Effrosyni Koutsotheodorou holds a degree in Mineral Resources Engineering from the Technical University of Crete and a Masters’ degree specialising in Design and Construction of Underground Works from the National Technical University of Athens. She received an award from the Greek Women’s Engineering Association for her performance as a student engineer in the field.
Her initial career focused mainly on geotechnical studies based on soil mechanics engineering laboratory testing, environmental studies, monitoring and design of water pumping, and management studies.
She has been employed by Hellas Gold Mining for the last nine years, where her main role was as the planning engineer for the Olympias mine, with responsibility for the design and task scheduling of mine production, along with services reticulation studies and designs. In the past year, she has worked as part of the Flotation Plant team, as Metallurgy Laboratory Supervisor and Paste Plant Supervisor.
By Kathy Sole
Please tell us what attracted you to studying Mineral Resource Engineering, and then specialising in underground mining works.
Ever since I can remember, I have been observant of whatever surrounds my environment. From my young days I observed stones—their colours, their shapes, and collected them. Additionally, my hobby for reading historical documents enriched my curiosity to know: these stones, were they always here? Were they always like that? How were they created? How many things and events did they witness?
As I was growing up, I realised every day that most of the things that make our daily lives easier come from the Earth. All these fascinated me; consequently, my desire to have a complete picture of our environment, and the civilisation that we created led me to the science of mineral resources.
Please describe your career progression, and how the nature and responsibilities of your work have changed in the different roles that you have held.
The first eight years, I was employed as a study engineer, conducting mainly geotechnical studies and environmental studies for Athens & Thessaloniki Subway and for Greek Public Power Corporation. The next eight years, I worked for Hellas Gold Mining as the Olympias Mine Planning engineer and participated in all accompanying mining projects at the Olympias site. Last year, I joined the Olympias Flotation Plant team as Metallurgy Laboratory Supervisor. Owing to my experience in underground mining and technical infrastructure projects, I am also assigned to Olympias Paste Plant operation and supervision.
Greece is not widely known as country with a strong mining and metallurgical history. Please describe the main mining activities in your country and how important they are to the economy.
Greek mining and metallurgy were well known during the ancient Greek times. Written texts, the remains of mining activity of the Ancient Greeks, and archaeological finds are the historical sources of information. The first information about mining was given to us by the two great poets: Homer and Hesiod. Theophrastus gave humankind the first scientific work on metals and other minerals: “About Stones” is generally recognized as the first scientific mineralogy text. Many important mining centers emerged during ancient Greek times throughout Hellenic territory, where the main metals and minerals that came from mined ores were iron, silver, lead, copper, gold, zinc, sulfur, kaolin, bentonite, marble, limestones, and granites.
Through the years and during turbulent periods, Greek mining sometimes oscillated and sometimes recovered. World War II dealt a major blow to Greek mining, which was then in its modern development phase. During the period from 1961 to 1979, Greek mining became important in the economy. Despite the problems, Greek mining companies promoted their activities in the field of research and technology to increase their production and exports.
Although, in the past, mining in Greece played important global role relative to the size of the country, the industry has been declining for the last 40 years. The main activities now are the mining of aggregates, marble, and granite; the mining of industrial minerals, such as bentonite, pozzolans, pumice, perlite, gypsum, calcium carbonate, kaolin, leucoliths; the mining of metals, such as bauxites, gold, lead, zinc, silver; and oil exploitation. Nowadays, the contribution of mining to the country’s GDP is about 3%. Moreover, 4% of full employment jobs in Greece are due to mining activity, creating approximately 100,000 jobs.
Please describe your experience as a woman working in this male-dominated industry and in a country where traditional roles are strongly valued.
From the beginning of my career, under my mentors’ guidance and support, I entered the mining field with simplicity, willing to cooperate as equals with no gender prejudice from my side. As time went by, through interaction, communication, and cooperation, my male colleagues in various work positions became convinced of my abilities and valued my partnership in projects.
Have you benefitted from female role models or mentors who went before you, or from other support structures in the workplace? Do you mentor younger professionals entering the industry?
In the early years of my career, I was taught and inspired by successful supervisors/mentors, all men, and I was able to form my own philosophy to move forward. However, when I was still a student during my summer internship, my supervisor was a woman who was the Director of the company. She had a calmness and sweetness, and yet the way she managed everything and everyone exuded so much strength and confidence. There was no room for doubt that she was moving towards success. I still remember every single piece of advice and guidance I had from our conversations during the time that she supervised me.
Currently, I could say that the type of mentoring I provide is supporting the members of my teams in the sector’s tasks and projects, and I advise them based on my experience.
What has been the most rewarding professional experience or project of your career? What are you most proud of having achieved in your career so far?
The best reward is when you see the projects that you plan and schedule through to completion and delivered to improve operation for the benefit of the company, as well as to achieve favourable working conditions for all employees.
During all these years, through my collaborations in numerous projects, I managed to stand out as an engineer. I am proud to say that I had the chance to feel and witness the acceptance and support I have from the employees in several instances.
Please describe your personal and professional attributes that you consider have been most influential in your success.
Most important and influential in my success are that I always follow my values and keep the quality of my deliverables high, along with reliability of the information I am publishing. Other attributes that support me are organisational and communication skills. I am a consistent project performer and self-driven. I am always willing to learn and adopt new technologies to improve the work outputs.
Do you believe that the presence of women in significant management, operational, and support roles influences the ultimate success of a company? Does a more diverse operating team lead to better or different decisions or performance?
Τhe presence of women in various important positions is a key to the success of a company because it introduces new perspectives, new organisational methods, innovative training techniques, and generally a new perception and approach to issues — at no cost.
I believe that diverse and inclusive management in a company improves all employees’ dynamics without any disadvantages. Therefore, this leads to innovations, to better, safer, and faster problem-solving models, to higher productivity, and to a better ability to make decisions.
Do you have any advice to young women starting out in their careers? What do you wish you’d known when you first entered the workplace?
“Set your goals and structure your route, while never forgetting your values”.
I will share with you what I was lucky to know throughout my educational journey and later from my mentors during my first steps as an engineer: “As personalities and engineers, our strength and value lies in our ability to form our opinion, support it, present it, and substantiate it”. So, I never felt like I was missing something that I should have known for this workplace.
Have you any hobbies or pastimes that you would like to tell us about?
My hobbies are going to concerts, theatre, and festivals, and reading and dancing. During wintertime, I take courses in handmaking artifacts: I really love making things with my hands.