Over the next few newsletters, we plan to introduce the FSA team, giving members and individuals working for forestry companies the opportunity to get to know the people behind the positions. As this newsletter coincides with the start of Women’s Month, we have chosen to kick things off with a very familiar face, whose important role within the FSA’s structure cannot be over-emphasised.
Judy Dowsett – PA to the Director of FSA and Pietermaritzburg Office Manager
Judy may not have intended to have a career in forestry, “I was offered the position at South African Timber Growers Association (SATGA) by a friend who was leaving it” Judy explains, once she started in 1982 she has never looked back. “The thing I love most about the industry is how the growers / timber farmers treat you like family!”
Judy’s 38 years of service, first for SATGA and then Forestry South Africa has made her one of the most recognised and friendliest faces in South African Forestry. Personal Assistant to Michael Peter, Judy’s dedication and passion for forestry saw her rise from “typist” to the Facilitator of the Medium Growers Group, a role that was absorbed during the natural progression of developments within FSA, but what remains her biggest accomplishment.
Judy’s job illustrates the diversity of the Forestry Sector, “in my role, aside from being PA to the Executive Director of FSA, I also facilitate the various Directors and Managers of Operations, Business Development, Research and Protection,” Judy explains, “while also being responsible for the administration of the Pietermaritzburg office and coordinating most FSA meeting logistics”. Judy’s expansive portfolio and the important role she plays is why all her colleagues in FSA will tell you that Judy is the backbone of the team.
While for most people, the vast array of roles and responsibilities that come with Judy’s job would be their greatest challenge, for Judy, speaking in public is the aspect of her role she likes the least, “I have never been the most confident person, so speaking in public is always challenging and credits the late Bruce Ferguson, previous Director of SATGA, for providing the necessary nudge.”
After almost four decades in the Forestry Sector, does anything about forestry still take her breath away and amaze her? “Absolutely, yes”, Judy responds with a smile, “the ‘gees’ of our FSA members, our growers and farmers are sometimes faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and yet they continue to farm with conviction and dedication. That is both breath-taking and inspiring.”
When asked about her future aspirations, Judy responds with a chuckle,” to retire while I still have all my faculties.” For the sector’s sake, we hope this is still some time off, as it is hard to imagine either FSA or forestry in South Africa for that matter, without her.
As it is now Woman’s Month, we could not leave this interview without asking what Judy’s advice would be to women looking to enter the Industry. “Prepare for the long haul”, she replies with a smile and a glint in her eye, “while the industry is still a male-dominated environment, women are steadily making inroads with some amazing women finding their place within forestry and this is a lovely transition to see.”