Meet Phola Kula – Biodx Process Engineer and Thabo Mokhonoana – Biodx Safety and Quality Officer, both of whom are inspired by the Biodx philosophy of reducing society’s dependence on toxic synthetic chemicals – to leave the world a better place.
The perfect job
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the beautiful young woman in the hard hat was actually modelling the latest in protective clothing, but in reality 26 year old Phola Kula is Biodx’s Process Engineer – and a very important part of their business and success.
After completing a Chemical Engineering degree, one of the hardest degrees around, at the University of Johannesburg, it was the perfect match when at 22 she applied for a job at Biodx. “It’s been such a privilege to be involved in such a project, learning from the basics of project planning, implementation and manufacturing. It was a rare opportunity to be involved in something like this from the ground up, watching it develop.”
As a child fascinated by the world of science this was not only a dream job for Phola but an opportunity to grow in other directions. “I always had a particular passion for chemistry and chose analytical chemistry initially and ended up wanting to do engineering. Now with Biodx encouraging me I’ve also completed a PDBA (Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration) and enrolled for my Masters in Management.
“Although I mainly do process engineering work I often wear several different hats, being involved in production and compliance to meet SABS standards. The best part of my job is that I’m constantly learning something new from my colleagues and even new suppliers who share their knowledge with me. I’m continually growing my knowledge base and developing which is what I look forward to each day.”
For Phola the future is wide open and she’s got big plans. “My focus right now is to learn as much as possible to better equip myself for business management. I look forward to one day being able to implement things and be instrumental in decision making.”
Whilst the word safety plays a large role in Phola’s job COVID-19 is a game changer. “COVID-19 is going to permanently change so many things, because suddenly safety and hygiene procedures don’t just affect those of us in production but requires a collective effort from everyone to understand the importance of hygiene and following the right procedures for people’s safety and protection of those around them.”
Firmly committed to Biodx and its future Phola is ready to give her all to ensure Biodx’s success, continuing to learn and grow along the way.
Small break leads to big job
Thabo can often be seen flying in or out of the Biodx offices, hard hat and clipboard in hand rushing off to check the water quality at a mine or making sure the products leaving the plant meet requirements. Now in his fifth year at Biodx in his role as Safety and Quality Officer his working life there started very differently.
“I’d been out of work for about a year when I heard Biodx were looking for someone to sweep floors and make tea. I was so desperate that any job right then would have been great.” But when Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx offered to interview him Thabo was a little taken back. “I just expected to arrive there and after seeing someone maybe get the chance to be employed. When Burt asked me to sit down for a formal interview I was surprised.” The tables were reversed when Burt discovered Thabo had a good Matric pass and was puzzled why he’d want such a position. “I told him I was absolutely serious and that I really needed this job and with that he hired me on the spot giving me a six month trial. Within three months I became the official ‘tea lady’”, says Thabo laughing.
Pitching in pays off
At that time Biodx was moving from their previous premises in Auckland Park to their Modderfontein plan and offices. “I helped them with the move and started working with one of the artisans working there at the time with installation and other things. Making tea didn’t take up my whole day,” he adds with a raised eyebrow. “Everyone seemed to like the way I was so hands on and when a post came available for a quality officer I was told to apply. Fortunately I got the job, again on a six month trial and three months later my position was confirmed. I was the new Quality Officer.
Growing on the job
“From there I did internal and external training, on the understanding and implementation of quality management with SABS as well as Auditing, also with SABS and other short courses. Since then I’ve led 10 external audits which were all successful. I’m still growing and learning every day from Biodx. I love interacting with people and getting to understand the processes involved in production. As someone who doesn’t like doing the same things each day this job is perfect as I’m challenged by different things and different people each day.
“COVID-19 has been a game changer and we’ve never been this busy. I’m very aware of the situation especially with two young daughters at home but I think it’s strengthening us. Although we may not have been expecting this situation – it’s here and we have to do what’s right.”