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Career focus: meet Transnet’s first woman commercial diver in the Port of Durban, Roxanne Ross Manikkam

Roxanne Ross Manikkam. Picture: Supplied

Roxanne Ross Manikkam. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 6, 2022


Very few young girls wake up and think of diving as a suitable career path, but for Roxanne Ross Manikkam, who is making waves in an industry fiercely dominated by men, her passion was ignited at a young age. IOL Education’s Se-Anne Rall chatted to Roxanne to find out more about her job.

SR: Name and job title please?

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RRM: Roxanne Ross Manikkam, currently employed at Transnet (TNPA) as a technical supervisor in the Building and Marine Infrastructure Department: Contracts Section.

SR: What ignited your passion for your work?

RRM: I think many things ignited my passion for my line of work from a young age. I am always looking to challenge myself and learn new things that will bring a change to my life and others. Having an unorthodox mentality also contributed to getting me thus far in my field, especially being dominated by males, I had to make sure that I had tough skin to withstand any opposition and break stereotypes in the process.

I am also committed to performing my job well and therefore I love meeting all the new and old requirements which will enhance my performance for my work. That’s what sets apart my passion.

SR: What/where did you study?

RRM: To become a commercial diver I had to undergo a diving medical at a diving doctor. Once I passed that, I had done my research beforehand and looked for a reputable long-standing diving school with relevant IMCA accreditation. Professional Diving Centre (known as PDC, owned by experienced commercial diver Grant Jameson) checked all the boxes. Having a technical background, qualification and exposure on the port helped me better understand the technical aspect of things for becoming a commercial diver for work that needed to be performed.

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SR: Take us through a “typical day” in your line of work.

RRM: Currently working as a technical supervisor, managing my time is very important, so I like to start my day quite early most mornings at the office so it gives me time to prep for the day ahead. Each day is not always the same and that’s what I love about my job as there is not always a “typical day” at the office. I usually answer my emails while I am very alert and fresh as I love to give my fullest, clearest attention, so I usually jump to those urgent requests. I continue with any project specifications that need approvals and proofreading.

My day normally entails ongoing building and marine infrastructure inspections on the port and making sure quality standards are met. Together with my inspections, I have to make sure and maintain that a safe working environment for subordinates and those around them in accordance with the Safety Health and Environmental Act is kept and met. I have to control information, documentation and reports pertaining to my inspections and keep records for feedback management meetings when required.

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SR: What are some of the projects you've worked on?

RRM: Currently I supervise/manage building and marine infrastructure projects, which include a three-year project for the stormwater reticulation system around the Port of Durban, a three-year project for desludging of septic tanks around the Port of Durban, three-year projects for the fencing around the Port of Durban, renovations to buildings around the port, a three-year project to repair and clean all penstock bund valves and chambers required in Island View in the Port of Durban. These are just a few to mention but not limited.

SR: What will always be your proudest moment in your career?

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RRM: Definitely becoming the first female commercial diver ever produced on the Port of Durban in more than a century and a half of its history has been my proudest moment in my career thus far.

Roxanne Ross Manikkam. Picture: Supplied

SR: What will always be one of your lowest moments in your career?

RRM: Looking back, what I thought was my lowest moment in my career worked out now the way it needed to even though back then it surely didn’t feel like it. Applying for a position that I really wanted at that time and the only position I knew and felt was meant for me and not getting it felt rather low and disappointing.

I smile now thinking about it as that setback became my biggest comeback and timing has never felt more right.

One of my biggest career lessons was learnt through that experience.

I saw a quote that reads: “What’s meant for you will never miss you, and that which misses you was never meant for you.” There is some truth in that, but my younger self back then would not have seen that as I do now.

SR: What are some of the challenges you've had to overcome?

RRM: During my training I had to overcome male mindsets and a particular “naysayer”.

Challenging myself was another aspect as this was a completely new field that I was going into, so I had to challenge my own mind and body to fall in line with what I set myself to accomplish.

SR: How do you find the inspiration to continue despite the challenges?

RRM: Having my “Maverick Manikkam” character built within me, that unorthodox mentality keeps me going. Also knowing that after it all there will be rewards and knowing that there is a younger generation looking at us makes it all worth it.

SR: Tips of someone reading this who would like to be where you are one day?

RRM: There were many ingredients or aspects that brought me thus far and I am sure these can help those reading. Some were learnt very early and some not so early to me. It includes, but not limited to:

  • Never give up on your goals and dreams and working towards them.
  • Take risks. I took some risks along the way. They were calculated ones that required me to never be afraid to try new challenges no matter my gender or creed because that will eventually push me into my destiny, which it has.
  • Hard work works, and never think the easy way out is best.
  • Pray, stay humble and grateful no matter the outcome.


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