With a background in aviation, Rachel Menkens transitioned into the mining industry on a Supervisor Development Program at BHP. She’s now the Superintendent of Mine Services at Goonyella Riverside.
Not just lip service
WORK180 are incredibly proud to have BHP as one of our Endorsed Employers. They are making real waves in the mining industry, and show continued dedication creating an inclusive and diverse workplace where everyone can thrive. They are true game changers, and the development program that Rachel joined is another impressive example of that.
BHP’s Supervisor Development Program was created to provide an opportunity for those with strong leadership skills to allow them to practically learn about the business while also enhancing the skills and behaviors necessary to lead and inspire teams.
Rachel joined as the Deputy Superintendent Production for Coal, shadowing a senior leader to learn the ropes before stepping into the Superintendent role.
“It’s a chance to take stock, learn what goes on and build relationships with stakeholders. It gives you a chance to ask questions and familiarize yourself with the role before you step into it. You act as a ‘plus one’ in the team. It’s a role that demonstrates BHP’s incredible commitment to development.”
As Superintendent, Rachel spends time moving across site to connect with her team, understand their challenges.
“I’m generally a problem solver. I spend time networking, identifying opportunities and challenges, and working with the teams in the field to implement solutions that improve safety, efficiency or productivity. Good stakeholder relationships are essential.”
Sights set on an executive career
Rachel spent nine years as an aircraft captain before deciding to make a move. A few years prior, she had been introduced to WORK180 when discussing positive recruiting strategies combining word of mouth and visual success stories.
“I would often find myself browsing the WORK180 site and reading stories, interested as to what was being done differently elsewhere and how I could change my small circle for the better. Then when the time came that I was ready to make a move, it was in some way my vetting for potential employers.”
So, using the WORK180 employer endorsement to learn more about which companies genuinely care about workplace equality, Rachel came across BHP and their development program.
“It was a Deputy Superintendent position, targeted as a learning and development piece, with no requirement to have mining experience. I thought it was a really interesting way to get a look into an industry that intrigued me.“
Rachel also did an MBA, which she says she can’t rate more highly and loved being back at university. She also grew her focus on innovation as a solution for businesses.
“To move out of a mostly operational role to get to where I want to be in the future, I realized I needed to study. There, I discovered a real passion for the long term strategic outlook. Sustainability is more than a buzzword and needs to be incorporated into commercial outlook and direction, technology and innovation are what’s going to drive those changes. I want to be leading that charge. Innovation is essential for any business survival, and that’s where the business case for diversity comes in.”
Rachel’s Superintendent role at BHP builds on her MBA, giving her opportunities to work on innovation and continuous improvement while setting her up for the career future she wants.
“My passion and drive is toward executive-level management. This role gives me a strong understanding of mining.”
Building credibility in a new industry
Changing industries can have its challenges, but Rachel is taking it in her stride.
Before leaving aviation, a mentor advised her to make notes of career milestones and achievements. That helped her identify her strengths and what she enjoyed.
“I asked myself, if I had my ideal job, what might that look like on a day to day basis. I love being a visible leader, seeing people grow and develop, managing multiple stakeholder engagement, and creating collaborative solutions through engagement and problem-solving.”
For Rachel, focusing on soft skills is key in a leadership role. She always asks what differentiates someone who’s good at their job from someone who is great at their job, and softer skills are often the differentiator there.
Rachel had minimal industry knowledge and exposure before joining BHP, so she’s had to establish a foundation and build credibility, believing in her capabilities during the transition. She trusts her teams and lets them teach her while bringing the leadership and management skills she has to the company.
We asked her how to build that credibility in a new industry, and she shared some tips:
- Focus on your role. “As superintendent, I don’t need to have the technical background; that’s what my team is for, they are the experts in their field, respect that. I’m here to facilitate and enable a safe and constructive working environment for them.”
- Focus on people. “Building relationships is all about being curious. I’m happy to go in and be completely vulnerable.”
- Focus on learning. “Out in the field, I go in with a curious mindset. I ask questions like, tell me about what you are doing here today? What could we be doing differently to make your job easier? What are your challenges?”
- Focus on respect. “I’m as open and available as possible. I give each person the respect I’d want to receive if I was them.”
“I can honestly say I love the crews that I work with, they’re a brilliant bunch of people, and I love coming to work here.”
Women on top
Rachel is effusive in her praise of BHP as a place to work and would love to see more women joining.
“It’s an incredibly supportive environment. Their approach to inclusion and diversity is more than talk – they’re actually walking the walk. There’s a real honest truth about valuing people.”
For women – and men – at BHP, you are respected for the job you do and work-life balance is a priority.
BHP value diverse perspectives as a key enabler of innovation.
“Innovation is required for businesses to maintain market advantage. You can’t innovate if you keep going around the same circle all the time – you need to bring in new perspectives, new technology, new ideas. You need to look at things through new eyes, and that’s where the importance of inclusion and diversity comes in.”
And to summarize her time so far at BHP, Rachel shares:
“I cannot speak highly enough of the leadership team I have around me. They have been absolutely phenomenal, openly supportive of my transition into this role.