240212_Raf story

A sense of belonging

Rafael Fernandez, better known as Raf, moved to Perth from Singapore in 2000 with his family. Despite growing up in a multi-cultural country and family with a Chinese mother and an Indian father, interestingly Raf felt more at home in Perth.

Perth was very welcoming, and he excelled in school, completing his tertiary education in Geo Physics. He later joined BHP in February 2012 as a graduate, securing 1 out of 130 coveted roles in the graduate intake and this is where he experienced the same sense of belonging, inclusion and respect. 

“I see myself as a BHP-lifer! I’ve been given many development and leadership opportunities, for example, attending the Melbourne Business School as part of the graduate program,” he muses. 

Over his 13-year career, Raf has risen to the many challenges offered to him. This included seven years as a FIFO team member where he developed his expertise in mining and appreciated the routine and discipline at site. His roles as an Exploration Geo Physicist, Exploration/Mine Geologist, 24-hour Mining Scheduler and now Mining Production Supervisor reflect his curiosity and desire to constantly learn and develop.

While working as a 24-hour Mining Scheduler, he was able to make a significant difference as he saw an opportunity to develop a scheduling tool and improve productivity. He led a program to build this and a testament to its success is that all sites in WAIO now use this tool.

“While I was working on this Mine Scheduling tool, I worked closely with the sites and realised that mining was my passion. I wanted to find an opportunity to work at South Flank as I believe it best represents what BHP stands for,” he says.

When asked what exactly that means, he was quick to respond with the following “South Flank are trail blazers in embracing a culture that supports diversity. I feel respected and heard by my leaders and peers, and every shift I feel that I can bring my whole self to work. We aren’t far off reaching a gender-balanced workforce, where currently 38% of our workforce representation is women. Our approach to reach this milestone has been deliberate and is just one example of many how the folks at South Flank are creating an inclusive culture, that truly values diversity.”

During his time at BHP, he has never felt discriminated against. He did, however, admit that sometimes looking younger than his years, could be problematic. But his depth of experience quickly dispels any reservations about his capabilities.

“Raf has an engaging energy and leadership style,” shares Jamie Bennett, Head of WAIO Engineering Operations. “His experience gives him a unique perspective and that, matched with his curiosity, has encouraged us to push our boundaries on what is possible. His concern for others and can-do attitude, empowers him and those around him.”

Raf reflects that BHP has changed over the past decade, and all for the better. He shares, “when I first joined, management was very much top-down.  Now, accountability and ownership is being pushed down the line, which makes for more efficient, effective and satisfying work.”