We had the opportunity to connect with our doctoral alumnus, Dr Tonny Mhondiwa, who enthusiastically shared his professional journey, insights from his academic research, and his future aspirations. In this Q&A, Dr Mhondiwa emphasises his unwavering commitment to continuous learning and his indebtedness to transferring lessons and skills learnt from his academic journey with our business school, DaVinci.
Please give us a brief overview of your career to date.
I am an electrical engineer and project manager with experience in technology and innovation, operations, financial management and asset management at various organisations. Currently, I am the engineering and projects manager for the Western Cape region at Transnet Port Terminals. I am also the current Innovation Chairperson for the Transnet Saldanha Port terminals.
Your doctoral thesis is entitled: “A framework for measuring the performance of infrastructure project delivery for a state-owned company in South Africa.” Please provide us with a blurb on the purpose of your research and its contribution.
Infrastructure projects are complex and require extensive capital budgets, and often fail to meet their intended objectives. The purpose of the research was to develop an infrastructure project success model that can help to increase success rate. By closing the gap on project failure, this research can have a significant impact on the economy and environment. Successful infrastructure projects can improve access to services such as water, energy and transportation, and can support economic development and job creation. The contributions of the research are not just theoretical but practical as well. The success model enables project practitioners and management to effectively manage infrastructure projects, helping to deliver better outcomes for stakeholders and communities.
This model can also assist in reducing risks and costs associated with infrastructure projects and improve the overall quality of infrastructure development.
In a few words, kindly describe your journey to completing your doctoral qualification.
Completing this milestone was a rigorous and demanding process that required effort and dedication. The important component was that I did research on the topic of interest. The literature review was informative and the ‘research onion’ methodology was captivating and made progression straightforward. Conducting the research and analysing the findings was quite rewarding. Participants are clearly an important aspect of research. The icing on the cake was graced by the opportunity for the oral defending of the thesis in the presence of a panel and invited professionals, guests and friends. A big applause is accorded to my family, colleagues at work, management and financial support from Transnet. This was a rewarding journey that required a high level of skill, dedication and perseverance.
What would you say your three greatest attributes or characteristics are as a person that aided you on your journey?
Resilience comes first as it defines the ability to continue progressing even if the situation is difficult. It provided strength to cope and forge ahead, being calm and remaining positive.
Motivation cannot be left out. The persistent inward desire to reach the goal of improving the rate of delivering infrastructure projects successfully kept me going with an unwavering interest and commitment.
Critical thinking, which is the ability to analyse facts and come up with informed decisions, provided the lubricant to the research and analysis of data. It sharpened my problem-solving abilities and helped to engage and critique the status quo, thus solving complex issues at both micro and macro levels. It promoted the ability to communicate and co-create value with stakeholders.
How did your journey impact your way of thinking and (or) life?
This journey was a transformative experience that had a profound impact, both at the personal (individual) and professional level. Several skills were positively impacted, including the improvement of my skill set, in critical thinking, problem-solving, project management, systematic integration of technology and people for innovative outcomes, with new perspectives and insights enhanced. The journey required adjusting to balancing personal and professional commitments. Commitment, perseverance and support from family, friends and colleagues contributed to the success.
What is next for you on your path of thriving in remarkability?
My interest in the field has received a boost through this journey, and this does not indicate an end but rather a continuation of the journey. I am indebted to transfer lessons learnt and skills of enhanced critical thinking, problem-solving and integration of technology and innovation and people management to deliver excellence.
If you could give advice to a student embarking on this journey, what would it be?
Students should choose topics that they are passionate about. This journey is long, demanding, and requires a high level of commitment and dedication. Much effort was put into the research proposal, clearly articulating the objectives, methodology and expected outcomes. Another important factor is to establish a good work-life balance to avoid burnout by paying attention to self-care, maintaining social and professional/academic connections and physical activities.
Orally, completing a doctoral qualification is a challenging but rewarding journey. With the right mindset and support, the journey is transformative in experience and can open new opportunity avenues for personal and professional growth.