Alanna Dennien, a second-year Diesel Technician Apprentice at our Gladstone branch, who has recently been accepted for a keenly contested place in the 2017 Women in Mining and Resources Queensland mentoring program.
Sponsored by BHP, the Queensland Resources Council/WIMARQ Mentoring Program was created to meet proven demand for formal mentoring from the rising number of women working in Queensland's minerals and energy sectors.The six-month program aims to support professional mentees through career guidance and direction by sharing mentor/mentee experiences, developing career goals and forging exceptional mentoring partnerships.
Alanna had originally started working for Komatsu in 2011 as a parts interpreter/customer service representative (CSR) at Gladstone, a position she held until 2013, before moving to Thiess Contractors as a Maintenance Planner.
She returned to Komatsu in 2015 again as a CSR, before successfully applying for the company's 2016 apprentice intake as an adult apprentice.
In addition to her apprenticeship, she is studying for a Graduate Diploma in Asset and Maintenance Management through Central Queensland University and is about three-quarters of the way through this course.
Alanna had applied to do the WIMARQ program in her own time and at her own expense, but upon hearing of her application, Gladstone branch manager John Davison recommended that the company fund and support her participation if she was successful.
"We are delighted that Alanna has been accepted for the WIMARQ mentoring program," said John.
"She is a real asset to the company, putting in a lot of work herself after-hours with her diploma to develop her knowledge and expertise, and now applying for this mentoring program.
"She has real potential for a great future with Komatsu; once her trade is finished and, once she's done a few years as a fitter, she could move up to higher level support and sales roles," he said.
And with Komatsu's Promoting Diversity program including a commitment to increase its female workforce population to 20% by 2020, assisting enthusiastic and committed female employees in working towards achieving their career goals helps reach this target.
According to Alanna, she had always had an interest "in how machines and components work and how they fit together", something which prompted her to start off doing maintenance work for a crane hire company in her home town of Biloela when she left school.
She then made the move to Gladstone when she was offered the position of CSR with Komatsu.
"After working for Komatsu and Thiess, and with incredible opportunities and support from managers, I found myself interested in maintenance planning and management," said Alanna.
"I decided I needed to do a trade or an engineering degree to learn what I wanted to learn to create my desired career, and doing a trade was the best option for me.
"Once I finish my apprenticeship in another two years, I would like to continue diesel fitting for a while to learn a lot more.
"Eventually I want to get back into a planning role, as a maintenance planner or project manager and continue on to become a maintenance superintendent and manager, essentially working in mining or the heavy equipment industry, though I'd be happy working anywhere in Australia," she said.
Following her first 2017 WIMARQ mentoring session in Brisbane in early June, Alanna described the program as "awesome".
"It was pretty mindblowing to meet all these other women in this industry.
"WIMARQ organiser Ali Burston pointed out that we probably had never been in a room with so many girls from our industry and that was exactly right," she said.
"Having said that, I was one of only two tradespeople in the room; the other was an electrician. Most of the others are in engineering or HR roles."
Alanna's mentor is an operations superintendent working on a Queensland minesite for a major mining company.
"She is just great; she's been in the industry about 25 years, and she was a WIMARQ mentor last year, working with a fourth-year diesel apprentice, so I reckon she's a perfect match for me.
"Over the six months of the program, we aim to make contact every three weeks working around our schedules and shift rosters talking through things for about an hour each time.
"As part of the program, we've been asked to set six short-term goals, over the next one to three years, and four long-term goals out over three to five years.
"We set these goals ourselves, and our mentor coaches us and gives us strategies and tips for achieving them," said Alanna.
The initial meeting in Brisbane was also an opportunity to network with the other 60-plus women participating.
"They really encourage us to network together, using LinkedIn, Facebook or just talking or meeting, so I swapped a lot of phone numbers that night.
"This is an opportunity for us all to make some good, long-lasting friendships in this industry."
Originally Alanna was going to fund herself in the WIMARQ program but then Komatsu actually offered her assistance.
"When I happened to mention this at work, they asked for more information, then offered to fund me. So that was a pretty good outcome for me," she said.
"Komatsu is a very good company to work for; I find everyone is great to work with, and the guys are all really supportive of my apprenticeship and my being in the workshop and in the field."
And while she is a supporter of the company's diversity program, she believes that increasing female participation should not be its sole aim.
"I don't believe we should just be focussing on reaching a certain percentage of women in the industry; instead we should be focussing on changing the mindset of gender norms that has been imbedded in society for years starting in the workplace," said Alanna.
According to Francesca Vechi, Komatsu Australia's Transition and Change Manager, Komatsu's diversity strategy is very much aligned with Alanna's goals.
"This strategy aims to build an inclusive environment where people from diverse backgrounds and experiences feel they can wholly contribute.
"This includes removing biases including the mindset of gender norms," Francesca said.
Alanna's attitude is that by encouraging every person to achieve their greatest and to do what they love, will bring the best employee to a position "because at the end of the day, it's not about being a male or female it's about what skills you bring.
"I believe anyone can do what they set their minds to, and hopefully I'm making a contribution towards breaking that barrier," Alanna said.