Name: Tanya Donnelly
Position: Principal – Governance & Technical Stewardship Improvement
Company: BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA)
What do you enjoy the most, working in the field of construction & development?
My short answer is that I get to work with “the big boy’s big toys.” Our sandpit is the envy of any young child who enjoys Tonka toys.
I have enjoyed the variety of work that I have done throughout my career as a mechanical engineer in the coal mining industry. It has spanned many roles and responsibilities in maintenance and engineering, where I’ve worked in the field as a part of site-based teams, in engineering design and governance from a consultancy, and from a company oversight perspective. The opportunities are endless in how I can apply my understanding of the base principles I learnt in my mechanical engineering degree in the resources industry.
Another thing I enjoy about the work I do is juggling the drive for continuous improvement and aspiring for best practice with the drive for optimisation of current state to deliver the best outcome with cost-neutral input. It can be a real struggle to manage the changing goalposts, but when you succeed in delivering a positive outcome and meet the needs of your customer, it is an awesome accomplishment to be proud of.
Where do you see your life in the next 5 years, what possibilities are ahead of you?
I recently started a new role, which is the first step in a journey towards applying more of a strategic lens to my career pathway as opposed to the technical lens I have applied to date. This role gives me the opportunity to draw on my past experiences and my relationships with colleagues to strive for increased value from what we do in our ‘business as usual’ tasks. I am broadening my knowledge of tactical skills for implementing revised operating system principles and practices while learning from masters in these operating system overhaul programs. The changes for me in taking on this new way of working is nothing but positive.
If you could write a letter to a 13-year-old ‘you’ what would you say?
I really lacked confidence in myself and my abilities as a teenager, as a university student, and when I first started as an engineer following my graduation. I, like most new graduates in a competitive industry, found myself always focused on what I didn’t know yet and how much I thought fellow graduates were excelling beyond me in their development. I would give my younger self the same guidance I give junior engineers I mentor now – focus on the technical knowledge you do have and the experiences you have had to date – there are positives in all the work you do, even if it didn’t go to plan. Do not compare yourself with others as we are all on a different journey coming from different backgrounds with different things driving how we will react in every moment. Always ask the ‘stupid questions’ – there are so many people around you with decades of experience that are there to support you and in most cases genuinely want to help – use this to your advantage, do not see it as a weakness to ask for help. No one knows everything and we are constantly learning more about ourselves to do our jobs better.
What are 3 skills you have had to develop to get to where you are presently?
Being confident in my knowledge and experience, and feeling comfortable to talk myself and my abilities up – it’s hard to speak up and be counted when you lack confidence in your position. I have taken on such a diverse range of tasks throughout my time spent working with or for coal mining companies. All of these previous experiences I draw on daily to guide me through my day-to-day decisions. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I am not scared to ask for help when I’m out of my comfort zone.
I think I’ve always been a pretty good negotiator – I’m sure my parents would agree – but, it is definitely a skill you need to utilise a great deal in the resources industry. It is not too often that the work you are delivering is only for one customer. When the customer pool is diverse, the potential to deliver on all the customer requirements is near impossible. This is where negotiation is key to the delivery of an outcome that results in the highest possible satisfaction rate. Negotiation is also core to getting support and additional resources during a time of need while trying to meet urgent deadlines. A person’s ability to communicate effectively their needs, listen to the other parties position and formulate a proposition that achieves a common goal with minimal compromise on both sides will assist in all aspects of life.
Lastly, but not least, resilience. I continually grow in this space as I learn different methods to deal with the pressures that come from high-stress roles. I would recommend researching resilience practices to everyone as even if you aren’t in a high-stress role currently, you will find methods that will assist you in navigating all aspects of your life journey. I have definitely used some of the methods I have learnt over time to deal with personal situations as well.