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AngloGold Ashanti Australia

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Alexandra Kate Sunderman

The best thing about my job is being able to see the designs I create come to life… and then get blown up!

Where did you grow up?

  • Born and raised in Perth.
  • Before graduating University I was able to complete three summers of vacation work at Newmont Boddington Gold and Tropicana Gold Mine.
  • Throughout University I was given the opportunity, through AusIMM, to travel around Australia, to the USA and England to participate in Mining Games. This gave me amazing opportunities to network with future co-workers and get an understand of how wide the mining industry reaches. I was also given the opportunity to attend a summer school in China where we learnt about some of their mining practices and learn a bit about their culture.

How did you get to your current job position?

I was pretty lucky to find a place at AngloGold Ashanti. I had heard of an opening through a friend from the AusIMM network about a vacation work position and quickly applied online. After a phone interview with my Superintendent, I headed up to the site. It is four years later now and after finishing my vacation work at Tropicana I took on a new challenge and came to Sunrise Dam to start gaining experience with underground operations.

How did you choose your specialisation? 

I started out in Chemical engineering at UWA which, as you might guess, didn’t take. After a look over the other engineering course outlines, I decided mining was the one for me. I was drawn to the mix of technical and project work in the units.

What was your interview process like? 

My first vacation work interview was at the company’s head office with the HR manager. They had phoned in the site superintendent who was on the phone. I remember that I had quizzed all of my peers at University about what they were going to ask and had prepared my answers in the STAR format (Situation, task, action, result). It made me feel prepared and confident, but in reality, I think I ended up only talking about one of the responses I had prepared. My second interview for vacation work went a lot differently. I was set up on a phone interview with my superintendent and again I had over-prepared. I’d laid out a brainstorm of possible questions and answers. When the phone call came all I was asked was if I had enjoyed my previous vacation work and if I was prepared to go onto Blast Crew. Answering yes to each question the interview was over and I was headed up to the site. Slightly shocked at how quick the interview was, I later found out that my superintendent had reached out to my previous vacation work site to see what I was like.

What does your employer do?

AngloGold Ashanti is a global gold mining company. We are the third largest producer of gold in the world, by production.

What are your areas of responsibility?

I currently work in the Drill and Blast department where, as a team, we look after the designing and firing of our underground ore.

Can you describe a typical workday? 

My day starts off with meetings about our performance for the last 24hrs and plans for the next 24. After this meeting, I will start designing any drill plans required and issue any charge plans for the day. In the afternoon we generally head underground to inspect our drill and blast areas.

What are the career prospects with your job?

The career path of a mining engineer is unique, I would dare say no two are alike. Onsite we take on the roles of Drill and Blast, Short/Medium/Long Term Planning, Scheduling, Geotechnical, Business Improvement, Ventilation and Backfill Engineers. We also have the opportunity to take leadership pathways and lead operator and technical teams in the roles of shift-boss and underground/ quarry manager. Off-site you might find mining engineers in consulting, life of mine planning and mineral economics.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

If I wasn’t a mining engineer I’d hope I could be an architect as it would allow me to keep on designing and creating.

What do you love the most about your job? 

The best thing about my job is being able to see the designs I create come to life… and then get blown up! Being on the graduate program at AngloGold Ashanti has also given me the opportunity for personal development as we attend courses quarterly on emotional intelligence, presentation skills and communication to list a few.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

I would say the biggest limitation, yet also perk, to my job is the roster and working hours. Being based on-site means you will miss out on some social life back home and the long hours mean you need to manage your time before and after work to fit in exercise, food, laundry, calls home and sleep. However, when you get back home you get a week to travel, undertake projects and spend quality time with your family and friends.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  • Networking isn’t always about talking to company representatives, it is also about networking with your peers who might one day be your co-workers.
  • Treat every job as if it’s your interview for the next one. Most industries are small enough that someone will know someone you’ve worked with so how you treat the people around you and how well you do your job will probably be known before you go for your interview.
  • Find a hobby, sport or area of interest that you are passionate about. You will need something to fill the time void left by assignments and studying.