employee stories

From a playground sandpit to an open pit mine - BHP

From a playground sandpit to an open pit mine - BHP

WORK180Apr 11, 2021

Karen Hogan’s career change is the perfect example to show anything is possible at any age. After spending almost two decades in the childcare industry, Karen swapped the playground sand pit to playing with real dirt and trucks at BHP. She started four years ago and is thriving in her new career.

“I’d never used hand tools before in my life”

We asked what motivated Karen to switch from childcare to mining because they seem like polar opposites. She shares it was almost an accident — which is where the best careers are usually!

Karen moved to Newman, a small mining town in Western Australia about fourteen years ago. She worked as a Childcare Centre Manager but knew deep down inside, she wanted to grow further in her career.

"Working as a Childcare Centre Manager was the most senior I could go. I wanted to do something for myself and a friend of mine told me about the opportunities at BHP. To be honest, working in mining never crossed my mind but I thought, ‘why not give it go’?"

Starting off as a Trainee Production Technician to now a full-time Process Technician, Karen says all her roles have been very interesting and exciting. Her current role involves setting up and operating production equipment, and performing maintenance on machinery including greasing equipment. Her role is very hands on which she loves.

It’s similar to childcare in the sense that you’re always moving around and it’s very hands on. I’m clocking up about 15 kilometres of walking a day. Sometimes the shifts are long but then you get days off, so the flexibility is definitely there.

“Many people do FIFO here. Some people do five days here and four days off. We have a residential village with about 7000 people. It’s incredibly supportive and flexible here. I get the chance to take my kids to school, volunteer in the fire brigade and also take part in the netball committee. In previous companies, I couldn’t do much of this.”

As Karen was sharing with us her responsibilities, we were actually surprised to learn that prior to joining BHP, she had never touched a hand tool before. It just goes to show the commitment to diversity BHP has when bringing in talent from all walks of life.

I’m doing things I’ve never done before in my life. I’ve never used hand tools in my life. I’ve never looked inside a car before. Eighteen months ago, I did a step-up role as the second in charge to the supervisor. I learnt more about the office roles and participated in important meetings.

We loved hearing about Karen’s stretch assignments. She feels BHP is really a place that sees potential and possibilities.


“They’re very supportive of your career and development here. They see potential in you before you do! I’ve been on a few secondments. It gives you a valuable insight into different roles and business areas.”

Outside of her usual role, Karen takes an active role in promoting mental health and wellness at BHP.

I’m part of the mental wellness committee. BHP put us through a training course delivered by a psychologist. The training equipped us with conversation points and also contacts to refer onto when needed. We also organise regular BBQs through this committee to help bring that team spirit and to unwind if needed.

Karen feels very much a sense of belonging here. She says it is a place that will bring out the best in you.

“Anybody out there that wants to consider a career at BHP, do it! They make you be the best version of yourself. It’s like a family here to me. BHP has opened my eyes to new skills and learning. They make you take ownership of your learning and development. It gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.”

A life-changing role

It’s remarkable to hear how a change in career can dramatically improve confidence and self-esteem. Karen’s story just shows anything is possible if you are willing to give things a go.

Age is no barrier. You can make a career change in your 40’s if you like – I did. I now have high self-esteem. I feel like I can try anything without being fearful. I’m now more confident than ever and this role has changed my life.

Originally from Victoria, Karen lives in Newman with her husband and children. She’s proud to work for BHP who she says has contributed a lot to the community.

We asked what was next on the cards for Karen. She says she would like to take on a leadership role and is exploring a certificate in training and assessment. We are confident that the next time we catch up with her, she will be leading a team!

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About the author



WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.

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