Amber White’s life story is a page-turner written by someone who takes bold chances with unwavering confidence. Having explored a number of disciplines, Amber has found her niche as BHP’s Acting Laboratory Superintendent in Whaleback, Western Australia; population: 7,241. Six months ago, she returned from parental leave after welcoming her first child, Oliver, with her husband Nathan. Today, she offers advice to parents pursuing leadership in a rural context.
Name us a career Amber hasn’t tried at least once
Completing her year twelve studies at Eastern Hills High School where she was studying a Hospitality, Tourism and Business course, Amber decided to throw caution to the wind.
“After my course, I applied for an Advanced Diploma majoring in Public Relations and Business, an accounting role, and a hair-dressing apprenticeship,” said Amber.
“I was accepted into the Diploma first, so that’s what I did.”
With a ticket into university after completing her Advanced Diploma, Amber tried her hand at Commerce before changing to a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Public Relations and Marketing. With another pivot of her heel, she became interested in Human Resources (HR) and undertook work-integrated learning in firm specialising in blue-collar recruitment in the construction and mining industry. It was there that she began to build the foundations of a career that would lead her to BHP.
Discovering a career path at BHP
In 2011, Amber joined HWE Mining (which merged with BHP in 2013). She worked in the recruitment and HR departments before undertaking the role of Infrastructure Supervisor from 2013 to 2018. While on parental leave and enjoying a rekindled passion as a KONGA dance instructor, Amber heard of the exciting opportunities opening up in her department at Whaleback. So she reached out to her new manager.
“I was due to return in July 2019, but because of all the opportunities and exciting things happening, I came back three months early to take up a very different position as Acting Laboratory Superintendent.”
Since returning to BHP, Amber has been responsible for running the Newman Analytical Hub lab with a team of 23 people reporting to her; it’s a stark contrast from the familiarity of maintenance.
“Honestly, at first, this role wasn’t my first choice. My hesitation was purely because I was scared to step out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad I did,” said Amber.
“I came into this role having no idea about the lab, or how it links into the supply chain. I had always been in maintenance. The amount of learning I’ve been exposed to has been huge. I have a great team around me and I want to see our projects through to the end,” she smiles.
Why Amber chose BHP
After almost a decade with the company, we ask Amber why she chose BHP.
“It’s the opportunities I have here. I don’t know any other company where someone with my background could work their way through various avenues to get to the role I have now. It has opened my eyes up to a career that I wouldn’t have thought possible ten years ago.”
Amber also talks about the benefits BHP offers. “The benefits are really worthwhile. We live in a company house so this lowers our cost of living and means we can invest in our future and enjoy a more luxurious holiday than if we lived in the city! Our family and friends live in Perth, so it is a sacrifice and it can be hard being away since Oliver has come along, but BHP provides us with the life-balance we want for our family.”
Read on as Amber offers advice for working parents pursuing leadership in a rural context.
- Actively seek opportunities
“Don’t wait around – find opportunities yourself! I’ve always made an effort to work with my leader or mentor throughout my career to identify new learning experiences. While I was on parental leave, I kept in regular contact with my team; I was invested and passionate about the success of our department and I stayed in the loop to hear about exciting opportunities coming up,” said Amber.
- Trust in your skills and knowledge will come
“In smaller towns with a smaller workforce, there’s a greater opportunity to be skilled across the board. It’s important to seize the chance to work across sectors. Before moving to the Laboratory, I was so focused on infrastructure being my area of experience and I was too nervous to go into other fields. Yet, if you develop leadership skills, you can manage any area while learning the subject from your team. We grow by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. This was the best piece of advice I received from a previous leader of mine”.
- Rely on your support network
“Living out rurally can be really isolating. As a new mum, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I have without my close friends and my husband. Rely on your support network and ask for help! It’s also important to agree responsibilities with your partner. My husband knows where I stand on shared parenting, and I’m fortunate that he’s always been very supportive.”
Amber says she is also surrounded by a strong network at work. “All the Superintendents have kids, so they get it! My manager has also been extremely supportive and allowed me to work flexibly if I’ve needed to. He’s about to be a Dad too, so he understands,” Amber says.
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