The role you start in doesn’t have to be the role you finish in

Tahnee is a Process Maintenance Supervisor at Alcoa’s Kwinana Refinery and a working mum.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Every day there are new challenges and opportunities for innovation and development across the business. To be a part of that and see the teams thrive during cultural advancement is really incredible.

Describe your career path to your current job?

I commenced at Alcoa in 2009 doing school work experience each Friday at Pinjarra Refinery. This ignited my love of complex processes; I was amazed at how it was even possible. As a result, I took a HSE pathway for the next three years completing a Certificate IV in TAE & OHS, before moving to the logistics sector to work in operations. During my time with Aurizon, I completed a traineeship in rail, before moving to an Operations Coordinator role and then I was promoted to Regional Operations Leader shortly thereafter. In these roles I successfully completed a Dual Diploma in Business and Leadership Management.

Not one to say no to an opportunity, I accepted an offer to relocate to Adelaide to work as an Assistant Terminal Manager in oil and gas. Here I diversified my experience and skillset for the next 18 months which saw me continue to grow professionally and personally.

In these testing Covid19 times, we welcomed our son which saw us make the big move back to WA to be with family and our support network. After 12 months maternity leave I was fortunate to be offered my current role at Alcoa’s Kwinana Alumina Refinery. As soon as I turned the car on to the access road, I was thinking ‘I’m coming home’. There is just nothing like being in the refinery. Amazingly so, with the support network I have at Alcoa I have been able to continue my studies towards a Double Masters – MBA and Global Project Management, I’m almost halfway through, so watch this space regarding what comes next!

What attracted you to a career in mining and resources?

Initially I was attracted to the lifestyle mining and resources could offer. It wasn’t until I was embedded in the sector that I truly appreciated the career opportunities available and passion I had to break the female stereotype. I saw it as a challenge, and still do, that has limitless potential no matter your career interest.

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

Up until a couple of years ago, everyone would always say to me I couldn’t have it all, it is a choice of either family or career. This could not be further from the truth.

As diversity and inclusive cultures cultivate, it is becoming easier to be a working parent. I have found myself having to leave work early due to a sick baby or needing to take a day off, but with a good communicative relationship with my leader, it has always been a smooth transition. I am given the opportunity during these times to work from home and there are flexible work arrangements available for all employees evaluated on an individual needs basis. With my current work hours, I am able to be home with my son each afternoon from 2.30pm onwards which really does give me the best of both worlds.

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

The general perception mining and resources is a male-dominated sector is still backed by statistics. However, the important takeout from this is that companies are putting into practice critical initiatives to attract women to operational roles and bridge the gender pay gap whilst eliminating behavioural tolerances. It is such an exciting time for women to be a part of the sector as it revolutionises and recognises the value diversity and inclusion brings to teams and the business. Support within the workplace and outside is phenomenal with mentors in abundance and platforms like this to network and build relationships.  

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

Absolutely anyone can achieve anything they work hard enough for. The role you start in doesn’t have to be the role you finish in, and there is absolutely no rule stating you need to know what you want to do. The mining and resources sector really is a lifestyle and one you need to be willing to make some sacrifices for, but the opportunities and experiences are limitless and the perfect place to have it all.  

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

Be prepared for it to be hard, and there will be challenges. And there will be the odd individual who makes you uncomfortable, which is not acceptable. But no one will make you feel the need to prove your place as much as your own self-concept of being a female in the workplace. Remember you deserve to be there, you have every right to be there, and you never would have been employed if you weren’t the best candidate for the job. Own it.

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

Alcoa is a proactive supporter of diversity and inclusion. It founded the Alcoa Women’s Network across global operations, each has a site-level committee to provide a great support network and help chain. There are also flexible work arrangements that can be utilised and a great parental leave policy. Alcoa is also extremely fortunate its operations are based close to cities removing the need for a FIFO workforce, this promotes a great work-life balance.