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The Benefits of SAIMechE membership

Posted By Vaughan Rimbault, Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The most common question that I am asked about SAIMechE goes something like “What is the benefit of being a member of SAIMechE?”.  Instead of a clinical corporate response, I decided to reflect on my own membership of SAIMechE, and consider how I have benefited directly from it.  To be fair, I have excluded anything to do with my role as CEO, and have only considered my experiences as a member.

Looking back on my professional career, I can now clearly see that it took a turn for the better from about the time I was first drafted onto the KZN Branch committee in the early 1990’s.  At that time, I wasn’t thinking of my professional development, but probably didn’t have a good enough reason to dodge the invitation.  I admit to often giving of my time grudgingly in those early years, and considered my service on the committee as part of an obligation to give something back to the profession, with no expectation of a benefit in return.  Now I recognise the significance of that point in my career, and am able to identify the many benefits that followed.

From the first committee meeting my mechanical engineering world started to expand.  I immediately met a handful of professionals and started hearing more about the world of mechanical engineering.  Up to that point, my only engineering contact was at work, which presented me with a very narrow and uninviting view of the profession.  I had very few professional colleagues at work, and spent most of my time engaging with the engineering trades on the one side, and management on the other.  By attending committee meetings and assisting with the organisation of activities, I started hearing of new industries, technologies and machines.  I heard the names of people in industry and started to connect the dots in the profession.  For the first time in my career I interacted with people who were focused on mechanical engineering, and it felt like home.

In the early years I didn't fully realise the value of a network of professional colleagues that I was creating.  Looking back, I would consider my professional network to be the most significant contributor to my development.  This network has consistently presented me with knowledge, experience, advice and support, and I could not imagine a more appropriate space in which to encounter these.

I have been the KZN Branch Treasurer for more years than I can remember, and this office has helped me to become a very competent bookkeeper and Pastel operator.  Branch accounts are quite small and manageable, and give great opportunity for learning. I now properly understand accounting and financial statements and can hold my own against any commerce professional.  Solid financial skills are quite lacking in the engineering profession, very much to our disadvantage, and it’s a pity more of us don’t realise how simple it actually is. 

In the role of Branch Chairperson I was able to practice and develop skills in chairing meetings, and developed an effective method of taking minutes which I still use to this day.  I was given many opportunities for public speaking such as hosting technical presentations, dinners and even the national awards banquet at the Durban ICC, and this has been very much to my benefit.

I could list a few more direct benefits that I’ve received, but the point I would like to make at this stage is that all the benefits came as a result of service.  I never set out to get any benefit from my service to SAIMechE, but reckon that I’ve received at least ten times that which I put in - perhaps even more.  I didn’t plan it that way, but just as exercise brings about health benefits, so service to the profession brings about professional benefit.

I look forward to many more years of enjoyable and productive service to the Institution, and to the multiple benefits that will follow.  The difference these days is that I think a lot more about it beforehand. That’s just the way it works.

Vaughan Rimbault

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