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Finding the balance of globalisation

Anglo Allied Engineering is an importer and distributor of quality industrial electrical control and safety equipment to South Africa and Africa. Karin Visser joined the company, which her father purchased, 30 years ago as an admin clerk, and today is responsible for overseeing the entire operation.

Sparks: Where were you educated?

KV: I did my schooling in Roodepoort. I have no further official qualifications; everything I know was learnt hands-on and on the go.

Sparks: How long have you been involved in the electrical industry?

KV: My dad bought Anglo Allied in 1976. As he was an electrical engineer, I had been surrounded by the industry for most of my life. My husband, Wiebe, also an electrical engineer, joined in 1988. I joined the company in 1990 as an admin clerk. 

Sparks: When and where did you start your career?

KV: Starting as an admin clerk at Anglo Allied, my job description has changed dramatically since then. I am now in charge of all operations.

Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years?

KV: The single biggest change over the years has been the computerisation of both product and business systems. When I began my work at Anglo Allied, I was using typewriters and accounting machines. Nowadays, all of that is digitised, some of it even automated. With regards to product, the ASI (actuator-sensor interface) has been the most notable evolution for me. These once entirely analogue switches can now be integrated into large, computerised, automated systems.

Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?

KV: Anglo Allied is my greatest project. Regardless of which installations our products end up in or where the products go, running this company to the best of my ability is one my greatest achievements. My other personal achievement would be that I managed to raise a family.

Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?

KV: My dad was my inspiration and mentor. He had such a great work ethic and I will never forget his thirst for knowledge.

Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?

KV: In my opinion, the biggest challenge is finding the balance of globalisation. There are pros and cons to international trade, and our business, Anglo Allied Engineering, is a supply company at its core. We have this blessing of easily obtainable technology and yet there is the curse of direct-to-user online sales. It has become so easy to source international products, people expect ‘instant coffee.’ But, as soon as there are any international trade hiccups, products become harder to source, while expectations remain the same.

Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?

KV: I enjoy the logistics of the company the most, but I also really enjoy being able to find a solution to a problem. I enjoy the puzzle.

Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?

KV: We are a very small-staffed company. I believe that being able to lead means being able to perform all the necessary tasks yourself too. Leading by example.

Sparks: If you could ‘do it all again’, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?

KV: No, I don’t believe that life works like that. Every decision will have its own consequences, good or bad. Every choice has brought you here.

Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?

KV: Yes, I would, the world needs us. It is a dynamically growing industry and very much a part of the future. We need our children to come up with new ideas to make this a better world.

Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors and electrical engineers?

KV: As a non-engineer, I can see that the engineers and contractors overthink the solutions to their problems. My advice, even to myself, is to take a breath, don’t overcomplicate the problem, and then go for it.

Sparks: What is your favourite quote?

KV: “Don’t waste your time looking back, you’re not going that way.”

Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’.

KV: Travel. Travel. And travel. Let’s hope the travel bans are over soon, I still want to see more of the world.

This article was featured in Sparks Electrical News.