Cindy Emmett works in the coal mining industry and specialises in draglines, shovels, underground mining and corporate mining through operational readiness. Passionate about the promotion of women in a male-dominated industry, Ms Emmett is an advocate for the importance of flexible work arrangements.
Cindy attended university as a mature-age student and single mum to four boys. In 2010 she graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with Distinction. While at university she received an Anglo American scholarship for her excellence in academic achievements and received the Greg Garrick Award for the most outstanding scholarship recipient.
Cindy delivered the Occasional Address at the Mackay Graduation Ceremony on Thursday 9 May 2019.
Chancellor, ladies and gentleman.
Firstly, I would like to say, congratulations to all the graduates for making it to this ceremony, as not everyone that was there in orientation with you at the beginning of this journey, has persisted and endured the long hard slog of achieving a degree here today.
I definitely know the feeling of satisfaction, achievement and success within yourself to get to this point, as I put myself through uni as a single mum of three boys, and after managing the obstacles and interruptions of LIFE – including a fourth boy! (You’d think I’d learn), an ex-husband, a few court cases for custody and divorce and not much money to rub together – I, too, after 7 years of persistence and at the age of 35 was awarded my Bachelor Degree in mechanical engineering.
Make sure you set what you want to achieve next because you definitely don’t want to experience the trouble of not having a goal and end up spending your life running up and down the field and never scoring.
This was achieved by setting a goal for myself, then identifying and re-aligning the steps to achieve my dream. But now you are here, make sure you set what you want to achieve next because you definitely don’t want to experience the trouble of not having a goal and end up spending your life running up and down the field and never scoring.
An example of a goal I set myself would include wanting to work in mining and focusing on the tremendously mighty machinery. I mean, look at a dragline, it reaches from the main house out 100m to the tip of the boom and this giant of a machine is operated by only one person and is a critical piece of machinery in an open cut coal mine. I know some of you have no idea what I am talking about, and there are even some of you that have no idea that someone can get so excited over a piece of metal, but that is the point – your goal is unique to you and you alone. When you are creating your goals they should scare you a little and excite you a lot! After a few years in many diverse areas of coal mining, I am now part of a great team that focuses on major shutdowns on draglines and shovels, two of the biggest machines on site. Goal ticked.
A great piece of advice I can give you on your journey forward is that this degree, in whatever field you have studied – DOES NOT MEAN YOU KNOW EVERYTHING!
When you enter the workforce you will be surrounded by all levels of personnel and you have the amazing opportunity to learn from everyone. You will continue your learning journey from here until the day you retire. If you are not learning, you are not challenging yourself.
As Richard Branson from Virgin has said:
‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it – say yes, then learn how to do it!’
I was fortunate enough to get myself into a graduate program with a leading coal mining company and during a graduate event in my first year, there was a presentation on an area called ‘Operational Readiness’, which totally intrigued me. This was a group of people that worked together to make a goal of the company become a reality. They would take a project from the capital projects team and turn it into something real in operations. I asked heaps of questions at this event, including how do I get to be a part of this team. I was told I had to be in the industry at least five years before I would even be considered.
I had just set my next goal!! Yes, I’m going to get into the Operational Readiness team.
I was determined to learn as much as I could to be a worthy contributing member of this team. However, at the end of my first year, I received an unexpected phone call asking if I’d be interested in joining the Operational Readiness team as a second-year graduate. I was in shock. I hadn’t learnt nearly enough about coal mining as I’d planned, I didn’t know what I could contribute and to top it off, it was for a green field site for an underground mine. I had only worked in open cut, but…this was my amazing opportunity that made me scared and excited at the same time. I said yes, and I didn’t look back!
Up to this point, I had identified opportunities for improvement within the business, including flexible working and promoting women in the resources industry.
If you want something, ask for it and be prepared to negotiate.
Each role I have been involved in, I have initiated flexibility in my working hours to try and balance this awesome career and some awesome time with my boys. My boss certainly wasn’t going to come up to me and say, “Hey Cindy, do you want to finish early today so you can spend time having fun with your kids!”
If you want something, ask for it and be prepared to negotiate. For example, I negotiated to work two short days per week and two long days per week, which meant I got some quality time in the afternoon with the boys and I was still doing the required hours each week.
Now, this isn’t going to work for everyone, but the moral of the story is to not be too scared to speak up – whether it is about flexible hours, the good and bad in your role, what your goals are, or maybe promoting your industry…or the minority within the industry.
It is definitely not a secret that there are not many women that take on male-dominated roles, such as mechanical engineering, and this is even more pronounced in the male-dominated mining industry. I wanted to help change this. So I used my initiative and passion to promote women in the resources industry.
Again, I found where and how I could achieve this by talking to as many people as I could about this passion, and as a result, I got involved in primary school and high school workshops, careers days and speaking events.
I fully believe that if each time, I can encourage just one person to follow their dream, no matter the status quo…or the obstacles in life – with courage, persistence and determination, then the sky is the limit for them and my job is done.
Good luck and remember, setting goals, continuously learning, using initiative and speaking up at the right time, are all just a few tools in your toolkit to help achieve your unique dreams.