Back in the days, finding a job involved grabbing the local paper, a yellow highlighter and circling the ones that stood out. This is what Kylie Gibbons did when she saw the refinery job at Alcoa. Her father worked for Alcoa, so it made it an easy decision to apply since he had great things to say about the company.
“I had a highlighter out and circled jobs that were close to home. I initially thought it was a man’s world [working in resources], but since it was a 6-month contract, I thought, why not give it a go?”
Kylie says it was the best career decision ever. She worked her way up through the ranks, taking up several secondment opportunities and leadership roles.
“Who would have thought back in 1994 as a 20-year-old ‘lab rat’ I would be now working inside the biggest operating center in one of Australia’s biggest alumina refineries. I have never knocked back an opportunity– even when I’ve been terrified to take the chance. I work with supportive people who will never let me fail.”
Family and community first
A big reason why Kylie has stayed on with Alcoa for so long is because of the work flexibility. Kylie’s son and daughter both have ADHD and early on it was a stressful scramble to take them to several medical appointments to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. She is grateful Alcoa has always offered full support. This helped her balance her carer responsibilities without feeling guilty.
“When my children were in primary school, I had to take them to a lot of specialist appointments which were often during business hours. Work knew I worked extra hours and put in the effort to make up for the time. It’s give and take, so I feel very grateful.”
Kylie ended up going back to formal study.
“I undertook a Bachelor of Arts in Training and Development whilst juggling work commitments and family. Successfully and repeatedly being able to redefine my career from Laboratory Analyst to Learning and Development, Business Improvement and now successfully transitioning into Refinery Process.”
Alcoa is an active and supportive partner in the community and has been contributing economically and socially in Western Australia and Victoria for almost six decades. As part of the company’s contribution, it encourages its people to spend time volunteering in the community.
“I am a committed member of the local community as a regular volunteer and supporter of numerous charities and organizations supporting mental health and inclusion and diversity.”
Dialing up on an abundant mindset
After Kylie was promoted into a leadership role, she quickly tamed her self-doubts. It was a pivotal moment for Kylie because it proved to herself that there were no boundaries to her success.
“I was promoted to team leader in the production laboratory. This leadership role was a massive learning curve. I worked with highly educated people and there were times when I felt like a little bit of a fraud. But at the same time, I was with people who were supportive. I then started to trust my own abilities.”
Kylie is proud to work for Alcoa where there is an abundance of career opportunities.
“There are so many opportunities within Alcoa and if you want something all you have to do is work hard for it. Alcoa has never pigeon holed me into an area. They have recognized key aspects of my personality and skills which have enabled me to transfer these into other roles and learn more along the way.”
A growth mindset has seen Kylie work on rewarding projects that contribute to streamlining Alcoa’s operations.
“I worked on two global Alcoa projects. One of the projects was working on how we efficiently manage our employees onsite. My background in training helped with writing all the training guides and facilitating the programs. I coached all the supervisors on the program and it was a success. More recently I was involved in another project looking at how we source work. It was interesting to work on this project to go from the refinery environment wearing hi-vis to the head office corporate environment.”
A place to chart our own course
Kylie says her determination to succeed has always been supported at Alcoa. If there was an area she wanted to work in, she let her managers know which helped her land several secondments.
“I have been really fortunate that I have been offered secondments in areas where I wanted to work but felt I lacked experience so I could give the role a go. Without this support, I may not have had such a varied career. Alcoa has given me tremendous flexibility in my work when I have needed to focus on my two children as they have grown. The company’s strong belief in diversity and inclusion has allowed me to educate myself in areas I would otherwise not have experienced. I have been able to volunteer and contribute to organizations outside of Alcoa as a result.”
Look after yourself
Kylie wants to encourage more women to get into the mining industry. Alcoa has offered her countless opportunities and so she shares her skills and knowledge through mentoring others.
“I’m currently sharing my leadership skills and industry knowledge mentoring a new female planner at the Pinjarra refinery. I find reciprocal benefits from the mentor/mentee relationship. It is personally satisfying to provide coaching and feedback support as a mentor, as well as a great opportunity for me to stay across current training content from a graduate’s perspective.”
Kylie offers one last tip for us which is to look after ourselves. She enjoys her time at work but says we also need to balance that by finding activities that bring us joy outside of work.
“Make sure you take time out to do what you like to do. I go to the gym at 5.30 every day. Group Fitness has been a major part of my life since I was 16 and I even spent four years teaching it.”
“I love to go out hiking and exploring nature. I recently hiked Bluff Knoll for the second time. I have hiked part of the Bibbulmun Track and want to do more, and I also have my eyes on the Cape to Cape Hike. I enjoy competing in military style cross country obstacle courses such as Spartan and True Grit. And I recently took up paddle boarding. I also love to renovate furniture and my home. I get a real kick out of refreshing things and using my creativity.”
It was an absolute pleasure chatting to Kylie. We cannot wait to hear about her next big trek and role at Alcoa!