Denis Tichagwa has gone from a young boy in 1980s Zimbabwe crafting wire toy cars, to working in a variety of roles ranging from mining to law enforcement. Equipped with a natural ability and fascination for STEM, Denis commenced his career in mining intending to progress to a career in engineering. However, an economic downturn forced him to transition to law enforcement. Despite setbacks, when the opportunity presented itself in 2018, Denis was determined to refocus his career in engineering and subsequently completed EIT’s Advanced Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering online. Now working with Madison Square Holdings in South Africa, Denis has been able to pursue his passion for civil engineering and construction and is well on his way to achieving his lifelong professional goals through commencing EIT’s Bachelor of Science (Civil and Structural Engineering).
At Madison Square Holdings in South Africa, Denis’s daily responsibilities include administration, health and safety checks, maintaining a drawings repository, and checking that all works done by subcontractors are according to specifications. For Denis, civil and structural engineering is all about leaving a mark for all society to see, and improve quality of life.
“In engineering, I can gain respect, not only from the entities I work for but from civil society too. They are the people for whom we dedicate our ingenuity and we build our structures for. It is beneficial to them when we do our job, and it can change the landscape for generations to come,” Tichagwa said. But a role in construction is just one of the many roles Denis has had over the years.
Where it all started
Denis’ academic excellence was recognized in the seventh grade in the countryside in Zimbabwe. In a class of 400 students, he ranked second academically. Secondary schools, noting his achievements, offered him space in their schools. However, due to financial constraints, he settled for a state school.
“Determined to alter my situation, and that of my family, I studied very hard and earned respect from my educators. I was fascinated by maths, science and technical graphics,” Denis explained. “Each time we went to science lessons where we would perform practicals, we would watch our teacher doing very distinct tests which fascinated me. In the design class, we would grab our rather heavy drawing boards and get to work on our designs - much to the pleasure of our educator.”
Equipped with a passion for STEM, Denis emerged from high school and went straight into work. He worked at the local Vubachikwe Mine for four years, gaining crucial work experience. He learned first-hand how every facet of the mine operates and became accustomed to how all the processes worked in tandem.
Denis was expecting to continue his education in the mining industry, as the mining company had promised their workers that they would get subsidized education at the Zimbabwe School of Mines - a prestigious mining school widely celebrated in Africa. However, it was not to be. An economic crisis in the country in 2002 forced the mine to abandon the program and leave the students without a chance to study at the institution.
A new hope
“Undeterred I moved on and joined the police where I had a 5-year stint. There, I learned how the law operates. During these 5 years in the police, I enrolled with Harare Polytechnic College where my interest was to do with plumbing. Unfortunately, I did not finish, and I decided to move to South Africa,” Denis recalls.
Denis then, with a determined spirit to achieve, enrolled at the University of South Africa (UNISA) for a diploma in electrical engineering. After earning his diploma at UNISA, he continued looking for academic opportunities, even internationally, to augment the skills he developed working in engineering roles.
He subsequently came across the Engineering Institute of Technology. He learned that he could work towards getting an Australian qualification with global recognition that he could earn online whilst still working in South Africa. After weighing his options, on the many courses EIT provides, he chose the 52724WA - Advanced Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering. He began charting a path toward an engineering career in a whole new direction.
A path toward engineering greatness
About his time at EIT, Dennis remarked: “Life at EIT was exceptional. I will forever be grateful to EIT for enlightening me in as far as engineering is concerned. My level of understanding in not only the construction field but the engineering domain in general has greatly improved. I am now rearing to go even further with my Bachelor of Science in Engineering with EIT and this time around, everything will be set.”
Denis now works for a construction company in Cape Town and has been doing so since 2012. He notes that the construction industry is rapidly evolving due to new technologies and the ‘latest developments in machines’ that are speeding up construction processes. Crews are now finishing projects faster than they ever were in the past.
After fulfilling many different roles in his employment history, and now looking forward to broadening his skill set with more qualifications, Denis says he would also love to run his own engineering company one day. At EIT, we encourage our students to be entrepreneurial and improve their society through engineering. We are thrilled to have Denis as an alumnus of our institute and we are confident that he will achieve whatever he sets his mind to.