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Getting to know our Project Engineer - Petra Gress

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Petra Gress has been working as a Project Engineer with Unique Group's Diving & Life Support division in Cape Town. Originally from Southwest Germany, she holds a degree in Business Administration (Germany) and Mechanical Engineering from CPUT, South Africa.  

Q1. How long have you been working in the industry?

I have been working as an engineer since 2007 after I completed my engineering studies. My professional career began in Switzerland where I worked as a project engineer in process development before I decided to move to South Africa.

Q2. How long have you been with Unique Group?

I have been working with Unique Group since May 2018 and have been based out of the Cape Town facility.

Q3. What are your key areas of specialisation?

I have mainly worked as a project engineer for most part of my professional life as that’s where my interest lies, and so, I would categorise my specialisation as project management. I also worked in a metallurgical laboratory previously for a duration of five years where I gained a lot of experience in metallurgy, materials testing and failure investigation (particularly weld related failures).

Q4. What’s your favorite learning experience at Unique Group?

At Unique Group, I regularly work on large scale projects which is new for me as I have never been exposed to bigger projects previously. Working on each of those projects has been a very good learning curve particularly as I get to manage thousands of parts and subassemblies, numerous subcontractors and suppliers, and work closely with technicians and production leads. I enjoy working with my colleagues as a team, this helps us to meet project deliverables in sync with product specifications and anticipated budgets.

Q5. Tell us about a key project you worked on at Unique Group.

One of the most significant projects I’ve worked on recently was the Twin Air Dive System built for a key client in Nigeria for the Bonga FPSO, which we completed in late 2019.
The project is special to me as it’s the first project that I managed from end to end, right from sales handover through to factory acceptance testing (FAT) with the client and shipping. Over the course of the project, I successfully implemented cost reduction initiatives and product improvements which were highly appreciated by the client.

Q6. As a woman in a mostly male dominated industry, are there any challenges faced over these years in any of your projects?

I have never perceived any challenges in my job because I am a woman. There are often difficult situations, but those were never gender related. It is important that as a woman you don’t have a problem getting your hands dirty, literally.
Europe is very open and already seeing a spike in female engineers across all industries. South Africa is also following suit. I would encourage all women starting their studies to consider engineering as an option. It is undoubtedly the most interesting profession that I could have ever chosen.

Q7. What do you specifically do to maintain the work life balance?

When I first applied for this job role at Unique Group, I had discussed to work part time which the company readily accepted. This has helped me maintain the work life balance by being able to spend some valuable time with my children aged 7 and 9 and help them with their schoolwork in the afternoons whilst also leading my projects.
Camping trips with my family on the weekends in the beautiful areas of the Western Cape also help me to unwind.