Developing Your Mining Career: an Interview with James Lachlan Miller

eDLHCtzRR0yfFtU0BQar_sylwiabartyzel_themap

As part of the  “Developing Your Mining Career” program, a career development program delivered in partnership with AusIMM’s New Professionals Committee and Floreat Consulting Australia, we are publishing a series of interviews with mining professionals who are having outstanding careers. Thank you to Spiro Pippos for conducting these interviews on behalf of the New Professionals Committee. 

James Lachlan Miller
  1. Please give a short overview of your career and describe your current role

I worked for Anglo American for 6 years across 3 continents where I worked in operations, project management, corporate planning and business improvement roles. My most recent position was as the Lead Process Engineer for a Greenfield niobium mine development in central Brazil. Currently I am completing an MBA at the London Business School with a view of moving into management consulting or private equity.

  1. What has had the largest positive impact on your career progression to support you in reaching your current role?

The advice and support of mentors, both academic and personnel. Mentors can provide a high-resolution external opinion on one’s career path. This advice has been particularly useful when provided by those who have walked in my shoes.

  1. What has been the largest challenge to your career progression? 

When performing at a high-level in your role, it is only natural that the immediate business unit will like you to stay where you are. Sometimes the interests of your company will conflict with your long-term interests. For this reason I found it critical always to be the master of your own progression and not expect the company to do it on your behalf.

  1. What surprised you about the work when you first moved into a role managing people? (if you have managed people)

People management is infinitely more difficult than technical problems. A technical challenge frequently has a clear answer. If it’s not known, there is always a book or theorem you can rely on to assist you. People are unique, however, and there needs, desires and motivations need to be clearly understood before you can expect to leverage their support.

  1. What is your advice to people starting out in their careers in the Mining sector?

The mining sector will always be cyclical, so agility is paramount. Don’t get pigeon holed and always have an alternative sector or role function to pivot to for when the cycle next hits its bottom!

  1. Can you tell us about how your network has supported and assisted your career along the way?

Nearly everything I have achieved professionally was through the support of my colleagues (specifically my managers and immediate team members).

  1. What are three interesting careers that you have seen your colleagues do or are aspiring to do?

Work in an investment house, consulting on the acquisition and disposal of mining assets in Switzerland.

Develop a software business providing customised geological mapping tools for resources (who shortly thereafter sold the aforementioned business to retire 20 years earlier than planned)

Work for an NGO as an operational planner in southern Africa, after leaving his career with the same role at a major mining firm.