Job title

Graduate civil engineer

Who do you work for?

Rio Tinto Alcan, Bauxite and Alumina Technology, Tailings and Water Strategy team

What does your job involve?

My team provides support to the site operational teams who are directly responsible for the Tailings and Water Storage Facilities within the Bauxite and Alumina business. These storage facilities are used for the management of bauxite tailings out of our bauxite mine at Weipa, and management of tailings slurry from our alumina refineries at Gove, QAL, Yarwun and Vaudreuil. Our team provides support to site in their day-to-day operations, ensuring that governance requirements are met. We also work with the designers, governing bodies and site personnel to implement long-term strategic goals and ensure that the sites are operating in ways that support the long-term strategy.

After spending some time in the corporate office learning the ropes, I then went to site to gain some first-hand experience on how sites operate and how we can improve the day-to-day operations of bauxite residue management. I am currently running trials to better understand (and ultimately optimise) the drying behaviour of bauxite residue slurry.

Why did you choose to work in this sector?

The mining and resources sector provides excellent opportunities for growth and learning. I was attracted to the idea that I could move around the world for work, and potentially work within international teams.

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

I like the work I’m doing, and even as a graduate it has the potential to tangibly improve the way the business operates. I have been trusted with responsibility, and am accountable for my work, but at the same time I feel that I have the support that I need from team members who are willing to help me learn and give advice when required. It’s good to feel like a valued member of the Rio Tinto team.

What has been one of your recent achievements?

The work I’ve been completing here on site has been useful for the business in building greater understanding around one of the key components of tailings management: the drying cycle of tailings. It is quite cool to realise that I played a key role in collecting and analysing much of the data that has given us greater clarity around our business. In order to complete these objectives, I have formed working relationships with a variety of people in the business, from the operators, to lab technicians, supervisors and managers. I am really pleased that my role has required me to work on my people skills as well as my technical and procedural skills.

What is the most challenging part of your current job?

This role holds many challenges. The most challenging part for me is probably time management, knowing that I have x amount to achieve in y amount of time, with the inevitable z cropping up just to keep me on my toes. However, this challenge has really helped me develop skills around prioritisation, organisation and not over-sweating the small stuff (which we poor engineers can tend to do sometimes!) I also make use of the knowledge of my mentors and team members, who help to guide me through specific challenges.

What do you hope to do in the future?

As a second year graduate, I recognise that my career is still in its formative years. At this stage, I am enjoying working hard to meet the challenges of my role, and to grab any opportunity to learn and grow. In the future I would love to live and work overseas and be involved with Rio Tinto’s international operations.

What are some of the other benefits of your job?

I have been involved with Young Engineers Australia Queensland, which has given me the opportunity to help young engineers expand their professional networks and improve their technical skills. My team at Rio Tinto have been really supportive of my involvement, even coming to watch me give a presentation at the University of Queensland. In my job, I love that I have the support and the flexibility to be able to be involved in extra-curricular volunteer activities that help me grow as a professional.

What training did you have for this job?

Upper secondary school

Maths B, Physics, Chemistry, English (report-writing and written communication is as important as the technical side!). I was also heavily involved in extra-curricular activities which helped me develop leadership, time management and personal skills.

After secondary school

Dual bachelor degree in Civil Engineering and Arts (majoring in History/Ancient History and Chinese language). I also took specific tailings management courses at and after university to give me specific background knowledge for my role. Currently, I’m working towards a Master of Commerce online whilst working.

What career advice would you give to school students interested in a similar career?

Prepare to work hard at university to build a strong technical base, but realise that technical skills and good marks alone may not be enough! Have fun at university and at school; start to get an understanding of what drives you professionally and personally, this could be through volunteering, playing sports or discovering other hobbies. Also, be prepared to embrace travel and living in new, sometimes remote locations. There are great opportunities out there, so it’s important to have the right attitude, be enthusiastic, work hard and give it a shot.

To find out more about how Rio Tinto supports classroom teaching and learning in maths, science and business studies for young people aged 12-16 visit SMART, our free international education portal. Using a combination of interactive whiteboard presentations, printable lesson plans, worksheets and case studies, students can explore how their academic studies relate to real-world operations in a major global business.