How my engineering degrees helped me win in professional services

What did you study and why? What STEM background do you have?

I have two Bachelor of Engineering degrees – one in engineering geology and the other in mining engineering, which makes me a geologist, mining engineer and geotechnical engineer. I started out as a geologist due to a love of volcanoes, earthquakes, evolution and exploration. But after a couple of years as a practicing geologist in the gold sector, I chose to return to university to study mining engineering – they are the guys who design and run mines.

I worked for 15 years straight on mine sites, often the only/ first female mining engineer at most sites (I required Ministerial clearance to work at an underground gold mine in PNG where women were illegal underground). I obtained my first class mine managers certificate of competency in 1998 after completing my underground mining time and passing a law exam. I would have been amongst a handful of women who achieved this at the time. Once I had my two kids, I pivoted my career a few times, starting out in construction then mining consulting then mining regulation (I was the first female District Inspector of Mines in WA). I eventually obtained an MBA in Finance and now I work at Deloitte.

What do you do at Deloitte?

I initially started out in financial advisory services then moved to risk advisory services, where I am more able to work across service lines and across geographical areas as a boundary-spanner. Deloitte has profiled me as a Pioneer-Integrator (entrepreneurial with a big network of contacts). I create new offerings which bridge the gap between my STEM world (what I call technical and operational mining professionals) and the corporate finance and governance world. These offerings augment the existing financial offerings provided to the mining industry, giving Deloitte a point of difference over it’s competitors and providing a more holistic service.

engineering degreeDiscuss the skills you gained from your STEM background:

My STEM mining background gave me a strong skill set in operational strategy and risk and in change management. The challenges faced in operations require emotional intelligence when under pressure, an ability to remain focussed on what matters and to empower people so that they are fully engaged in the process. As a multi-disciplinary engineer having worked across all aspects of mining (exploration, development, production and closure) I feel I have been able to obtain a well-rounded big-picture understanding of the mining industry and can see what needs to be improved to make the “whole” better, rather than only seeing problems from the perspective of one silo.

Discuss how you have used these skills in your role and throughout your career to date – what advantage does your STEM background give you?

My STEM mining background means I am unique and playing in a pool where the barriers to entry are high (my skill set and experience is hard to copy). This means I can engage in work which is challenging, requiring a nuanced detailed understanding of the industry and a strong network of industry contacts. It allows me to play for higher stakes and develop myself as a leader – enabling me to make an impact to make the mining industry better.

What is the best part about your job now?

I love the people at Deloitte. They are the cream of the crop and high achievers. I also love the people I get to meet through the work at Deloitte. You get to meet some pretty influential, senior industry and government people. So Deloitte is a great place to build your network of influential high achievers. Because I get to work across service lines and geographies I get to see the different types of work Deloitte does, which is interesting.

What advice would you give a student considering studying in the STEM area?

Stick to areas you’re passionate about to sustain your career long term.

What advice would you give a student who is completing their STEM degree about joining Deloitte?

Go for it! But I recommend getting real-world experience in industry so that your input is practical and adds real value – this will give you “street cred”, after all a degree is just a “Learner’s Permit” – the real learning is done on the job.

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