Personality Profile – Ben Veldsman

This issue, Stainless Steel Magazine spoke to Ben Veldsman the new general manager of Outokumpu Sub- Saharan Africa.

SO, BEN WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

It all began where I grew up in the Bushveld to the far north of South Africa. My career commenced in 2000 at Anglo American’s Highveld Steel & Vanadium, in those days Highveld Steel was a major player in the South- African steel industry.

I received a sponsorship and was appointed as a junior technician.

Highveld developed comprehensive training programs that enabled me to be promoted to an engineering foreman in the structural mill.

There my passion for steel making was birthed. I later moved on to Transalloys, where operations revolved around smelting and production of Silicomanganese.

The constant pressure associated with any engineering job in a heavy industrial plant was both nerveracking and exhilarating!

In 2007 I joined Tenova Pyromet where the focus was on supplying complete smelting solutions for the ferroalloys and base metals industry across the world.

The opportunity to return to the steel making industry presented itself in 2017 when I was appointed as general manager at Outokumpu.

Although we are now more focused on the supply chain side of the business, it is incredibly satisfying.

The hardest part of the move was the unnerving relocation from the City of Gold to the Mother City. After nine months my wife Lizl, son Ben-Carl, and I are enjoying Cape Town.

I completed a B.Tech. degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Vaal University of Technology.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF YOUR JOB?

It is great to be a part of a team that can aim for and achieve notable excellence! I also value working in South Africa with local people with whom I can maintain good relationships.

Outokumpu recently appointed a new CEO and our vision is to create the best value in stainless steel through customer satisfaction and efficiency by 2020. This is a goal we can reach even sooner in South Africa.

WHEN HAVE YOU BEEN MOST SATISFIED IN YOUR LIFE?

Working at Outokumpu is the culmination of my career; I have not been more satisfied than what I am at this very moment. In everyday life, it is most satisfying to help a person in distress.

WHAT THINGS DO YOU NOT LIKE TO DO?

I am not someone to stand down in the face of challenges or hard work. I don’t change nappies, and I don’t like to eat Chinese tofu or Icelandic whale. (There have been some novel work-related experiences, when I have been faced with a host’s favourite dish!)

WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL, AND WHY?

I believe that role models don’t necessarily need to be famous personalities; they are people with character, look around you not everybody is great in everything, but in every company, people great at something. I look up to such people and try to be close to them. Especially the older generation, whose positive influence enhanced my professional development.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED DURING YOUR CAREER AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES?

On opportunity: Prepare all you can, leave nothing to chance and go out and get it done!

On engineering: Any problem has a solution the question is do you have a plan to work towards?

On people: helping others develop opens the door for you to grow with them.

On leadership: Great leaders thrive in not taking the fame but rather the blame.

WHAT IS SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I like to play golf! Something I only discovered recently.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU AREN’T WORKING?

My family is my number one priority, and spending time with them is precious. Other than that it is always fun to ride over a huge dune in my Hilux in Namibia, and explore the Western Cape with my wife.

IF YOU WERE TO CHOOSE AN ALTERNATIVE LIFE, WHAT CAREER WOULD YOU HAVE FOLLOWED?

I had many aspirations while growing up; fighter pilot, social photographer and maybe the next Springbok coach – there will at least be no expectations on that one 🙂

WHY STAINLESS STEEL?

The uses of stainless steel are vast, but still have potential especially in South Africa.

We want our children to grow up in a world that is sustainable and green.

Stainless steel offers that future.