Being a successful woman in the male-dominated
world of construction calls for excellent leadership, project management and communication skills.
Fortunately, Tracy Cheetham (44) has these attributes in abundance and is doing stellar work at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO),
where she is responsible for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) infrastructure in South Africa.
Cheetham has been leading efforts to design the supporting infrastructure for the SKA’s midfrequency array.
She says passion, enthusiasm, commitment, patience, a sense of humour and the ability to constantly think on your feet and be decisive are essential to succeeding in her field.
Cheetham is head of construction planning for SKA-mid, which means she is responsible for the provision
and management of land for the construction and operation of the SKA’s mid-frequency telescope.
She is also tasked with honouring SKA hosting commitments through the provision of pathfinder and new infrastructure and securing construction licences on behalf of the SKA.
“I’m also consortium leader of the SKA’s Infrastructure South Africa Consortium, leading the design engineering effort involving both SARAO staff
and South African industry partners. “We have been working on the design of the infrastructure and power for SKA-mid since 2013,
including new access roads, primary and back-up power, buildings, antenna foundations, communication, security, vehicles, site monitoring, water and sanitation.”
Cheetham joined SARAO as infrastructure manager in 2007. She was responsible for the acquisition of land for KAT 7 and MeerKAT [an SKA precursor telescope],
and the design, establishment, operations and maintenance of the infrastructure and power for the observatory in the Karoo.
Women contributing to development She believes women should involve themselves in mega infrastructure projects like the SKA because they have a lot to contribute to the development of the country.
“I am very proud to be a South African woman working in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]
and hope that I can be a role model for other young African women to encourage them to pursue a career in this field.
“Women are the greatest resource any country can have to contribute to its development.
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