Developing Your Mining Career: an Interview with Adam Hearne

The New Professionals Committee of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and Floreat Consulting Australia are giving new professional members of AusIMM ways to develop their careers through a new program Developing Your Mining Career.

Through a series of interactive online modules, career success stories (like Adam Hearne’s below!) and other events and activities, Developing Your Mining Career supports young mining professionals make the most of their potential.

This week, AusIMM member Spiro Pippos talks to Adam Hearne about his career and his advice to other aspiring mining professionals.


 Please give a short overview of your career and describe where you are looking to head post MBA

The mining and commodities sector has an abundance of career opportunities. I started out at Rio Tinto on their graduate program in 2007. I had 3 rotations on the grad program before I found my career preference and started getting promoted through the ranks. My first major role was to assist in process improvements around the organisation. That role lead to many other opportunities and I had a chance to see the different parts of a mining company.

Post my London Business School MBA I would like to move in to a senior project management role. I would like to work on projects that can deliver step change improvements to profit and production. The future of mining rests heavily on evolving operations to the next level. Mining has achieved a lot so far by scaling everything up. Bigger mines, bigger trucks, bigger ships, more processing capacity. The future now depends on utilising technology and developing assets in some of the most challenging geographies. Mining can be smarter, more automated and more sustainable. We need talented individuals to be part of an industry that can offer so much to the future as it grows to meet the world’s growing demand for resources.

What has had the largest positive impact on your career progression to support you reach your position?

The largest positive impact on my career progression has come from a handful of mentors that have always been available for guidance and direction. You need people that you can trust for an opinion when it counts. A great mentor once told me to always think two jobs ahead and develop yourself accordingly.

What has been the largest challenge to your career progression?

The largest challenge to my career progression was ​when the global financial crisis hit and many projects were paused or put on hold. Priorities shifted from rapid expansion, to cost cutting. Morale can drop quickly when uncertainty hits. Like any boom and bust cycle, there is a lot to be gained by riding out the tough times and making the most of the recovery period. There is always work for great people. Take it upon yourself to be flexible and optimistic when these challenges arise.

What surprised you about the work when you first moved into a role managing people?

It surprised me how satisfying it was to see my team members succeed and get praise. I recall the first occasion where I got a phone call from another supervisor about the great work done by one of my junior team members. That moment is hard to forget and it doesn’t get any better than that as a leader!

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

Starting out I would say build one or two skills that help you stand out in a team and deliver value. Make it your highest priority to add value to your immediate setting whatever it may be. Once you are a solid contributor in your team, extend your potential by understanding the culture of the environment you operate in. You will have many doors open for you once people notice that you can work in a variety of settings and still achieve outstanding results.

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

Networking with a purpose is underrated in the mining industry. I owe most of my key successes to opportunities that started in my network. People have helped me keep a good sense of career direction as I’ve moved from one challenge to the next. Sometimes you just need to have a coffee with someone who can give you a fresh perspective on what you are working on. I’ve also found that a network can help you navigate a large organisation. For example, the graduate program was a great chance to meet a cross-section of the organisation and build a network for long-term success. Years after the graduate program, I was able to reach out to people at headquarters, or at a site, and get support or guidance.

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

Three interesting careers/roles I’ve seen are:​

  1. Diamond marketing and sales: The people that I’ve seen work in this area have such a valuable product and subsequently such a lot of pressure to get their sales and marketing strategy right. I would highly recommend working in this area if you wanted to learn more about pricing and channel strategy.
  2. Chief of technology projects: There is a lot of innovation happening in mining due to technology that has really matured in the last decade. A colleague in this role has been involved with a world leading implementation of driverless trucks. The fleet managed to achieve a supervising ratio of 1 supervisor to 18 trucks. Now that department is looking externally for greater innovation opportunities.
  3. Internal strategy consultant: There are endless opportunities for an aspiring consultant in a large diversified mining company. There is an abundance of operational problems to tackle, as well as forward-looking strategy to define.