Women of McKay: Meet Mel Andersen

Meet Melanie Andersen. McKay Drilling’s first female relief driller and Relief Driller of the Year 2020.

Mel joined the McKay Drilling team as a Drillers Assistant 1 in March 2019. Already having some experience and all the pre-requisite training requirements, it was only a week later that Mel was on her first flight to our most remote site, Winu. From there, she was quickly promoted to Drillers Assistant 2 in June 2019. She demonstrated strong attributes, a desire to progress through her willingness to learn, and leadership skills, as such Mel was promoted to Relief Driller in August 2020.

Phil Sutton, one of Mel’s first supervisors at McKay and Winu, recalls Mel being a standout in the Diamond space. “Mel’s work-ethic was of a high standard that superseded the majority of other Drillers Assistant 2’s on-site. She was often the go-to for new starters as her teaching style was very open and comprehensive. She managed it well and was a really good judge of character when it came to looking at people’s strengths and weaknesses” Phil says. “She came on board with some previous experience and stood out amongst her crew, which placed her in somewhat of a line to get time on the levers. However, she continued to work hard towards her goal and that’s what got her to where she is today. Herself.”

Mel is an incredible advocate for the industry and people, especially women and young girls, pursuing their dreams. Phil, now a Superintendent at McKay Drilling, says “Both inside and outside of work Mel holds her own and is happy to speak up and call people out on issues. She fits right it and really breaks the typical “gender stereotypes” in the industry.”

It’s been a year since Mel was interviewed and shared the start of her drilling journey with Tanya at Magnetic People and has since achieved many accomplishments, personally and professionally. She has also become McKay Drilling’s first female Relief Driller and our 2020 Relief Driller of the year. So, we thought we’d touch base and see how the last year has been for Mel.

Firstly – How does it feel being Relief Driller of the year for 2020?!!!!

Absolutely phenomenal. It is one of the most important awards I have received in my life purely because of the fact that it is voted on by the entire company. Having the approval and support of my peers is a main focus of my career. Now that I have achieved this my next goal is to win diamond driller of the year, however many years away that may be.

When you first started, you were told there was a negative attitude towards women in the drilling industry. Do you feel that stigma and stereotype has changed/been removed/improving?

Now that I have been in the industry for a few years I feel like that attitude is definitely a minority in terms of viewpoints. Almost 100% of the men I have worked with over my career are great guys. They all have mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters and have no issue working with women.

I only started a few years ago but the drilling industry is an adaptive one with constant changes in not only tech and machinery but in the crews ways of looking at things. The crews deserve 100% credit for being so open-minded and welcoming to anyone who is willing to put in a day’s work.

Following on from there above, if there are still any stereotypes & stigma surrounding women in drilling (and mining), how do you think we could overcome them?

There is definitely a new wave of stigma around women in the mining and drilling industry and unfortunately in my opinion the very practices put in to remove it are the ones doing the harm.

It is a common practice nowadays for employers to meet “gender quota’s” the root of this incentive is done to help initiate the change in representation, however telling an employer they must have a certain percentage of women working for them is harmful to women like me who are already in the industry. I do not want a single person looking at me and thinking ‘she is only on the drill stand because she is a chick.’

I know it is not true, but with these quotas, I feel like a lot of women joining the industry will be discouraged as that is what will cause a lot of conflicts when it comes to moving up the chain. The only way to change these viewpoints is not by hiring people based on gender, but by people being hired and succeeding off their own merit, and only then with stereotypes change. I worked hard to get to where I am and I feel that these actions are discrediting not only my effort but the effort of other women.

Thinking back to the start of your career in the drilling industry to now; who or what has inspired you to succeed?

My family is without a doubt been my main inspiration. Both of my parents worked extremely hard during my childhood and it instilled work ethic into my brother and I. I have to admit that when it specifically comes to succeeding in the industry, I did inherit a severe case of competitiveness from my family and it drives me to not only one day be an excellent diamond driller, but to be regarded as one of the best.

What qualities do you feel define a good leader? And; as a leader yourself, what do you think makes you a good leader?

Last year I learned a lot about what being a leader means and I was pretty shocked at how bad I was at it if I am being honest. I now realise that a good leader doesn’t always lead, but instead listens and supports new ideas/growth. I have realised the importance behind each person in the crew and a good leader will view each person as a useful asset both individually and how their strengths can help the group.

What about yourself makes you proud?

I’m very proud of how far I have come in the industry, to be able to call myself a relief driller at all let alone McKay’s first female in the role. Personally, I’m proud of where the industry has led me in my personal life, I’m doing a job I love in an industry I love, while preparing to buy my first house. Life is peachy.

As a woman in a very male-dominated industry – do you have any advice for younger girls and females entering the drilling & mining industry?

The best advice I can give is to try your hardest, if things aren’t going your way or if you feel like your gender is holding you back then stop, reassess, and ask yourself is there anything you can do differently, most of the time positive change starts at your home base and you are in control of it.

In terms of new offsiders, however, the best advice is as true for women as it is for men;

Keep your tools clean.

There’s always something that needs to be done.

If you look after the gear, the gear will look after you.

To read more about Mel’s journey to becoming a Driller and her impressive fishing skills, click here: https://magneticpeople.com.au/celebrating-greater-female-participation-in-the-drilling-industry/

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