind of the architect, engineer and the skilful hands of the builder.From rough sketches and notes, the skilled draughtsperson provides all the fine details and visual guidelines, according to calculation and specifications provided by engineers, architects and surveyors.

ALUMNI HILDA POO Passionate about her job as a draughtswoman

Passionate about her job as a draughtswoman

Hilda Nkhumise Poo, 33,  from Soweto, is a senior design draughtsperson, who works for  multi-disciplinary consulting engineering firm, P D Naidoo and Associates.

We asked her to tell us more about her career and how she enjoys working in a field that is traditionally dominated by males.

1. Why did you decide to study draughting?

This was more like fate, I didn’t decide….it happened to me. I was in a bridging college in Springs when a lecturer from African Academy did a presentation to us. I really wanted to study Mining Engineering, but financially that wasn’t possible. That year, was my first encounter with technical drawing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, when the African Academy gave me the opportunity to study there, I grabbed it with both hands.

2. Do you enjoy drawing  and design?

I love it. I enjoy drawing, but it is especially interesting when combined with designing, because you understand why you put specific components in their specific places. At the end of the day, I don’t  just produce a drawing, it is not just a pretty picture to look at,  it tells a story.

3. What did you study? What qualification did you graduate with?

I did a one-year programme,  Multi-disciplinary Drawing Office Practice.

4. As a woman, how have you been accepted in your career in the workplace?

I have a strong personality and the passion I have for my job lets nothing stand in my way. There are some people who find it hard to accept that there are females (particularly black females) in this field and there are going to be more and more as time goes by.

There was a time when my manager asked me to finish off one of his projects and as a black woman I was met with a lot of animosity. Some points in the meetings  would be conveyed in Afrikaans, just to purposely exclude me from discussions. If there was something on my scope that they didn’t understand, they would discuss it amongst themselves and agree to contact my manager, instead of asking me directly.

For my manager to entrust me with such responsibilities, means he trusts me and this means a lot to me. I am the only female in our department and I don’t get treated with kid gloves.  

5. Describe what your work entails – what areas do on work in?

I do budgets, calculations and designs, the drawings for air-conditioning and ventilation systems, followed by site and quality supervision of the installation. I work in the building services environment, which makes my job even more interesting. Every day is different – buildings have different applications and there are different types of air-conditioning and ventilation systems to suit each application. I work in office parks, universities, schools, hospitals, post offices, shopping centres, laboratories, police stations, churches, laundries, amongst many others.

6. Describe a day in your work life?

My days are not typical and the workload is rather hectic. Besides the drawing and design element of the job, some days I have to attend a string of meetings and site inspections, wearing a hardhat and safety boots (no time to worry about what they do to my hair and pedicure), travelling from one construction site to another, and at the end of such a day, my working hours begin at the office where I have to attend to requests for new meetings and information. And sometimes, I have to catch an early flight to one of my “out of the province projects”. So, monotony is definitely not part of my job routine.

7. Who do you interact with?

I deal with property developers, tenants, facility managers, officials from various ministries, architects, quantity surveyors, project managers, builders, contractors, engineers from different disciplines such as electrical and structural engineers, suppliers, space planners, and professionals involved in erecting a building to a point where the building is fully functional and ccupied.

8. What element of your job do you find the most rewarding?

Doing the design and the drawings myself… because then I know I have taken into consideration every aspect and every piece of information required to design a sustainable and beneficial system for the client, based on their requirements and capital cost.

9. What are the challenges in your job?

There are times you have to creep into some uncomfortable places in construction sites. Sometimes the ground is muddy and slippery, but work does not stop because of these conditions – you find a way and move on. Waking up super early on some days doesn’t make it any easier. And then of course difficult colleagues and clients can be challenging!

10. What are the highlights of your job?

Seeing a fully erected and functional building with an air-conditioning system designed and drawn by me. It is a fulfilment that comes with knowing that in my own small way, I have contributed to the improvement of the quality of the air they breathe and their body comfort in that space.

11. What advice would you give to other girls/women thinking about entering draughting as a           career?

Draughting is multi-dimensional (no pun intended)…do it. It is fulfilling, coupled with lots of potential  for growth and development . There are different dimensions for different kinds of females in any chosen field you choose. Although it is still male dominated, over time we can get the ratios right.

12. What’s next – do you plan to further your career?

Yes, definitely. This is a dynamic industry and one cannot afford to stagnate. I am currently studying short programmes in air-conditioning through SAIRAC but it’s about time I completed my mechanical engineering qualification, which has been at the top of my list for a while now.

For further information on the range of programmes or details on the next registration date, contact the African Academy on 011 914 4340 or visit

Issued by: Kathy Mumford
Kalungu Media & Marketing
On behalf of: The African Academy
For further information:Kindly contact Kathy Mumford on 082 921 0874
Ref: African Academy – Hilda Nkhumise Poo
Date:14 August 2011