Megan Kropp is new to Sedgman but is no stranger to mining. Having grown up in Mount Isa, she knows the industry and its people well, so a career as a process engineer may seem an obvious choice. Yet it could have all been so different, as she explains:
“I’ve always been good with maths and science but I didn’t want to only do a science degree. So I picked engineering, with the intention of doing medicine. Then I failed biology in my first year and realised it might not be for me. Following some vacation work at a mine, I opted for minerals processing, and it all progressed from there.”
Indeed, Megan soon turned her ‘Plan B’ into a successful career which truly fulfils her. Over the next eighteen years, she grew and progressed, developing a wealth of process engineering experience and an impressive skillset in her field. In August 2018, she joined Sedgman, to start up and manage the Coal Handling Preparation Plant (CHPP) at Mount Pleasant. So far, she loves it.
“Process engineering is always full of surprises. No two days are the same – that has always appealed to me. Most of all, I like to be able to look at something and ask ‘is it working as well as it should? What can we do to improve it and how can we get there in a simple, efficient way?’ I’m really applying that here.”
So how does that work at Mount Pleasant? Megan offers a refreshingly simple explanation of her role:
“Another company gets the coal out of the ground. We take it and turn it into something we can sell. Then both of us report back to the client who owns the site operation. A lot of my time so far has been focused on recruiting and onboarding a large number of talented team members and site operators. From there, the team and I have worked with the client to establish how we will set our systems and process up in order to operate the Plant efficiently, andprovided assistance as required during commissioning., ”
As our conversation progresses, it becomes clear that this ‘people’ side of the role is something Megan really enjoys.. although it hasn’t always been easy.
“In what we do, there are often high stakeholder expectations around quality outcomes. If you’re not careful, you can get very focused on the work and less so on the people.”
Speaking with impressive honesty, Megan shares a pivotal moment earlier in her career, when she got some “pretty honest and challenging” feedback about her communication and management style:
“My approach is… I’m quite direct. I’ve always tried to be consultative and I really like other people to be happy and part of the solution. But at that point in my career, I’d inadvertently become more aggressive as opposed to assertive in my approach to others. That feedback was hard to hear! I denied it for a little while. Then when you have time to reflect, you realise it does make sense. I had to realign my approach”
It’s enriching to hear Megan talk about how she used self-reflection to adapt and grow. This started by looking back at the roles where she was most confident and successful, to identify what she did well and why. She continually applied those learnings and behaviours, and brought them with her to her production leadership role at Sedgman.
“I’d been involved with Sedgman previously as a client and had always heard good things about the company. Relationships really matter here. I love that I can call up people at other sites and ask for assistance and feedback for improvement. I look forward to also sharing what I learn as we get the Plant and the Team established.”
We ask Megan how the team’s shaping up and it’s refreshing to hear her approach to shaping a more diverse workforce, by creating opportunities where possible for people with less experience.
“I had originally thought we’d only take people with significant industry experience. Yet I knew that most of our less-traditional audiences, including women, would be green. I realised that we had to think differently about the opportunity we have. If a new site starting up can’t make the space to develop and nurture new people, who will? And without new and diverse perspectives, how will this industry move forward?”
As it stands, just under a quarter of the operators on each crew at Megan’s plant are women. And of the 16 people in their first intake, four (two women and two men) were brand new to the industry. Megan is keen to keep up the momentum and advises other employers to do the same:
“We’re on the right track on diversity but there’s so much more to do. The more diverse our perspectives, the bigger the idea pool grows. We really need innovation and ideas in this industry.”
As for advice to women, she keeps it simple:
“Make sure it’s right for you, then go for it. Sedgman is a really stable business with great opportunities to progress. Work on relationships and ask for help if you need it – you’ll very likely get it.”
“Ask for feedback. And use it well.”