Engineers Anonymous – Part 1

Hi, my name is Simon and I am a recovering engineer. It has been 6 years since my last design and I am proud to say I haven’t fallen off the wagon, yet. Having graduated from engineering 20 years ago I spent a good portion of my career in the ‘doing’ roles of operational engineering and absolutely loved it.

I look back on those engineering ‘doing’ roles with strong and fond memories of what I have learnt over the years technically, and how different parts of my career helped in developing the non-technical skills to eventually kick my addictive engineering habit.

I often get asked about career pathways and what avenues are possible. So, I thought I would share a bit of my story from when I graduated to becoming a managing director and beyond, as the first question most people ask me is: Why did I choose engineering and in particular mining engineering?

Great question and one I struggle to exactly put my finger on, other than to say, I was a bit of a geek, loved building things, enjoyed being outside, really really loved blowing things up and of course loved the big yellow trucks.

In high-school I visited a mine that probably sealed the deal for me to become a mining engineer.

I was fortunate enough to get vacation experience at Ranger Uranium Mine while I was in uni. There I worked with an awesome team of people who really cemented my love for mining. They also introduced me to what a high performing culture can do, with a small team exceling in a challenging environment. It was safe to say after this experience I was certainly hooked.

I finished my degree ready to hit the mining world full of enthusiasm, energy and keen to learn all about mining. BAAM! Right into a brick wall of a major mining downturn. So, I did what most people did back then and wrote countless letters to mining companies and went door knocking in search of a job. After a couple of months of sheer persistence, 106 letters and several interviews I was fortunate enough to get 2 job offers.

Landed my first job and joined an underground mining contractor who did one of the best things I could have hoped for in the early part of my career; sent me underground as an operator and on crew for 18 months. In a few months I learnt more about mining than I ever did in the 4 years of uni. I worked in close knit teams where trust was critical and often, what kept you from serious harm or worse; gained invaluable hands on experience about mining operations and people management; and developed a vocabulary that would have made Rodney Rude blush. Maybe, that last one wasn’t so great, but the collective experience formed an amazing foundation for my subsequent career.

From there I jumped on the engineering wagon, which I will explain more about in my next post.

Don’t forget to leave your comments and questions as I want to make this an interactive series of posts so feel free to fire away and I will aim to include my answers in subsequent posts.

Feel free to send me an invite to connect at Simon Cohn.