NAME: Dave Eden
CURRENT TITLE: Senior Manager, Technical Services with a gold mining company
AREA OF EXPERTISE: International gold mining. I work in the geology department of corporate Technical Services, where I manage the preparation of mineral resource and reserve statements, which are basically estimates of how much gold is in the ground at our mines. Another large part of my job is to edit, write and project manage the preparation of multi-disciplinary technical reports on our properties.
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 18
EDUCATION: My undergraduate degree is in Geological Engineering and I have an M.Sc. in Geology and an MBA.
What’s your job like?
My job is in the corporate head office, but I also travel to our mine sites a few times per year. My work is very people focussed, with a lot of time spent ensuring that the right people get the right information when they need it. I need to understand a range of technical and business topics to ensure that our reports and other documents are accurate and clearly presented. I regularly talk with people from different departments in the head office, with people at our mines, and with technical consultants, mostly geologists and mining engineers.
When I travel to sites, it’s for a specific reason such as gathering information to go into a report, as part of a technical audit, or to share information with people at the sites. A lot can be accomplished remotely, but sometimes face to face contact is essential for effective communication. To do my job effectively it’s also important that I’m familiar with the geology and operations at our sites, the people who work there, and the challenges they face.
What’s a typical day like?
A typical day for me would start with informal discussions with colleagues about current priorities and whether there are any new issues we need to be concerned about. Typically there are a few scheduled meetings, sometimes with just one or two colleagues, sometimes with a large group working on a multi-disciplinary project. I might get a question from someone about a table in a published report, which would lead me to do some calculations and checks on others’ work, then share the results. Usually the office hours are fairly regular, but sometimes there are crunches for report deadlines, and I’ll need to do some serious evening and weekend work. Fortunately, I can keep engaged during those times because I see the importance of it to the company, and the diverse nature of geological, engineering, and business information I need to work with keeps it interesting.
Mining is a fascinating business, with challenges arising from the inherent uncertainty of geological information and operating a global company with mines in remote places. Trips to sites to see the rocks and equipment, and meet the people, are always a high point for me. I love looking at maps.
Presenting technical information to a non-technical audience is a big challenge and a major part of my job, but a challenge that I enjoy very much. Working across different languages and cultures is inherently challenging, but I find it amazing that so often I am working with colleagues from different continents but we work together very well, sharing a common passion for the mining industry and a motivation to improve how we do things.
What’s your advice to students?
For student jobs and early career jobs, try to get as much diversity as possible in the type of work you do. This helps you learn more and avoid getting “labelled” as only capable of doing a certain kind of work. It’s especially important to spend lots of time in the field. All else being equal, take field based jobs early in your career. You might get into something more office oriented later in your career, but the perspective from spending time with drill rigs and doing geological mapping will always be beneficial.
Think very carefully about graduate school. Seek projects that will develop the skills and knowledge you want for your career. Sometimes professors have very narrow projects that support a particular research agenda, but it may not be the best or most enriching learning opportunity. Talk to former students of graduate supervisors. If a lot of them seem to have taken a year or more longer than it normally takes to finish the degree, that’s a red flag. Especially if you are focussed on industry, you want to do your graduate degree in a reasonable time frame, learn a lot, but then move on with your life.
Keep in mind that there are two basic career tracks in geology, as with many professions: the technical expert and the manager. For the first few years you don’t need to decide, but sooner or later it’s good to choose what your focus is. If your focus is technical expertise, you will probably need an M.Sc. or Ph.D. You should know that some organizations don’t value technical experts and the only way to get promotions and pay increases is to go into a supervisory job that you may not like, one that would take you away from your scientific passion. In that case, try to work in academia, consulting or for a large company that can afford, and that values, technical specialists.
If you are interested in the supervisory track, try to get experiences that involve coordinating and communicating with others, such as field work with drillers, surveyors, and other geologists. Having to exercise “lateral influence” will give you a feel for what management is like and to see if you enjoy it. Also, it will be valuable experience to set you up for future promotion to a supervisory job.