Belinda did not always want to be an engineer. She originally wanted to be a vet or a doctor, but when she did work experience in Year 10 she realised that she was no good with blood!
In Year 11 and 12 at a high school in Newcastle, she did Chemistry, Physics and 4 Unit maths she really enjoyed the maths and chemistry.
I really enjoyed when I could understand maths concepts and how far I could go trying to problem solve or working backwards from answers to ensure I understood how to solve problems. Chemistry was a fun version of maths because you could experiment and see the outcomes – good or bad.
While at school, Belinda also worked in a donut shop and did maths tutoring and babysitting.
My teachers inspired me in a roundabout way, because some of them didn’t think I could do well and proving them wrong was enough of a motivation to push me. My mum was great in taking me to University Open Days so I could get a feel for where I would like to study.
University and first job
Belinda found out about and explored the cadetships on offer from BHP. She applied for and was successful in getting a cadetship when she was 17, which meant that she could complete a chemical engineering degree at the University of Newcastle part-time while working full-time for BHP. Her first job was as a Process Engineer. She had to look at any process in the business and understand how it could be improved. Belinda worked in the steel and aluminium industries and in transport and logistics before her current position at Orica.
Belinda’s advice to students
Belinda says that the key personal attributes and skills that have contributed to her success are:
- leadership and backing yourself
- good communication skills
- collaboration with and empowering team members
- critical thinking
- building resilience and capacity for change.
Seek out opportunities for practical experience and don’t limit your thinking. Ask people about their role to understand the diversity of businesses that utilise STEM skills.
A great advantage of STEM opportunities will be that more and more work will be done virtually in diverse global teams so communication skills and channels will be critical. This will also allow for flexible work arrangements where performance is outcome-based.
Belinda’s current job
Belinda now manages a 100 people. They are a diverse team of skilled people focusing on commercial (sales and purchasing), operations (the blasting) and technical staff who are the experts in different areas. Her role involves reviewing designs, concepts, data, technology opportunities and presentations.
Belinda chose to work for Orica because it is a global company based in Australia. Global experiences provide her with challenges across many fields of customer and employee relations. She says that one of the benefits is that she can travel to places she wouldn’t normally go, working with people in other countries that have distinctive styles and unique challenges.
Belinda has built a successful career in engineering which is a male-dominated industry. She stresses the importance of seeking an advocate or a mentor in the work place, someone to speak up on her behalf and provide advice.
My day to day involves a combination of: coaching, supporting, decision making, leadership, change management, questioning, analysis of data, challenging, collaboration, thinking, speaking, negotiating, strategy development and execution to meet or exceed targets that span safety, customer, people and performance.
STEM at work
In her job, Belinda uses STEM and digital technologies in her day-to-day work when she reviews designs and new technology opportunities, checks data, and develops presentations. Orica is always looking for ways to improve its services and uses apps for communications; drone technology at the mine sites; GPS enabled equipment, automated explosive initiating systems and cloud-based modelling systems.