I honestly didn’t realise what I was getting myself into when I applied

Jenna is the Manager of Strategy and Performance at South32 and has worked for the Organisation for nearly 2 years.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

For me, one of the best parts of my role is reporting to and being mentored by South32’s CEO, Graham Kerr. I support Graham and the South32 Lead Team with our corporate strategy and delivering on the company’s commitments. Every day brings new challenges which require cross discipline, critical thinking. Seeing firsthand how our Lead Team works together, makes decisions and drives culture is a transformational experience in my professional development.

Describe your career path to your current job?

I started out in corporate restructuring at Ernst & Young before being selected for BHP’s Commercial Graduate Programme. The programme offered rotational experiences – so I started out at a coal mine in management accounting and ultimately landed a role as an Investments Evaluation Analyst.

Realising I needed operational experience, I took a Senior Operations Analyst role at Peabody before moving on to Vale where I held various positions in strategic planning, and eventually became Vale Australia’s Financial Controller and Company Director. This experience enabled me to take on the role of Deputy CFO at a start-up drill and blast engineering joint venture between several Australian companies and DFPCL, a leading producer of petrochemicals in India.

I was fortunate to then be approached by South32 to take on the role of Manager Joint Venture Projects, looking after its interest in the Eagle Downs. As the Project completed its feasibility study, I was offered my current role of Manager Strategy and Performance.

­What attracted you to a career in mining & resources?

I honestly didn’t realise what I was getting myself into when I applied for the BHP Graduate Programme. Moving to Moranbah in Central Queensland and working at a coal mine was about as different as you could get when compared to my role at Ernst & Young in Melbourne’s CBD. But once I was there, I was hooked.

The huge mining equipment that dwarfed small buildings, the magnitude of the numbers and the positive impact that mining and resources can have on society is very rewarding to experience. Even today, I’m astounded by the social and economic benefits that mining brings to remote areas, the career opportunities it offers, and the number of businesses the sector supports.

How do you juggle working in mining and resources with family life?

Working and juggling family life is a challenge in any industry. At the end of the day, it’s not the industry, but the company and its leaders that will make the difference. South32 offers and respects flexibility in the workplace. Being able to adjust how and when I work to manage school and childcare schedules has made a huge difference for my family.

What do you think of the general perception that mining and resources is a male-dominated sector?

Historically, the industry has employed far more males, partly due to the perceived challenges it presented like remote FIFO living and manual labour. There’s still a long way to go until we reach gender balance, but as perceptions evolve and technology advances, we’re welcoming more and more women to the industry.

There has also been a significant improvement in the design of mine sites. In the past there were often no female changerooms or bathroom facilities and the PPE was designed for males. These days, the majority of sites and their facilities are inclusive and cater for everyone. There’s been a real step change in attitude over the past 20 years and while there’s still more work to do, I believe the perceptions of mining being male dominated will soon be a thing of the past.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the sector?

Absolutely go for it! The industry offers career opportunities that span entire value chains. It’s very common to meet people in the industry who, for

example, may have started out as a processing engineer at a mine site, and are now in a marketing role in Singapore or London. The roles and international opportunities are vast. The culture is becoming far more inclusive of working parents and people from diverse backgrounds. This is a sector that is rapidly evolving and is an exciting space to launch a career.

What’s the biggest thing you would like other women to know about working in mining and resources?

To me, the most important thing I’ve learnt is that it’s the company you work for that matters. It’s important to go for roles with a company based on its culture and values, not its size and profitability. Choose roles with employers that care for their people and their environment. When you interview for roles, make sure you ask questions to ensure your values align with theirs. Values are only meaningful if companies truly respect and practice them.

­­­What initiatives/policies has your employer put in place to encourage more women to be involved in the sector?

  • Parental leave policy
  • Flexible work policy
  • Inclusion and Diversity policy
  • Inclusion and Diversity targets