International Women in Mining Profile: Carlota David-Howoses
Carlota David-Howoses originally planned a career in biotechnology, but a chance conversation led her to a bursary opportunity with Anglo American to study metallurgical engineering. She was subsequently appointed as a metallurgist at Skorpion Zinc Namibia, where she rose to become Technical Manager of the Refinery. After a brief stint in the graphite industry, she later moved to Navachab Gold mine as Technical Assistant to the General Manager and is now in charge of Processing. She has strong skills in operations, project, and performance management, leadership and strategy, business process improvement, and project evaluation. Carlota speaks five languages and regards herself as an ambitious, multicultural Namibian woman who always strives towards making a positive contribution towards the development of her country. By Kathy Sole
How did mining come to you? How did you choose mining as a career?
I was always passionate about chemistry and biology and I had an interest in biomedical technology while growing up. However, in my last year of high school, I started developing an interest in chemical engineering. In the same year, a good friend told me that Anglo American was looking to award bursaries to selected students for tertiary engineering qualifications. I went for the interviews and through the selection process, and was awarded a bursary to study Metallurgical Engineering. At the same time, I was exposed to Anglo American’s career fair, where I quickly learnt that, as a metallurgist, I would basically perform the same job functions as a chemical engineer on a mine. I subsequently studied Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
Please describe your current role.
I am currently the Acting Ore Processing Manager at Navachab Gold Mine. The mine is located near Karibib in the Erongo region of Namibia. I report to the Managing Director and ensure quality gold production. I am responsible for oversight of the Plant’s Operations and Engineering Department (metallurgical, chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineers) and the laboratory team.
What is your experience of being a woman working in the mining sector?
Sometimes people tend to undermine me because I am a woman. However, views and opinions change when they see my work on the ground and/or when I deliver on an assignment.
Have you/do you encounter much discrimination in the workplace or in recruitment processes?
I have been fortunate and am very thankful to the mining industry for awarding me the opportunity to equally raise my views and opinions, both inside and outside the boardroom, advance my career, and make a difference where I can.
Yes, I have come across a few of these encounters, but they are not specific and/or limited to my workplace. Here are a few examples:
• I tend to get signs of age discrimination when lining up for senior positions in the mining industry and elsewhere.
• A recruitment agent once changed gears after I mentioned that I was in my early stages of pregnancy. I remember the lady immediately making notes and reiterating the fact that the preferred candidate would be required to take office close to my delivery date and that this would pose a challenge for the position.
I am of the opinion that, generally, the above are just some examples and this is very short-sighted: women should be given equal opportunities to take up positions based on their skills, experience, and track record in a similar way to their male counterparts.
Have you had mentors or sponsors that helped you on the way?
Yes, as a bursary student of Anglo American at the time, we were exposed to mentors and mentorship programs. At the same time, I do look up to experts in my field and other areas of interest. I make time to keep in touch with these individuals.
What challenges have you experienced by virtue of working in an industry that is predominantly male? Do you feel you have had to adapt to ‘fit’ the industry?
In most cases, operation sites are very remote and most times one has to commute long distances to get to work on a daily basis. This is particularly very challenging for women of childbearing age and especially early in their careers. This immediately places them in a compromised position compared to their male counterparts.
I am of the opinion that many operations have made good strides with regard to ensuring adequate ablution and or/PPE facilities for women. Maternity benefits are still questionable and require improvement at many mines.
I don’t feel the need to adapt to fit in. It is important to stand your ground, believe in your abilities, and be consistent.
What are you passionate about in your work?
I enjoy trying to simplify complex issues or matters. Finding a clear strategy or solution amidst a series of problems gives me great pleasure.
What would you love to do next?
I would like to excel to the very top of my career. This calls for a role as a General Manager, Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director, or equivalent. I am also very passionate about strategy and would like to develop myself further in this regard. I hope to be a strategy consultant one day.
What is one thing you wish you’d been told when you were starting out that you know now?
I have a few that I wish I had known/and or paid more attention to:
• It is okay to be outnumbered around a boardroom table and still be right. It is also okay to be wrong.
• Keep and maintain your network, whether it is technical or general sites, forums, previous lecturers, or mentors. It helps to keep you abreast of the latest technological developments and aid your problem-solving abilities.
Do you sit on a board? If not, would you like to?
Yes, I do sit on a board; namely, the Council of the Namibian Qualifications Authority. This organisation maintains a register of all relevant and legal qualifications in Namibia and aims to enhance the reputation of Namibian education and training systems.
What is your opinion in the women on boards’ debate? Are you pro quotas or against them?
There is no doubt that diversity in the workplace stands a greater chance of yielding better results. I am pro quotas, as long as it is done correctly and for the right reasons. Quotas, in my mind, are the only way to start the process and enforce organisations to abide by and ensure representation of women on boards. However, women should be selected on merit and not necessarily just to make up the numbers.
Do you believe women in mining groups can help to change the image of the industry and make the sector more attractive to women?
Yes, definitely. These types of groups provide platforms, especially for the more privileged women to have a voice for and represent the majority.
Any advice to young women starting out in their careers?
I would not advise anyone to refrain from any career. I believe that every career or profession has its role in the market place. What I absolutely admire, are people who actually enjoy what they do and are passionate about their profession. I support and encourage technical schools and colleges with a high degree of practical training. This, I believe, is a true merger of passion and skills, where people have the opportunity to mostly work with their hands and, in most cases, do what they enjoy or are good at and in turn, deliver services and products to the market place.
At the same time, I encourage young learners who are passionate about studying an engineering-related course and are not sure what field to embark upon, to look up Industrial Engineering. In short, industrial engineers create systems that eliminate resources that do not generate value and, in doing so, improve quality and productivity of an organisation. The career choices for industrial engineers are broad and vast.
How do you manage your work/life balance?
Managing work–life balance, especially if there are young children involved as in my case, is not at all easy. For me, it’s a constant iterative process. There is no right or wrong formula. You have to find what works for you and stick to it, revise, and change gears if necessary. I try to plan as far as possible. I plan my work for the day and week. I plan the meals at home and do meal preparation for a few days to allow myself time to spend with my family as opposed to cooking every night. Use your time wisely, as far as possible. I recently closed my Facebook account: it was a simple waste of time for me—period! Identifying things that steal time out of your day is critical to maintaining a good balance and improves your time management. You also have to acknowledge that you need help and can’t do it all alone, hence a strong support system always makes things easier.
Have you any hobbies or pastimes you would like to tell us about?
I enjoy exercising, especially outdoor running, and have a passion for interior design. I also love to spend time with my family and trying new recipes.
Carlota was born and grew up in Rundu, a small town in North Eastern Namibia, as the third of six children. She attended high school at Etosha Secondary School in Tsumeb, Namibia, and the International School of South Africa in Mafikeng. She holds a degree in Metallurgical Engineering and BEng (Hons) in Management of Technology from the University of Pretoria, and an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Carlota started her career as technical metallurgist at Skorpion Zinc mine, in Rosh Pinah, Namibia, rising to become Technical Manager of the Refinery and later Technical Manager of Projects. Since 2017, she has held a role as Technical Assistant to the General Manager at Navachab Gold Mine and is currently Acting Processing Manager. Carlota serves on the Board of the Namibian Qualification Authority, as Chairperson of the Risk & Audit Committee and on the Accreditation and Assessment and Audit of Institutions Committee. She also sits on the Board of Trustees of Karibib Private School.
She is married to Elton and they are blessed with two children: their boy, Julian, is four and their daughter, Elmira, is eight months old.
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