On the job with Brendan from Orica

Lynn Elsey
Lynn Elesy
Team GradAustralia
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Brendan Littlewood is a graduate technical services engineer with Orica, joining in 2014. Brendan graduated in 2013 with Bachelor of Engineering, Civil and Mining, from the University of Wollongong

What sparked your interest in Orica? 

As a student I worked as a mining engineer (work experience and internships) and took an interest in the blasting process for coalmines. So initially, Orica’s involvement in this aspect of mining made it really appealing. Once I researched the company further I discovered that Orica operates in a lot more areas than I initially realised, which was an added bonus. 

How does the graduate program work? 

It’s a three-year program, with one rotation per year, generally to different places in Australia or different roles within the business. In my case, I have worked in the Hunter Valley area, next year I will be moving to our Mt Thorley operations. 

Best bits? 

Getting exposed to a wide range of mining sites and experiences gained across the different locations, rather than just working at one place. The opportunity to work on construction projects has been a highlight and an experience I didn’t expect to have so early in my program. 

Also, doing a business improvement role as my first rotation was great; grads usually have to put in a few years before working in this area. It was completely different than the engineering work I had done as a student and taught me a lot about how businesses operate. 

Biggest challenges? 

My first year. Coming out of university – where I learned lots of technical skills – into a role that was more focused on business and strategy was a bit daunting. Nothing I had done at uni had fully prepared me for what I was doing. On top of that, I had joined a new company and had to learn all of its internal processes. 

Fortunately I had a lot of support from my line manager. He let me figure things out myself, but was also there to guide me when appropriate. I also had great support from my mentors and peers. 

Do you keep in touch with other grads? 

We are very close; we keep in touch regularly and if I want ideas or feedback I can send around a group email for their response. We also catch up at the graduate development workshops held each year in Melbourne, which is also a great opportunity to network with grads from different parts of the business. 

Tips for grads 

Get as much experience as you can. Work experience will help you get a job – and help you succeed. The work I did while I was a student definitely helped me prepare for my current job. It allowed me to become more familiar with a lot of common processes used in the mining industry. It is becoming more difficult to get mining work experience in the current market conditions, so you may have to consider experience from other areas or industries. 

Also, have an open mind to other opportunities. My business rotation is a good example – it wasn’t something I had thought about doing, but it has opened up new career possibilities.