Stellenbosch University
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A Day in the Life: Marieta van Wyk
Author: Corporate Communications and Marketing
Published: 23/05/2024

​​Marieta van Wyk plays a key role at Stellenbosch University's (SU) Transport Services where she has been working for almost 30 years. She is known as a pillar of strength who ensures that the wheels keep turning in the transport department. Van Wyk ensures that all of SU's vehicles remain in operational condition, are serviced on time, repaired, have their licenses renewed, and are clean before being rented out. As we celebrated Workers' Day at the beginning of May, we dedicate this series of profiles to our staff and their significant contributions to the University.

What does your role at SU entail?

My role at Transport Services involves ensuring that 81 vehicles are optimally rented out to students and staff for their official activities on a daily basis.

Apart from ensuring that all vehicles are in good, working condition with everything that entails, I also ensure that 162 keys are returned and securely stored after rental. I replace the fleet's 162 petrol cards every two years and am responsible for the operation of 162 identity cards for access control at the vehicle park gates. I provide 12 vehicle drivers with opportunities to supplement their income with campus requests. Additionally, I keep myself busy with annual inventory records, performance assessments, our website, and all the issues and stories that arise when vehicles are returned late or damaged.

I liaise daily with SU staff and students, as well as clients for tenders and I manage communication with companies such as motor dealerships, panel beaters, the SAPD, and Tracker in case of hijacking or theft.

I was involved in the design of our user-friendly booking program from the beginning. I helped write the manual and ensure its continuous operation.

What does a typical day at work look like? 

Like an octopus under pressure, I start my day at 07:30 by allocating vehicle bookings that have already been received. Then inevitably, there's a call from people hoping a vehicle is available – despite what the system says – and that Auntie Pool can come up with a plan once again!

After that, I quickly handle a few emails and quotations while people show up in between to collect keys. Sometimes the printer surprises me by not working for an afternoon. But I always have blank ride cards on hand. So, I resort to the manual system and write them out. At the same time, I hope in the back of my mind that the financial system doesn't glitch, causing our booking program to go haywire. Tea time, however, I never miss, as my cuppa keeps me going. Meanwhile, our biggest users, the students in Social Work, arrive to pick up their vehicles for the day and I once again hand out 22 keys. In the meantime, I've been trying for three days to finalize the compensation. But then I have to rush again because someone has knocked the exit gate completely off its track! I quickly retrieve a motor accident report. Then I answer a few more emails while the phone rings incessantly. Attend a meeting with colleagues and arrange 12 drivers for the next two days. Before I know it, the clock strikes 16:00, which means it's time to head home.

How did your education or past experiences prepare you for this job?  

My late father always used to ask, "Why do you want to study purchasing management, my child? A woman knows how to do shopping!" I just used to laugh, but my purchasing management diploma helped me a lot to formulate and weigh decisions under pressure. My thrifty personality has always been an advantage to my employer. My first job at the University was at Asset Management under Mr Moelich. I learned lessons there that I still remember with the wisdom of age. Then I was one of the first three women to start the IT helpline, and I was also the calm, thoughtful Johan Kistner's secretary. I was also later Ivaan Bester's secretary at Risk Management. I couldn't have come closer to a soldier, but I enjoyed the adrenaline rush. Every day was exciting. I have been working at the vehicle pool since 1996 and have never regretted a day, because you can't ask for more excitement in a day. Here, I could once again apply my studies practically with logistics as my main focus. The biggest challenge at the beginning was not to make a judgment error with money on four wheels that weren't mine. You are exposed to so many things daily and looking back today, I am grateful for all the life wisdom I have gained – I have learned to read people's body language very well!

What do you enjoy most about your role and working at SU? 

The challenges I have to handle under pressure and the fact that no day is the same as the previous one, because I quickly get bored. One moment you are a treasure-hunter looking for a car that isn't there, but campus wants to book. Then you are a detective trying to get to the bottom of the story the student tells you about the condition in which he returned a car. Then you help a colleague with a system problem before working out a quote so you can offer a vehicle cheaper than budgeted for. Then you comfort someone who was involved in an accident. Later, you surprise yourself with how much patience you actually have when there is an unhappy client standing in front of you because he booked a bakkie with a canopy, but the secretary booked one without a canopy. Then a vehicle is late and the next user has to catch a flight or the tyre is flat. 

Tell us something exciting about yourself that few people would expect.

I am not a born Capetonian but was imported from Brits in North-West and still cheer for the Blue Bulls. As a student, we went skydiving in Witbank on weekends to afford R85 to go skydiving ourselves. For pocket money, I also worked in a boutique in Wonderpark as a student and designed dresses, made them there, and shared the money with the owner of the boutique, just so we could go “langarm" dancing on Saturday nights.  I am a big animal lover who once camped on the banks of the Orange River in December and drove home with a four-week-old ridgeback/greyhound because the goatherd couldn't feed all the dogs.

PHOTO: Stefan Els