Certain industries have a harder time shaking off their image as male-dominated spheres than others. The mining industry is one of them.
At Freeport-McMoRan, though, women say their work experiences have been challenging, rewarding and ultimately well supported. The biggest indicator of that? The fact that after multiple years already spent at the Phoenix-based mining company, many women who work here have no intention of taking their career paths elsewhere.
We recently heard from three such women about what’s led them to call Freeport-McMoRan home for a combined 42 years. They also shared how they’ve advanced their careers and earned numerous promotions without switching companies, and their No. 1 piece of advice to other women who hope their next job opportunity comes with roots.
How long have you been with Freeport-McMoRan and what about it made you first want to join?
Fio Giana: I’ve been at Freeport-McMoRan for 14 years. I worked for the company as an intern in 2004 in Bagdad, Arizona, and I was able to see firsthand what my potential future could look like. When I started after school, I was a mine engineer and mine planner in Chino, New Mexico, working for the same person who had been my boss as an intern.
Hanna Steadman: I’ve been with the company for about three and a half years. During my sophomore year of college, I had an internship with Freeport-McMoRan at the corporate office and then another internship the following year in Morenci. The intern experience was really great, with awesome mentors. When I graduated, I was hired on full time.
Vicki Seppala: I joined 25 years ago. I had a college internship here, which was great, as well as scholastic scholarships. Freeport-McMoRan provided immediate and challenging work in my field.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at Freeport-McMoRan as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
Giana: I’ve been a mine planner for long-range planning, a dispatch engineer, a mine planner for mid-range planning, a short-range planner, a shift supervisor, a chief engineer, a haulage manager and a mine manager. Currently, I am the Crush and Convey Manager for the C2 concentrator, in Cerro Verde, our Peru operation. In my area, my team is responsible for the operation of two primary crushers and a crushing plant. Our main objective is crushing 280,000 tons a day, and we’ve been increasing our efficiencies and processes. We are constantly testing better and safer ways to do our work. It’s exciting, as we concentrate on continuous improvement.
Steadman: My first role was a metallurgist in the Crush and Convey department. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I learned so much about how the mining process impacts downstream and how the business is run. From there, I transitioned into operations in Crush Convey as a senior supervisor on shift work. Currently, I’m the Operations Senior Supervisor of the Moly/Filter Plants. In this role, I have four supervisors and crews reporting to me, and we’re in charge of the entire downstream process from the mills. This role is exciting because you get to collaborate with and learn from the maintenance, electrical and technical groups, all while working toward a common goal. My operations crews are so diverse, and seeing the teamwork and collaboration that happens across groups as we help each other grow and develop is extremely rewarding.
Seppala: I’ve been a geomechanical engineer, a blasting engineer and supervisor, a mine operations supervisor, a mine operations and maintenance superintendent, a mine technology manager, a mine manager, a mine resources manager, and Director of Health and Safety for North and South America. In my current role as General Manager of the Climax Mine near Leadville, Colorado, I am responsible for an entire mine site. I enjoy working with a great many talented professionals in all areas of our site business as well as with the community stakeholders.
A lot of people believe developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to advance in your career without job hopping?
Giana: I attribute a lot of my professional success to the network that I’ve built within the company. The things I’ve been able to accomplish are not just me – it’s my whole network, whether that’s peers, direct reports or bosses. I believe that Freeport-McMoRan, in particular, values the kind of work I do as well as valuing challenges and the desire of employees to keep growing. I want to be able to influence our company and our industry in a better and more efficient way.
Steadman: The biggest thing that’s allowed me to develop is management giving me the opportunity to jump into new roles when I expressed an interest in them. Here in Morenci, Arizona, the site is huge, and there is so much opportunity and room for growth that you could spend years here and still have many processes you know nothing about. When I felt like I was becoming stagnant in a role, I challenged myself to see what more I could learn. If I felt tapped out, I would reach out to my Tower lead (Tower is the career development program here) and have a candid conversation with them about my thoughts.
Seppala: I have a willingness to find the value in each position I’ve held and to focus on learning and performing well in each one, which has led to increased responsibility and new, interesting challenges.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at Freeport-McMoRan?
Giana: We have very, very strong leadership within Freeport-McMoRan, and I feel respected by the company. We have an open, honest and trusting relationship, and every time I’ve received feedback, whether positive or negative, it’s from a place of the company wanting me to succeed.
Steadman: The opportunities I’ve been given. The company has been really good about trusting me when I say I think I could be good at a job that I may not appear qualified for and letting me prove it to them. I’ve been given a lot of responsibility and every day is a challenge, but that’s what keeps it fun and rewarding.
Seppala: I enjoy the company and the business, and I feel that I make a difference.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Giana: It’s all about the people, someone once told me. You can have the best technology in the world, all the trucks and shovels, and the biggest concentrator in the world, but at the end of the day, if you manage people like machines, you’re going to get the same response.
Steadman: Ask lots of questions. If you don’t know something, someone else will, and they won’t think any less of you or your abilities for asking. It’s OK to not know everything. You’re not expected to, but it says a lot about a person if they’re willing to ask and learn.
Seppala: Remember that you are not alone. Reach out and network frequently with others. There are many who want to help you succeed.
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