Managing director at the newly established Testing and Conformity Services Laboratories (TACS Lab), George Mashinini, is one of those rare people who knows exactly what he wants to achieve and is not daunted by the magnitude of the tasks that lie ahead.
The eternal optimist, George sees the bright side of life – that challenges are opportunities for growth, setbacks are just another word for ‘experience’, and failure is not an option.
He radiates an air of determination that is infused with positivity and an attitude that declares: ‘Yes! I can!
Sparks: Where were you educated?
GM: I matriculated at Boekenhoutfontein High School in Pretoria and then went to Pretoria Engineering College where I obtained an Electrical Diploma (Heavy Current). Apart from that, I’ve completed numerous management courses and have certification in the implementation and evaluation of quality systems ISO/SABS 9001 as well as the Certificate of Plastic Technology (with distinction).
Sparks: How long have you been involved in the electrical industry?
GM: I’ve been in this industry for 30 years.
Sparks: When and where did you start your career?
GM: In 1985, I started out at Asea Electric cables, which was subsequently bought by Aberdare Cables, where I ended as technician-in-charge. I was responsible for the running of the laboratory and this involved the testing of raw materials, in-process and completed cables and various polymers or plastics used in the processing of telecom and power cables.
I was also responsible for the PVC plant and, while at Aberdare Cables, I was given the opportunity to go to ABB Cables’ plants and the Borealis Innovation Centre, both in Sweden; NKF Cables in The Netherlands and Exxon Chemicals in Belgium, all as part of my career development.
When Aberdare closed its operations in Rosslyn, I moved to the SABS-NEFTA materials/installations laboratory where I served as manager and technical specialist. I subsequently joined Testing and Conformity Services Laboratories in July 2015, as managing director.
Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years?
GM: I would say that it has been the movement from plastic additives that were not environmentally friendly, to more ‘friendly’ additives in the plastics that are used in the production of telecom and power cables. Another great change has been the movement from copper on telecom cables to optic fibre.
Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?
GM: While I was at Aberdare Cables, I was involved in the trials and development of ‘Airdac’ cable, now called ‘service cable’ that was used mainly in low cost housing. I also worked on the changes to the PVC additives in the PVC plant – and this led to major savings without compromising the quality of the PVC grades.
The highlight of my career has been working on the establishment of TACS Laboratories, which is an alternative, independent and accredited laboratory that will serve the electrical fraternity and consumers within our scope.
Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?
GM: I have been privileged to have had guidance from a number of mentors, namely, John Yuill, a professional electrical engineer who was the executive director-technical at Aberdare Cables; Thembani Bukula who is now regulatory member of National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and Lucas Monyai who rose through the ranks at SABS and is now the general manager: Electrotechnical division at SABS.
Sparks: What, to your mind, are the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?
GM: A huge challenge in South Africa is the theft of cable copper. Another challenge is for Eskom to maintain the electrical infrastructure and ensure the supply of power without having to resort to load-shedding.
Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?
GM: I enjoy the challenges and the achievements of my work.
Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?
GM: I would say that I lead by example or ‘walk the talk’.
Sparks: If you could ‘do it all again’, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?
GM: I can’t change the past but if I could influence the future, I would introduce electricity into the high school science curriculum so that youngsters are exposed to this industry from an early age.
Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?
GM: Yes, I would because this industry’s challenges are opportunities for great achievements.
Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors and/or electrical engineers?
GM: My advice to them is to adhere to fundamental electrical safety principles and to only use compliant materials and equipment that have been approved by accredited test facilities.
Sparks: What is your favourite quote?
GM: “The act of taking the first step is what separates the winners from losers,” Brian Tracy.
Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’ (things you want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’).
GM: I would like to take TACS Laboratories to a level where it would be second none by firstly, rendering quality, efficient test services; ensuring an environment that is conducive to internships for young graduates; and, finally, by delivering an impeccable testing service that would allow local manufacturers to compete at international levels.