In her over two decades in engineering, mining, and construction, few can compare with Lydia Gentle’s accomplishments.
Aside from being the youngest Australian to receive an Engineering Executive status with Engineers Australia, her long list of accomplishments and honors include being a Fellow and Chartered Civil and Structural engineer, becoming an Advisory Board Member of Top 100 Women, and winning the National Exceptional Woman in Mining award in 2022.
To cap it all off, in 2019, she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (for Services to Engineering), the country’s highest recognition for outstanding achievement and service.
And if that’s not enough, she also oversees a multi-billion-dollar portfolio for BHP as its Portfolio Delivery Manager, and bakes everything from intricate three-tier cakes to shortcrust biscuits.
But if you ask Lydia what her favorite role is, she’ll probably tell you it’s being a mother to her two young children, whom, not surprisingly, are also big fans of her excellent cake baking skills.
So, how does she do it all?
That’s the question we all had before our interview with Lydia.
And to our delight, her answers were incredibly simple, practical, and insightful.
Here’s what she shared.
1. Be open to possibilities.
It’s easy to think that Lydia plans everything in her career and life meticulously. But the truth is that much of her career path was unplanned.
“My career was never mapped out.”
In fact, while growing up in a small country town in North Queensland, the idea of doing what she does today never crossed her mind.
“I never imagined I would become an engineer and go on to travel the world and look after a billion-dollar portfolio. My family were cane farmers, and I didn’t think it would be possible to go from farming to working for BHP, which is the largest mining organization in the world.”
But as Lydia has proven, with enough ambition, hard work, and courage to take advantage of every opportunity, almost anything is possible.
And as her journey in BHP has also shown, working with an organization that values your growth and invests in your development is invaluable.
By being open to possibilities and taking advantage of opportunities, you can put yourself in a position to have more time for the things most important to you.
2. Time management is key.
When you’re managing a multitude of things simultaneously, effective time management is critical.
“I have an online calendar that I share with my family that we use to manage everything. I plan my day, week, month, and, sometimes, year in advance to make sure that I have time for family, hobbies, and work commitments. We set priorities and make sure that the most important items are prioritized.”
But Lydia also reminds us that things don’t always go as planned, and you need to be ready to go with the flow.
“Be flexible. Sometimes a ball will drop, and you just need to remember to pick it up and keep going.”
3. Lean on your support network.
This includes your family and employer. Balancing your personal and professional responsibilities requires coordination and communication with your loved ones and your teams at work.
Fortunately for Lydia, she has incredible support from both.
“I have an amazing family who supports me. Juggling work, site travel, and kids’ pick-ups and drop-offs can be a challenge.”
And as far as support from BHP goes, Lydia says it has been nothing short of tremendous.
“From day one, BHP has been an amazing company to work for. They’re incredibly supportive from a family perspective and encouraging from a development and learning perspective.”
4. See the bigger, better picture.
When times get tough – as they surely will when you’re balancing a demanding job with a busy home life – then it helps to look at the bigger picture to get you through.
This means remembering your purpose and motivations.
“I’m motivated to make a positive impact in the world. Being a good role model for my children inspires me to achieve.”
Meanwhile, in her work, Lydia aims to make the mining industry better and more attractive for women.
“Working in mining 20 years ago, things were very different to what it is now. It was hard being away from loved ones, traveling to remote areas, and often being the only woman. It taught me grit and resilience. And now, I try to make mining even better for the upcoming generation.”
Lydia is undeniably blazing the trail for women in mining, proving it can provide a rewarding and fulfilling career path.
She also points out that BHP has taken great strides to make the previously male-dominated industry more attractive and supportive to women.
“BHP has numerous initiatives in place to support women in mining. If any challenges are raised, they are always dealt with accordingly. These initiatives reinforce my belief that BHP is committed to gender equality, removing barriers to it, and raising organizational standards so that all women can choose workplaces where they can thrive.”
BHP empowers women in mining by providing highly flexible working arrangements, exceptional career development programs, and continuous learning opportunities.
Lydia also strives to lead by example and be a role model for women in the industry by providing mentorship and inspiring them to dream bigger.
By showing us what’s possible and achieving them, Lydia reminds us that we shouldn’t just see the bigger, better picture – we should also help build it.
5. “Ten seconds of guilt then move on”
When we asked Lydia one important lesson others could learn from her, she answered:
“My biggest lesson is ‘Ten seconds of guilt then move on.’”
“There will always be times when things don’t go perfectly, or you make mistakes. My advice is to take ten seconds to feel terrible, wallow in the guilt, and then move on. There is no point in dwelling on it. Make a plan to fix it or change it if you can, and then move forward.”
Taken from motivational speaker Chris Helder, Lydia has used this technique to deal with setbacks and manage things when things don’t go as planned.
“Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive. For me, ten seconds of guilt helps me to stay positive, since we all feel bad when things don’t go our way. It’s about acknowledging that and then moving on.”
Life is like baking a cake
Before we ended our interview, we asked Lydia one more time about baking and why she loves it.
“It’s an opportunity to use my structural engineering skills. It can’t be rushed. It requires precision and attention.”
And then we both realized that this applies to life as well.
When you put in the work, stay patient, and tend to it with passion and care – no matter how messy it may get – then you can enjoy the sweetest thing with your loved ones.