When Katrina Sklavos shared with us the ins and outs of her role as an Engineering Project Manager at BHP, we imagined she had a decade of engineering experience behind her.
We were surprised to learn she had only been at BHP for three years and started out as a graduate. Katrina’s career has truly accelerated in just a few years thanks to the support, mentorship and opportunities she has received. One of the biggest career lessons for her (spoiler alert) is to challenge your own beliefs and assumptions — because you never know if you don’t give it a go!
Broadening the horizon as a project manager
Katrina started at BHP on the graduate program and rotated between the engineering and maintenance departments. It was the first time she had ever been on a mine site before and she was instantly captivated by the big machinery and exciting projects.
It was my first time on a mine site and it’s been amazing to learn about the profession. It was a steep learning curve at first but I was lucky to get involved in the running of so many projects.
We asked Katrina what inspired her to get into engineering and mining. She says her uncle is also a mechanical engineer who loves what he does for work. His success was a big influence on Katrina choosing this career path. He was a sounding board for her when she was studying at university. There are many different pathways in engineering and the lesson Katrina learnt was to keep her options open.
“I thought I wanted to study electrical or biomedical engineering at University. However I choose an ‘undecided’ discipline path in in my first year at uni which gave me a great overview of all the disciplines, and I realised that I loved mechanical engineering.”
Katrina is now a Project Manager in a site-based Engineering team at BHP. She has a big responsibility on her hands but she loves it!
I am involved with each project from start to finish. As an example, it could be something like upgrading gearboxes or making operational and structural upgrades to machinery such as stackers/reclaimers or draglines. I am involved in the problem framing at initiation and work through the design phases. Later I work with the supervisor during construction to bring the design to life.
Katrina works with multiple stakeholders to come up with the best outcomes for each project.
Enjoying flexibility, food and footy
Mining is a unique and fascinating work environment, so we asked what it was like to work there. Katrina shares her experiences working at BHP’s two coal mines in Queensland — Peak Downs and Caval Ridge Mine.
My first role was at Peak Downs. It was a good learning experience and introduction to the mining world. I’m now at the Caval Ridge mine and I really enjoy working here. The mix of people here are great and it is very diverse.
Karina says her work is challenging yet rewarding, and she has a friendly team.
“My team plays touch football fortnightly in camp and we occasionally eat dinner at the local pub and restaurants. The culture at Caval Ridge Mine is great and there are lots of women. I am onsite every week from Tuesday to Friday. The workdays are long but it means I have a shorter week and have a long weekend all the time.”
When Katrina is not working onsite, she spends time outdoors. She is an avid rock climber and loves camping on weekends if the weather is good. When she is at home in Brisbane, she loves to attend to her impressive collection of indoor plants. We couldn’t help but notice a beautiful and exotic Monstera indoor plant in the background (which is all the rage at the moment) and her gorgeous golden Labrador by her side.
A bright future ahead
We asked Katrina what her career plans were and what she wanted to do next. She was happy to share her ambitions.
BHP focuses a lot on our development plan and what we want to do. I want to become a Chartered Engineer which is recognised throughout the world. I’ve also enrolled to go back to university to complete a graduate certificate in sustainable energy, and hope to make a positive impact on the world by combining this with my engineering background.
We ended the conversation by asking Katrina to share any career advice and words of wisdom for anyone wishing to have a stellar career. She says:
- Always ask for feedback: “When I started as a graduate, I wasn’t given a lot of feedback on my work performance. At university, it was all about performance grades and assignments which provide you with regular feedback. In the working world, it’s definitely different and you have to always ask for feedback because you don’t get it straight away like you would with exams and assignments.”
- You might enjoy it: “Sometimes you’ll enjoy something you think you wouldn’t. Put your hand up for everything. I didn’t think I would get into mining but it’s actually very interesting. Challenge your own beliefs about what you like and don’t like. You’ll be surprised!”
- Do your best to network: “It’s important to be visible which is why I attend networking events outside of mining, such as the University of Queensland Women in Engineering Breakfast. Form strong networks at work as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help. I have a pretty good network across all departments now.”
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