Chris De Lange is our 2014 EIT Graduate of the Year and an inspiring citizen of the world.
As a young man, Chris graduated in 1979 as an electro-mechanical technician. He then worked in the steel industry, underground in black coal mines, as a foreman in an 8000 loaves an hour bakery and later as maintenance manager for four large bakeries. Then, after honing his skills in a number of other industries, he did the entrepreneurial thing and opened his own business; Extreme Welding International. It was at this point that his South African roots began to loosen; his company took him to every continent in the world. Broad in scope and hard-wrought, his experiences were astounding enough to be included in Discovery Channel’s 2005 Extreme Engineering program. Then in 2009 he and his family immigrated to Australia.
In his new country, by necessity, he resorted to his original trade and started from scratch as a fitter. Education seemed the only means to fast-track his career. With distance learning an imperative he was attracted to EIT’s interactive, online training because he had; “classes to attend, a real, living, interested lecturer to ask questions and other students to interact with”. He enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Mechanical Engineering (DME) and after only ten months (of an 18 month program) he was promoted to reliability engineer for a four million tonnes per annum mine.
Unexpectedly, this remarkably swift impact of his studies on his career was inspiring for his teenage children. They had to acknowledge that Chris’ commitment (probably irritating at times) to both his education and work had paid off.
An aspect of the online course that Chris found enormously valuable was the tandem nature of his learning and work. His efforts on site helped validate course theories and references and by employing these new-found concepts at work he was able to reinforce this knowledge and improve his on-the-job expertise.
More than the skills inherent in the content, however, Chris believes that the value in the program was the confidence it gave him. During his studies he received an astounding work audit rating of A+, and this presented him with a range of opportunities for further study and career advancements.
Chris has expressed an appreciation for the quality of the materials and for the lecturers. Interestingly he admitted that this fuelled his motivation, “… it was challenging to maintain the high standard that I felt I needed to be achieving to do justice to the effort of the lecturers and the high standard of the lecture materials.”
He also became aware of the esteem that HR managers and managers in general are developing for the practical nature of the advanced diploma.
Chris has some invaluable advice for future EIT students: “… tell your family and friends what you want to achieve (lose the friends that laugh at you), enrol immediately, get to know your course co-ordinator, set up a student and lecturer network (a forum to help each other; to discuss problems and bounce ideas off) and most importantly, remember that the taste of success is SWEET”.
I would like to close with a truism from Chris: “I started studying at 50, I passed – even got awarded the EIT Graduate of the Year. If I can do that at 50, with 3 dependents and as an immigrant to a new country, imagine what you could do?”
Finally, to our delight, Chris has agreed to become a part time EIT lecturer – he says it is in order, “… to give back (to future students) some of the knowledge that was given to me with abandon”.
Thanks very much for your help in compiling your story, Chris. We look forward to having you on board.