Growing up in North Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands, Engineering Manager Lydia Gentle, never expected she would achieve the career she has today – leading teams across the world, becoming an OAM Medallist and overseeing all mining equipment for the world’s largest exporter of seaborne metallurgical coal – BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA).
Recently, Lydia delivered the keynote address at the 2019 World Engineers Convention in Melbourne, where she spoke about her professional experiences as well as the important role of engineers in achieving workplace inclusion.
“Engineering wasn’t something I was initially interested in when I was growing up,” Lydia said.
“My parents migrated from Italy in the 1960s to work on sugar cane farms, and as they’d both had limited reading and writing skills, it wasn’t a career I knew much about or had ever considered before.”
With a talent for maths and an encouraging local teacher, Lydia soon moved to Townsville and worked three jobs to support herself through her engineering degree.
“While I loved my degree, my first day was quick a shock when I walked into a lecture and realised I one of about 10 females in a sea of 200 men!”
“Although it was a bit confronting, as I’d come from quite balanced primary and high schools, I was determined to not let it stop me and I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve been able to achieve.”
“Engineering has taken me all over the world and I’ve been able to work on some amazing projects that have really tested my skills both as an engineer and as a leader.”
Lydia has worked on multiple continents, across different industries and on a range of commodities in the past 15 years.
“I’ve worked in engineering design, construction, mining, worked on buildings over 700 years old, worked in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where I grounded barges on seabed floors to pile from – but I always challenged everything," Lydia said.
“I have become successful in my career, not because I was striving to be someone different, but because I realised I was different and that I had different ideas, experiences and skills to offer,”
Lydia went on to demonstrate how the work of engineers has led to more inclusive workplaces at BHP, highlighting the need to uncover and deliver new equipment and ways of working.
“While mining and engineering has come a long way, many of our advances have been driven my strength and bigger equipment, combined with most physical and manual tasks.”
“At BHP we’re constantly looking at ways we can engineer out these manual tasks – to not only make our people safer, but to ensure that anyone – regardless of their gender or strength – can do the task.”