China, Tanzania and Australia: Julie Shuttleworth’s made an international career out of mining and risen to the top of the male-dominated industry.
She’s worked the FIFO (fly in fly out) for two decades, providing plenty of ‘on’ time to work hard as well as enough days ‘off’ for some serious fun and travel opportunities, including visiting more than 90 countries.
And despite the 4:15am wake-up and 12 hour shifts, she still finds an hour in the evening to spend in the gym or at the swimming pool.
Shuttleworth demonstrates just how far women can go in the mining industry and answers some questions about her work below as one of our ‘real role models’. The finalist in the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards in 2013 also offers her nine career and leadership tips for young women.
What is your job now?
I am the General Manager at Cloudbreak Mine with Fortescue Metals Group. I am responsible for ensuring safe operation of the mine site including 3000 personnel, production of 40 million tonnes iron ore production per year and a budget over $1billion.
Describe an average day for you.
I work at the mine site, so it’s +12hours per day at work. My alarm goes off at 4.15am. I have breakfast in the mess and get a packed lunch. I’m in the office by 5am, and at 5.30am I attend a pre shift safety meeting with one of the work groups followed by approximately 4 hours out in the field, at various locations around the mine site. These can range from spending time in the ore processing facility (OPF), active mining area, maintenance workshops or a range or other areas on site. Sometimes I will get in a mine truck or excavator with the operator, or walk around the OPF to view the production process, or talk to the fitters in the maintenance workshop who are maintaining the mobile equipment. The rest of the day is full of various meetings, conference calls, reviewing forecasts and plans, approving costs and a range of other activities that need to be done. Every day is different. By 6pm I leave the office, have dinner and catch up with several more hours of computer work in my room. Some evenings I spend time with supervisors doing the supervisory development course, other nights I spend an hour at the gym or swimming pool to get some exercise.
How did you get there? (Did you wing it or plan it?)
I completed a double major in Extractive Metallurgy and Chemistry at Murdoch University in 1994. I started out as a Graduate Metallurgist and worked through various positions of Plant Metallurgist, Senior Metallurgist, Process Superintendent, Process Plant Manager to General Manager positions. Each step of the way I had a strong goal to move my career forward to the next step. So whilst I didn’t know when I started out as a Graduate Metallurgist that I would end up being a General Manager, there was definitely hard work and goal setting along the way to get where I am today, to make the most of opportunities as they arose. Since I have the travel bug I planned that into my career as well, targeting overseas jobs where I was fortunate to spend 12 years working overseas in China and Tanzania which broadened my experiences significantly.
How do you manage the logistics of your career and your life outside of work?
I have worked a fly in fly out roster (FIFO) for 20 years on various rosters (including 9 weeks on/4 weeks off, and 8 days on/6 days off), so this has provided great opportunity to have a fantastic career and a lot of fun at the same time. I’ve travelled to over 90 countries and spent lots of time scuba diving, hiking, canyoning, mountaineering, surfing and all those great things I like to do outside of work. I make sure I plan in time to do fun things that make me happy and give me positive energy.
What is the easiest part of your working week? and/or What is the hardest part of your working week?
The easiest part of my working week is walking into the dining hall after work and stacking my plate full of food!
The hardest part of my working week is getting up at 3.30am on Monday morning when I have to get up and get to the airport to fly to the minesite.
How do you think your younger self would view your current career?
My younger self would probably have thought I would be a scientist rather than being a General Manager of a large mine site. (Where has my lab coat gone?!!!)
If someone else out there wants to develop a career like yours what advice would you give them?
To be a Metallurgist you’ll have to get to university and complete a degree in Metallurgy or Chemical Engineering or similar. Then you’ll need to get experience on various mine sites to develop technical and leadership skills as your career progresses.
1. Be confident in how you communicate and present yourself.
2. Be authentic. Don’t change the person you are, to try to fit in.
3. Go for it! Set your goals, and communicate your career aspirations with relevant stakeholders who can help you along the way.
Have you got any anecdotes about your career or daily life you’d like to share?
My key leadership tips and things that are important to me include:
· Have a positive attitude.
· Lead by example. Get into the field and demonstrate visible leadership.
· Be approachable
· Be authentic; it develops trust and respect.
· Collaborative teamwork delivers the best results.
· You can’t do everything yourself! Delegate, empower and develop others. Just because you want something done quickly, don’t rush in and do everything for everyone else all the time.
· Realise that a good leader doesn’t need to know everything.
· Smile! Have fun, enjoy life! Make the effort to get good lifestyle balance and do things that give you positive energy.