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Aurecon moves transformation up a gear

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Portia Derby, Aurecon's Senior Regional Director for Gauteng

20 January 2017 - World-class innovation depends on meaningful transformation which results in diversity of thinking and is therefore a key strategic focus for all leading companies. Employee-owned consulting engineering company, Aurecon, is moving its transformation process up a gear with the appointment of Portia Derby to the position of Senior Regional Director for Gauteng. Derby will be accountable for the leadership and performance of the Johannesburg and Tshwane offices in South Africa.

The first African woman appointed to a senior management position involved in the operations of the company, Derby has a BSc in Geology & Economics and a BSc (Honours) in Economics, both from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as an MBA from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently a director of Ubu Investment Holdings, where she has a number of fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities and is responsible for advising on strategy, business development and investment.

Prior to joining Ubu, Derby was the Director-General in the Department of Public Enterprises and a strategy and corporate governance consultant at Transnet. She has previously held senior positions at the Department of Trade and Industry as well as in the private sector. She also served as an advisor to the then Minister of Energy & Mineral Resources and was actively involved in the drafting of the Mining Charter.

In terms of economic development and innovation, Derby considers herself an ‘Africanist’ and, through Ubu, has been involved in significant West African infrastructure projects. Her focus on Gauteng will be as an economic powerhouse and vibrant nucleus for growing the company’s business in the context of the broader African continent.

“Portia brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience that will enable us to secure and expand our market position, not only in South Africa, but throughout the Sub-Saharan region,” says Ferdi Nell, Aurecon’s Managing Director for Africa. “Her appointment is an expression of our commitment to building the kind of cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary and gender equal workforce that will see smart businesses like ours thrive in the future.”

“I believe South Africa’s future depends on innovation,” Derby says. “It is only by being flexible and open to new ideas that we are going to be able to build a truly sustainable economy. An industrial economist at heart, for me fostering innovation in the designing and funding of economic infrastructure is both my mission and my passion.”

Derby’s knowledge of government processes and procedures will be a significant asset to Aurecon. Innovation in engineering that helps government to achieve its development goals is going to be an important success factor in both the public and private sectors in the future, and she is the perfect person to bridge the gap between the two sectors. She is also extremely capable when it comes to building strong teams that work across multiple disciplines and sectors. As Aurecon is a company that focuses on bringing ideas to life, her ability to take projects from concept to implementation will also be a key success factor for the company’s operations in Gauteng.

Derby was attracted to the corporate sector for just this reason. She is passionate about transformation and development, both in South Africa and across the continent. She believes that building successful public-private partnerships will help to realise this agenda and act as a catalyst for greater economic inclusion throughout Africa.

She also hopes to set an example for young women entering business and industry. She believes that the empowerment of women has not kept pace with the broader development agenda, and would like to enable more women to take up positions of influence in the economy.

“Portia is a committed, self-motivated woman who will bring new energy and direction to our operations,” says Aurecon Chair, Dr Lulu Gwagwa. “As the pace of change accelerates in both business and society, we need people of vision to take us forward. Portia is just such a person.”

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