Dan Natarajan

Dan Natarajan

Job Title

Graduate Technical Services Engineer (Mining)

Who do you work for?

I work for Orica, which is the world’s largest provider of commercial explosives and innovative blasting systems to the mining, quarrying, oil and gas and construction markets. I am based out of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and I get to travel to various mine sites around Western Australia.

What does your job involve?

My work involves technical problem solving or continuous improvement with regard to drilling and blasting efficacy. I work on various types of mines like open cut, underground and quarry sites. I get to work closely with other engineering professionals including geo-technical engineers and geologists.

Why did you choose to work in this sector?

I was in awe of the way the mining sector kept pushing boundaries in terms of engineering and new technologies. An example is automated mining trucks capable of carrying 250 tonnes of rock.

 ‘Production Drilling & Blasting’ was my favourite course during university and I find working on blasting technologies to be very interesting and ‘cool’.

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

Firstly, I’m involved in authentic engineering problem-solving, these problems are rarely the same from one day to the next, so they challenge my engineering knowledge. Secondly, there is a great sense of job satisfaction when you attend to your customer’s needs.

What has been one of your recent achievements?

Recently, a region-wide external quality audit was conducted; I was recognised by my Area Business Manager for my relentless efforts to make sites in my patch compliant & stellar.

What is the most challenging part of your current job?

This job gives me an opportunity to work with different customers who have different rosters, sometimes it can be challenging to accommodate your own working days to align with that of the customer’s.

Willingness to be flexible on working hours (day/night shift) or to work on holidays or weekends is necessary to this role. I don’t find it as much of an issue now, but certain co-workers with families have found it challenging.

What do you hope to do in the future?

Now, I’m working with existing technologies and I try to streamline and troubleshoot them so that they can best serve the customer. After gaining more technical experience I hope to be involved with more projects designing new technologies. I would also love to be involved in the training of ‘budding engineers’.

What are some of the benefits of your job?

Orica has a structured training programme and I can get access to experts on technical information through online tools. It also has a caring organisational culture.

What training did you have for this job?

I went to secondary school at Campion Higher Secondary School in India. I studied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, English and Moral Instruction.

I then enrolled into a four-year Bachelors’ in Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Programme at PSG College of Technology in India.

After graduation, I worked as a mechanical engineer in a thermal power plant, where I became interested in mining.  This led me to pursue Master’s in Mining Engineering at Federation University, Victoria, Australia.

Who were your role models, inspiration to choose this career?

To be honest, I didn’t have a career-based role model, my role models were people who inspired me in the way they led their lives & excelled in them.

For example, Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist) had an influence on me, I loved the way he made physics reach people from all walks of life (with his pop-culture references) and his ability to carve a punch-line from a large context of text and leave you stunned with a mind-bending revelation of the stars. He provided me with the inspiration to question everything.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was a poet, orator, a rocket scientist and the 11th President of India.  His humble lifestyle and his ability to have four different successful careers was a huge inspiration to me on what was achievable in one lifetime. He was also known for his philanthropic nature and humility, which moved me, it is said that by the time he passed away in 2015 all his possessions were donated to charity and he had only couple of suitcases filled with books to his name.

Did you always want to be an Engineer?

Between the ages of 5 and 10, I wanted to be a doctor, a pilot and a veterinarian

Since my pre-teens and teens, I have always wanted to be an engineer, although not necessarily in mining.  I wanted to be involved in technical problem solving when I chose a career.

Why is mathematics important in your job?

Mathematics is the backbone of any analysis, calculation or problem solving I undertake in my job. Even the software packages I get to use are built on the pillars of mathematics. (The same applies to any graphics intense video games).

How do you use digital technologies in your job?

I use various software packages that help me in design and analysis. I also use digital technologies such as online tools to learn, train and communicate on a regular basis.

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

I would like to begin by debunking certain myths I believed when I was in junior school. I thought that a physicist dealt only with physics; a doctor only dealt with biology… so on and so forth. However, later in life I found it not to be true, there’s a whole network of subjects underlying any major field of science. Mathematics is the language physicists use to communicate all around the world, even doctors who studied cardiology used mathematics to find the angle at which various cholesterol molecules (Chemistry) attached to our organs.

I would urge students to develop a holistic approach while they learn Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry.  I would encourage them to use online video tutorial platforms (e.g. YouTube) to better understand concepts. Gone are the days you had to wait to go to class to learn about quantum mechanics!

If you are interested in the mining sector, I would recommend you talk to different people within the industry (it can be done via school/university contacts, LinkedIn etc). There are various engineering streams within the sector examples being environmental, geological, technical, planning, etc. You might find a certain stream more exciting than others.

On a lighter note, I’ll end with this: “The next trillionaire in the World is one who can mine the asteroids in our solar system…Interested?”

What are some of your interests outside work?

I have won two open-mic nights doing stand-up comedy, trust me I was surprised as well. I’m interested in learning what makes people laugh.