What’s the first thing you think of when you think about mining?
Dirt? Ore? Unbelievably large machines?
If career development didn’t first cross your mind, we don’t blame you – it doesn’t for most people outside the industry.
But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that mining companies offer some of the best graduate and leadership programs out there.
Take it from Marieka Vercoe, a High Voltage and Power Operations Superintendent at BHP, who took advantage of the company’s stellar career development program and became an accomplished leader in her field.
If career progression and professional development are high on your career must-haves, then you might find what you’re looking for in mining.
Marieka did, and here’s how she did it.
Finding her way to mining
Ten years ago, Marieka wouldn’t even have thought that the next decade of her life would be in the mining industry.
“I was passionate about aircraft and always thought my career would lead me in that direction. I would love to say I had a great passion for mining and BHP beforehand. But coming from Queensland, mining isn’t an industry that’s as widely known or spoken of like it is here in Western Australia.”
But one event changed her perspective and, ultimately, her life.
“Mining was never on my radar until one of my university friends returned from his BHP Internship Program and spoke so highly of his experience. He spoke about how his work was very hands-on, and he was able to see how his work made a difference.”
That story sparked Marieka’s interest in mining and inspired her to apply for a spot in the company’s Graduate Program.
“The fact that BHP’s operations are very hands-on and fast paced spoke to my learning style, and the remoteness of BHP’s operations spoke to my adventurous side.”
Her long journey at BHP
Marieka started her career at BHP in 2014 via the company’s highly regarded Graduate Program.
“The BHP Graduate Program was my first role after completing my studies. I rolled off the program into a role as a Reliability Engineer for our High Voltage department.”
As much as she enjoyed this initial engineering role, Marieka had her sights set on advancing her career into senior management.
“I knew pretty early on that I wanted to pursue a career in leadership.”
She kept an eye on leadership opportunities and was determined to pursue them when they came.
“When an opportunity as a Maintenance Supervisor in our Community Infrastructure department popped up, I jumped on it.”
And although this first leadership role was challenging, she found a supportive team guiding and backing her every step of the way.
“This role had a steep learning curve for me being a first-time leader, but I was very well supported by a fellow colleague and my leader. The skills I learned there have been foundational for me throughout my career.”
Years later, Marieka moved back to her engineering roots as a Network Operations Supervisor for the High Voltage department.
“This role was a great balance between leadership and electrical engineering.”
After a year in that role, Marieka and her partner then decided to take a gap year to travel the world. They were able to travel for several months before cutting their trip short due to the COVID pandemic.
She settled back into her previous role easily, thanks again to her incredibly supportive managers and leaders. Marieka then transitioned into her current role of leading High Voltage operations across the Pilbara and Newman townships.
Looking back on her career so far, Marieka realizes just how crucial the company’s leaders and culture have been to its trajectory.
“I have always been supported by amazing leaders and peers who helped me develop technically and as a leader to continually grow and reach my goals.”
And much of this support is due to BHP’s unique company culture and refined approach to career development.
A company focused on growth and balance
For any ambitious person looking for different career paths and advancement opportunities, BHP is about as attractive as they come.
And it all starts with the company’s Graduate Program, which Marieka and countless others have used as the launchpad for their careers.
“BHP’s Graduate Program is very well structured, with a balance between in-role learning and training. After completing the Graduate Program, I felt well prepared for my career with BHP.”
With its flexible working arrangements, commitment to achieving global gender equality, and varied opportunities for career development, BHP is leading the way for empowering women in mining.
But as Marieka points out, the company’s Graduate Program is just the beginning.
What truly sets BHP apart is how it empowers its employees to grow across their personal and professional lives.
“BHP approaches development through training, experience, and exposure. We have access to a wide range of training delivered internally, externally, and also through LinkedIn Learning. After completing training, we then look for opportunities to embed the learnings through experience and exposure, whether that’s in your current role or even as a secondment opportunity.”
The company’s commitment to building work-life balance has also been particularly special for Marieka.
“BHP’s approach towards flexible work over the last few years has been a standout to me personally. As my life outside of work has changed, I have always been supported in working a roster that suits my lifestyle while also being able to maintain my commitments and be successful at work.”
Even when she and her partner decided to travel the world for a year, Marieka found a team backing her decision.
“I remember feeling nervous and guilty for asking to take so much time off, but I was met with a quick yes. My time off also enabled someone a secondment opportunity.”
And when she came back earlier than planned due to COVID, her team gladly welcomed her back.
“When I returned a couple of months early from my leave, my leaders and team supported me to settle back into my role as we navigated the challenges of COVID together.”
Onward and upward
Today, after almost a decade in the company and the mining industry, Marieka shows no signs of slowing down.
“We have exciting times ahead of us at BHP, especially in the Power space, as we work towards integrating large-scale renewable energies into our networks. I look forward to being a part of this journey and contributing to making the world a better, greener place.”
When you work with a company that matches your ambitions and empowers you to achieve bigger and better things, you can take your career to greater heights and make more meaningful career decisions.
So, if you’re looking for a career change or a more flexible career path, perhaps have a look at what mining offers.
Like Marieka, you may just find what you want there.