KAA, an epitome of quality
(HM): Could tell us a little bit about yourself including a brief about your upbringing?
(GK): I am the youngest of eight siblings and was very privileged to have been brought up by very loving and supportive parents. My older siblings were also quite supportive and inspirational to me in my formative years, as most were already pursuing their career paths as I grew up. Although we were not well off, I remember having a very happy childhood, with a lot of emphasis on exemplary performance in academics. My parents (and older siblings) made a lot of sacrifices to ensure that I was able to get a good education and thus I attended top-performing schools and did well in my studies. I particularly credit my father, who always encouraged us girls to never think of our gender as being an inhibition. I also attended all girls’ schools where the teachers also encouraged us to strive for excellence and not be held back by our gender. I therefore have no recollections of any gender bias or drawbacks due to the fact that I was a girl child and for that I am very grateful. Both my parents still continue to do so to this day and treat all siblings as equals, regardless of our gender.
(HM): How did you end up in Architecture?
(GK): We really did not have much career guidance in high school (which is when we made our university course selections). We therefore mostly based our choices on our strengths in the entry requirement subjects e.g. Mathematics and Physics. I selected Architecture, even if I knew very little about the career, because it appeared to be a prestigious course. I was then selected to do the course, since I had achieved top marks in all the required subjects. We were only three girls out of a class of 21 students.
The course was very tough and long and I often wondered back then, if I had made the right choice. I even contemplated a career change after graduation, although giving up or dropping out were not options to be considered. However, after seeing how proud my family, lecturers and friends were of me when I completed the course, I decided to give Architecture a try, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in life. I thoroughly enjoy being an architect, despite the challenges which I would imagine are present in every career. I have had the privilege of being able to further my studies in Architecture, emerging as the top student in my Masters’ class and recently acquired my certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP®), which I feel has enhanced my skill further.
(HM): Would you say that more women should join your line of work and why?
(GK): Architecture can be a challenging course/career and one that demands for a lot of man-hours, as well as carries a lot of responsibility. Architects will usually be the lead consultant on most building projects. Males have traditionally dominated it but more and more female architects are becoming influential, both here in Namibia and globally, making it easier to be respected as an equal in the industry. It is also generally accepted that women pay more attention to detail and thus in my opinion, women would thrive well in this detail oriented profession.
(HM): What kind of challenges do you face in this male dominated domain?
(GK): There’s a famous adage by Charlotte Whitton that says:
‘Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult’.
The greatest challenges I’ve faced have been in perceptions i.e. being second-guessed and/or being thought of as being less then, or inferior to my male counterparts and stereotyping of gender roles for example, a few stakeholders have insisted that they still want to speak to an architect, even after I have presented myself as ‘the architect’. Another challenge, although to a lesser degree and one I have navigated through developing my soft skills and teamwork, presents itself in working in Male lead cultural settings. As team leaders, female architects have to, retain a heightened awareness of the expectations for women in those cultural settings and act accordingly, which could include entrusting and delegating lead roles to our male colleagues.
(HM): What aspect of your work do you like the most?
(GK): As a creative, I thoroughly enjoy designing and providing what I deem to be good workable solutions that fulfill my clients’ expectations and needs. I feel particularly fulfilled when I have a happy client. I also enjoy working & interacting in team, as well as brainstorming to come up with viable architectural solutions. Finally, I enjoy the learning opportunities that the career enables me to have, as well as researching into innovation and latest global trends.
(HM): Do you think the industry is accommodative of women?
(GK): Yes, the industry is definitely evolving and as the understanding and knowledge that women can be just as good as men in the field, we are gaining more and more acceptance and authority as experts in our field.
(HM): Where do you want to see yourself in the next five years?
(GK): I hope to continue to grow as a professional in the fields of architecture and project management. I also hope to continue mentoring students, especially ladies in the fields of architecture and project management. I also hope to look into doing a doctorate in a year or two.
(HM): What comes first for you, output or quality?
(GK): Quality definitely comes first for me.
(HM): Most women believe that more should be done to uplift women by providing more opportunities for them in industries such as architects. Do you agree with this and why?
(GK): I agree with this. More definitely needs to be done and more opportunities need to be given to women, either by increasing quotas of their intakes into university or prioritizing funding for needy girls. Additionally, women need to be empowered to believe that they can be as good as their male counterparts and therefore more female architects need to get involved in campaigns to school girls, providing information on the career and what it entails.
(HM): What inspires you the most in your day-to-day life?
(GK): I am always striving to be successful by my definition of success: This entails growing in my skill as an architect/project management professional, completing beautiful and functional buildings, that the users are happy with, interacting well with clients and other stakeholders (growth in soft skills), proper management of our office and projects and receiving many referrals or repeat business opportunities. These factors drive me to keep pushing and working every single day. I am also working hard, to achieve financial stability that would enable me to expand our team and grow more people in the field of architecture and project management and leave a legacy in Namibia of what perseverance and determination can achieve for inspired women.