Milana Giles - honouring a strong woman in the gas industry

Please give a brief overview of your background and qualifications.  

I matriculated in 1983 moved to the US in 1995 and I was awarded my BA degree there. On returning to SA I worked for Kenzan Tiles in George while waiting on the approvals of our gas water heaters and the approval of TracPipe. Tracpipe was the first of its kind of flexible steel gas piping introduced to the South African gas market as an alternative to copper and steel. As this was new to the SA market, we were unable to find a gas installer willing to work with the product. I did my LPG domestic course in Cape Town under Lionel Maritz. 

Finding a suitable mentor to sign off on my installations proved to be a challenge; John Smith from Gas Tech was willing to assist and that was the start of my gas career. I chose to advance my career and completed the commercial liquid and vapour courses and installations to get qualified. Later I also completed the LPG Industrial course and have received a full gas practitioner qualification.

The gas industry is diverse and after achieving all I could in LPG, I started to focus on what the NG industry has to offer. I achieved qualifications in NG for domestic and commercial installations.

In the NG industry I faced the same scepticism from the men as I had seen in the NG sector. I have also completed my SANS 329, which includes the Industrial Thermo-Processing installations, under the mentorship of Fritz Von Graszouw, who was my trainer for the course as well. I have recently completed my ASME B31 Q, which entails the installation of major gas pipelines. I also qualified for thermoplastic welding and did a course in stick welding as well. I now sit on various SANS workgroups and was part of the CHIETA workgroup to develop the curriculum for gas practitioners as a trade.

How would you describe your career so far?

In one word ─ challenging! I feel this has improved my confidence as a woman in industry and I enjoy offering individuals and businesses energy solutions. I get to apply what I have learned every day which adds value to what I do and now have a team of people working with me. As I realised how difficult it was to find someone to mentor me, I now mentor new entrants in the industry.  

What is your biggest achievement?

Being a mother and a professional career woman. To be able to apply my knowledge and to see that people are approaching me to offer them an energy solution that is custom for their specific needs and requirements. Every project is unique and I make sure every one of my clients feel special and I try to fulfil their specific energy requirements. By doing that you make a friend and it is not just another job. I make every one of my clients feel important regardless of the work load or the job size. Whether I am installer a steel pipeline to a burner at Sedibeng Heineken or a gas hob at a domestic dwelling to me it is the same, the client matters and need to feel 100% happy.

What would you say is the biggest challenge faced by women in a male dominated workplace?

To be taken seriously and be respected for their knowledge and for what they can contribute to their specific industry.  

How do you balance career with family life?

I need to prioritise my time. No matter the day I’ve had, when at home I am the wife to my husband and the mother to our eight-year-old daughter. This is all possible because I have an amazing husband. We work in the same industry, he is the brains and I do the physical work – I have seen him bleed! It most definitely makes it easier that we have our own company, VEC Power, and if needs be I can work from home.

Our daughter has been a part of the office since birth and we took her everywhere with us. All

instill in her a good business sense for taking over the business if she wants to and so our

legacy will continue in gas. She is well trained in the ‘soapy solution’ test and will be the first

She is growing up in an environment with gas being part of any household and the norm

instead of the exception. We also have a great au pair who is the backbone of our household and without her we would not be able to run our business successfully.

Have you encouraged any other women to follow in your footsteps?

Yes, the World LP Gas Association is targeting women specifically to encourage them and to promote active participation in the gas industry. Through research, the World LPG association determined that women in the world are the largest users of gas, however very few women were actually employed in the industry compared with their male counterparts.

<headline>What should employers do to try to tackle gender inequality?

They need to change their own perceptions and focus on knowledge and ability, rather than on gender.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I want to be a role model to other women in the industry and to have demonstrated what can be achieved through perseverance and determination. Anything is possible. Do not take no for an answer.



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