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University of Queensland
Graduate mining engineer, Thiess
Agata Pokora studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Mining) (Honours) and is a graduate mining engineer at Thiess.
What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
Hi, my name is Agata Pokora. I currently work at Lake Vermont Coal Mine as a graduate mining engineer with Thiess. I graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Mining) from the University of Queensland.
Where did you grow up? What have been some important stages of your life in regards to your education?
I was born overseas and grew up in Brisbane, where I attended primary school, high school and university. Getting involved in extracurricular activities was always very important to me. I was quite involved in the Polish community, taking part in scouting and Polish folkloric dancing. Through scouting I helped coordinate and organise hiking trips and camping adventures. I was also involved in high school committees such as the multicultural council, St Vinnies committee and Interact, which coordinated school dances and fundraisers.
I started engineering at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2012. I was heavily involved in student societies and was fortunate enough to become the president of the UQ Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS). Getting involved in EUS was the highlight of university, as I made a lot of friends and was able to network and work closely with industry representatives to create events for students. I was also on the executive board for the AusIMM Student Chapter, participating and helping coordinate New Leaders Conference and National Mining Games. I was also a student leader on the Women in Engineering UQ team. After finishing university, I took a gap year and travelled abroad before starting my full-time graduate position with Thiess. I have been at Lake Vermont Coal Mine since February 2018 and have thoroughly enjoyed my placement.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
Applying for as many jobs as possible and getting involved with student societies presented me with the opportunity of vacation work and subsequently, a graduate role. I completed two vacation programs prior to starting my graduate program at Lake Vermont. The first was with New Hope at New Acland Coal Mine and my second vacation placement was with Thiess at Curragh North Coal Mine. Through these placements I gained exposure to different mining techniques and was a part of different team environments, expanding my enthusiasm to work in the mining industry.
What does your employer do?
Thiess is the world’s largest mining services provider. We are a global company offering a wide variety of quality mining capabilities. It is a part of the CIMIC group, which is a conglomerate of engineering service providers. Beyond what you can find on google, Thiess provides endless support to the graduates, a great learning environment and is consistently focused on graduate development. The onboarding process included a full Thiess and CIMIC induction. At the Thiess inductions, members of the Executive Leadership team took time out of their day to tell us about the ins and outs of the Thiess family. We also participated in innovative workshops and networked with graduates outside of our field. Thiess provides a first-class learning environment.
What are your areas of responsibility?
At Lake Vermont I am part of the multi-disciplinary technical services department, developing my skills in the short-term mine planning, and the drill and blast team. I was provided a great opportunity with Thiess and was thrown into the deep end within my first six months by having full-time engineering responsibilities. We schedule and design plans for some of the largest excavators and mining fleets on the globe. Taking the time to plan correctly and then going into the field to observe the dig plans being executed or a blast going off is quite rewarding.
Can you describe a typical work day?
The best types of work days are when you can go into the pit and see all of the equipment operating. Thankfully at Lake Vermont, we are able to go into the pit quite often. It never gets old seeing the excavators or trucks up close!
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would be beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
When considering a career in mining, get involved with your degree outside of the classroom. When I first started university, I was unsure what I wanted to pursue. I started chemical engineering and changed to mining engineering only after I was exposed to the industry through university activities a couple of years later. I involved myself with my degree in two ways:
- I gained work experience at a mine site;
- I got involved with student societies and attended industry networking events.
Completing work experience was beneficial as I was directly exposed to the mining front line. I was able to go out into the pit every day with the coal supervisor and develop a better understanding on how the mining work flow happens. You also don’t have to complete work experience at the biggest or most well-known company. Time on a mine site is invaluable no matter where you go.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
I have only just started in my own career but those who are on the path to success are willing to step out of their comfort zone and have a go. They strive to have their voice heard and work hard in every aspect of their job. It is also important to always ask questions and not be afraid that something may not work out according to plan.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love working at Lake Vermont with Thiess because you are taught that everyone matters and we all have something to contribute. I have a rewarding day job, where I am constantly challenged whilst developing my skills as an engineer. I have also been given an amazing opportunity with Thiess to be a part of a reverse mentoring program. As a graduate, I currently mentor the managing director of Thiess. It is an incredible opportunity to push everyone out of their comfort zone and challenge the Executive Leadership team with fresh perspectives. Through the reverse mentoring program, we were invited to attend, participate and even present at the Thiess Business Planning Workshop where senior leaders in the business discussed the plan for 2019.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job?
The biggest limitation in my current role is the work-life balance. If you’re not careful, you can hurt your mental and physical health by working long hours and not staying active in your time outside of work. Living out in rural Queensland may also seem a little isolating.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I think the path that I am on is incredible and I would not change anything about it!
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?
My three pieces of advice would be:
- Give everything a go. Be enthusiastic about the things that you take part in and put your hand up for everything.
- Step outside of your comfort zone. Do what you find uncomfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or make mistakes. We are all trying to figure it out as we go along and all we can do is try.