By: Nontobeko Moimane – 16 May 2023


One of the longest serving employees of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Dr Hans Brits has called it a day – this, after serving the institution for thirty-three (33) years.

At the time of his retirement, Dr Brits served as a Director for Quality Promotion within the University’s Institutional Planning Unit.

At joining VUT, Dr Brits recalls vividly that his first interview was chaired by the late Dr Isak Steyl, the rector of the then Vaal Triangle Technikon. He stated that he was a proud member of one of the best Technikons in the country, which was a first-choice institution for Engineering students.  “We were very proud of our campus with its tall palm trees, luscious gardens, and facilities that created a conducive working environment” he said.

His “highs” in his career overshadows the “lows”. How so, after thirty-three years at VUT, wherein he experienced 6 vice-chancellors and two periods of administration, he declared that his journey at VUT has enriched him in many ways. He added that there were always ample opportunities for career development and self-development that enabled him to improve his talents, potential and employability.  “My message to my staff members was always the same: take advantage of the golden opportunities that VUT offers you to become the best version of yourself and to achieve job satisfaction through dedication and passion,” he alluded.

He ensured to always set achievable targets and used his skills with confidence. He believed what helped him to achieve his goals was the fact that he was always driven by passion for his work, by his dreams and to enjoy the respect and support of all his colleagues in his department.  “I came to VUT with only a four-year qualification, but I grabbed all opportunities that this institution offered me to better my qualifications.  I completed my master’s degree cum laude which served as the impetus to complete two doctoral degrees in two different disciplines.  This enabled me to publish more than 12 research articles in accredited journals and to present more than 13 research papers on international levels”.

Dr Brits’ appreciation goes to the initiatives of the Research Department that years ago motivated him to conduct research into quality. As well, he was strongly supported by his family and colleagues.  He says although there was not always time to conduct research during the working period, he managed to do that during the holidays.  “My family is so used to fact that my laptop and a crate full of books will always accompany us wherever we go!

Over the years, his dedication has earned him numerous accolades including the Researcher of the Year award for Excellent Research Achievements in 2005.  In 2012 he won the Non-Faculty First Place Research Award.  “This was all possible due to the opportunities VUT created for all staff members with career development, which allowed for a conducive working environment that we created in our department.”

Dr Brits shared that it is imperative to strive to increase your own potential by developing skills that will empower you to lead effectively and with self-confidence. He further added that it is also important to build a healthy relationship with your staff members, to listen to constructive feedback, to respect their opinions and to be able to mediate misunderstandings.  On leading by example, he emphasises that a healthy work ethic sets a good example for everyone in the department and creates a framework for them to develop positive thinking habits.

A collaborative person, he used a team-approach throughout the years, which he says ensured that the team set achievable goals, assign responsibilities, empower the team to achieve their goals, making sure that every member feels valued.  This, he says, always created opportunities for feedback to monitor progress which helped the team to adjust and/or realign activities.

In his parting words, Dr Brits advised other leaders to motivate their team on an ongoing basis, celebrate their achievements as a team and learn from their mistakes.  He mentioned that empathy is very important, “never forget the fact that you are working with a human being with feelings and unique circumstances.  Earn your trustworthiness and respect.  Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Help each staff member to advance in their career according to their abilities and by focusing on their career- and self-development.”

He concluded that with the philosophy of leading by example, and achieving departmental goals as a team, his leadership style was a combination of servant-leadership and traditional leadership. “I feel this allowed staff members to thrive and develop their own leadership capabilities. I found it made managing the department more rewarding, as I led the team rather than managed them. This enabled staff members to take responsibility and accountability for their work. I enjoyed mentoring the team in gaining new skills and knowledge in the quality field, and beyond. I hope that quality will remain at the centre of all that is done at VUT, so that the future holds only good things” he concluded.

Dr Brits leaves the VUT Community with his favourite quote by Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”