Tag Archives: career development plan

Developing Your Mining Career: an Interview with Spencer Davey

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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. In this second post in the series we speak to Spencer Davey. Thank you to Spiro Pippos for conducting these interviews on behalf of the New Professionals Committee. 

Spencer Davey

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

In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to experience vastly different perspectives in mining & metals. I consider myself a mining professional, having acquired a broad set of experiences as an engineer, a management consultant, and most recently in corporate finance and business development. I’ve mostly been Perth based, but have worked extensively through both remote and metro areas of Australia, and also through-out the Asia Pacific region.

I studied a double degree in Mechatronics Engineering and Finance – and while I did work as an engineer for a couple of years, the plan was always to move into a more commercial role as that is where my passion laid. I saw management consulting as a great opportunity to “fast track” that career move, and it did. I had no intention of becoming a partner in a management consultancy, but I used the role to build skills in strategy and commercial acumen, financial analysis, communication skills, and general management skills.

I moved “in-house” to Fortescue Metals Group when a role became available for a Senior Financial Analyst. I jumped at the chance, because at the time Fortescue was the Cinderella story of Western Australia, and was going through a US$10bn expansion of its operations. It was also run by colourful and high profile mining captains of industry, whom I thought I could learn from if I ever decided to be part of a new mining development one day.

The role at Fortescue did not disappoint. I was exposed to the corporate world of mining, and I had the opportunity to work on multi-billion debt restructuring, billion dollar equity transactions, and my travel took me from the remote operations of Fortescue to the head offices of bulge bracket investment banks and legal firms in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.

Post MBA, I’m looking to move into Private Equity with a mining focus. Due to its speculative nature, mining was traditionally an industry that was avoided by private equity. However, in recent years, a number of high profile global mining leaders have left their executive positions and have raised an aggregate of US$50bn to invest in the industry, to take advantage of depressed commodity prices and valuations. For me, I find this an exciting time and would love to part of the next wave of investment into the industry.

2. 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 was being involved in a US$1.15bn cross-border transaction between Fortescue Metals Group, and Taiwan based Formosa Plastics Group. This transaction provided the initial funds to develop a 5.2bt magnetite asset in remote Western Australia, and first ore on ship is expected in 2015! The experience on this transaction exposed to international business and negotiation, and the root-source of capital financing for large scale mining projects.

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

The largest challenge for me was the transition from a technical based, engineering role, to the commercial based, management consulting role. The transition required a huge investment in time on my part, to “get up to speed”. Further, making a career change meant that I took a substantial pay cut, by essentially starting again from the bottom.

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

The thing that surprised me when I moved into a position of actually managing people was the difficulty in letting go of doing the work. I found it very difficult to delegate, and this was an issue on my part in wanting to control the outcome.

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

My advice would be to take an active interest in all the aspects of your mining company. Mining is a great industry, as it brings together a tremendous diversity of professionals – everything from trades, geologists, engineers, accountants, lawyers, blue-collar, white-collar… if you think of a mining company, almost every type of career of job imaginable is represented in some way! So, as a younger person starting out, leverage this opportunity to learn from this diversity. Everyone has a different perspective, and your career development will benefit from learning from all these perspectives.

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

Networking is by far one of the most important skills to have for career development. My role at Fortescue came about through a call from an ex-colleague, and my progress through Fortescue (I got promoted to Business Development Manager after 18 months) was a direct result of networking through the business itself.

Networking is what creates the “luck” in your career, and ensures that you’re in the “right place at the right time”.

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

Head of sales and marketing, Fortescue Metals Group
This individual is in charge of the marketing and sale of 155 mtpa of Iron Ore, translating into over US$10bn in sales annually. David has to navigate the intricacies of managing Australia-China relations, and conduct business and negotiations between two very different cultures, in a commodity that is very significant for the economies of both nations

GM Business Development, Fortescue Metals Group
As the Head of Business Development, this individual needs to work across a very wide range of activities and issues, including multi-billion dollar transactions, litigation, internal cost optimisation and corporate strategy. In this role he reports directly to the CEO of Fortescue, and has to deal with all types of stakeholders, including State Members of Parliament, regulatory bodies, heads of global heads of corporations, and advisors.

