Wendy Ntombela reflects on her women of real worth

Wendy Ntombela, senior planning and economics engineer at the Engen Refinery in Durban, understands the impact that women have on the world. 

Ntombela world would look very different today, had it not been for the love, encouragement, inspiration and support she received from the significant women in her life. “For me, Women’s Day reminds me that change begins with me: it means standing up for what is just and what you believe in, no matter the odds. Just like the women who marched 60 years ago,” says Ntombela. 

Born in Lamontville, Ntombela grew up in Wentworth, and later moved back to her place of birth, which is a township south of Durban. She was schooled at Collingwood Primary and Umbilo Secondary in Wentworth. Walking away from an abusive relationship, the roles of family provider, guide, protector and parent fell upon Ntombela’s mother, Nair Nsibande. 

Wendy Ntombela
Image credit: Engen

“My mother is amazing. On a local dressmaker’s pay, she had to hustle day in and day out – in a two room block with a leaking roof and no running water - my mother supported my older cousin, my two younger sisters and I through school and my first year of varsity,” Ntombela recalls.

Ntombela describes herself as an analytical introvert and attributes her mother’s love for maths and science as a real encouragement to her. “Funny enough in grades two and three, I distinctly remember when other children wanted to be teachers, police and doctors, I wanted to become a mathematician, then a scientist.”

While at high school that Ntombela attended the Engen’s Maths and Science School at Fairvale Secondary where she was fortunate to, “interact with a wider range of exceptional teachers and gain a broader exposure to a wider knowledge base of each subject.” 

After school, she went on to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Durban-Westville, which later became UKZN. Wendy received an Engen bursary in her second year at university and enjoyed the opportunity to work at Engen during her vacations. 

Wendy lives by a simple mantra: keep at it, dream bigger and enjoy every moment! But behind her unstoppable optimism lies a deep faith and commitment to her family. 

“I have always found that God sends angelic people who pass through my life at a certain point and inspire me through the various chapters, from family to church, to school, to neighbours and friends,” she acknowledges. Ntombela is inspired by her mother and late grandmother. “My constant and unwavering inspiration remains my queens, my mother and late grandmother, who- through literally blood, sweat and tears – have strived to carry and support not just me, but our entire family – with broad shoulders, heads held high and smiles always.” 

Ntombela’s roots are foundational to her views, which have moulded her and motivated her to choose engineering as a career that would impact her world. “In grade 10 when I visited the Engen Career Day, I was sold on engineering. What inspired me is how the profession can transform and enhance our daily living, by taking the simplest raw materials and transforming them into value-adding everyday products which undeniably and profoundly uplift our society. Just as Elon Musk says, ‘Engineering is the closest thing to magic that exists in the real world and who wouldn’t want to be a magician?’

On a professional level, Wendy admires Nona Chili, CEO of Makwande Energy Trading, for her character, intellect and drive. She has been married to her husband of 12 years Sithembiso and they have two children Mfundo and Nontsikelelo. 

She plans to broaden her solid refinery experience by gaining experience in the supply chain area of the petrochemical business over the immediate future, before exploring the many other opportunities in the sector further down the line. 



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