Head of Mining – KPMG
This individual founded a management consulting practice called Momentum Partners. In ten years it grew to be one of Australia’s largest independent management consultancies, and was most recently acquired by KPMG. This individual is now is the national lead for Mining Consultancy in Australia.

Unconventional Tips for Your Career Development

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At this time of year, many of us are spending time deliberately reflecting. You might be looking at the year that’s just passed and wondering if this year is the time to make a Big Career Move or even a small career move. To that end, below are just some things I’ve found useful.

The reason I call these “unconventional” is that the tips below are meant to be the start of a conversation – a way to open up thinking and discussion. But often career advice puts the career advisor in the “expert” role: someone with the answers. But in many cases, that dynamic doesn’t work. Why? You are the expert on your own career – you probably have the capacity for all the answers you’ll ever need, and so career ‘advice’ should be very heavily focused on listening, asking questions, reframing, challenging and supporting. And if it’s really good, it will feel like you are getting practical breakthroughs and self-generated energy to keep pursuing your own career development in a way that seriously matters to you. Career development done well doesn’t just brighten up a day or a week. It fires a person’s will to succeed in whatever they choose for years.

But I digress…

You may not think any of these are unconventional – that’s good news! You might be using many of these already. *Please add more if you can think of others.*

Have another look at your resume

Discover the patterns in your skills, experience and achievements. In many resumes I’ve seen there are actually several careers just waiting to be released e.g. if you’ve been in sales, you would have also done a lot of work in training…what does a training resume look like?

Doing this could reveal that you are nowhere near as “trapped” as you think and could inspire you to take a leap into further training and development. Even better, do this with another trusted person if you can – all of us (me included!) forget or miss things in their own experience that should be brought to light in their resume (or are best forgotten!)

What is your career purpose?

This is complex and worth plenty of thought. What is it that you really want to do in your career? Does it fire you up? If it doesn’t you’re not alone, but you’ve got work to do. There’s no perfect career or job or manager or organisation. Stop looking!

But almost always there is a purpose for your career that is better aligned to you.

Don’t settle for something that isn’t right.  You might be in marketing and your career goal could be to be a better marketer. Why? What is it about marketing that really drives you? What is the most interesting, compelling thing you do in marketing that keeps you back at work and gives you a sense of control and satisfaction? Is it writing really, really good copy? Is it choosing just the right images and colours to reinforce your message? Is it the opportunity to talk and listen to lots of people?

Now that you have a good handle on what you really enjoy doing, what does that mean for you and your career purpose?

Just for a moment, forget your sector or profession 

Some professions have such a strong culture that once you’re in it’s hard to see yourself as anything other than a _________.

Of course you’re not just a _________. You’re lots of things, but many of us can feel that we need a box. Some people also enjoy boxing up others too. I had a relative once bail me up at a family gathering with the opening question “now what box can I put you in son?” I won’t say how I responded….(but we are still friends).

So if you can get past all the detritus, consider instead the level of complexity of work that you have enjoyed most in your career to date and what have you found the least enjoyable. By complexity I’m talking – very roughly – about the extent to which your work is affected by variables and the timespan that you expect to complete it. Some of us enjoy completing set tasks with little room to manoeuvre, others like creating work from scratch. Complexity is an essential nature of your work – an analogous level of complexity can invariably be found across a lot of different industries. For example, you might like the challenge of designing and implementing a marketing plan for 2015/16. Along with some skill development, the same cognitive ability you used doing that could be used to design a learning and development plan, or a recruitment plan….And of course if you understand the level of complexity that you are comfortable with and enjoy, you can then seek opportunities for more of the same.