With over 20 years of experience, Evalyn Albright has a range of multi-industry expertise encompassing mining, aerospace, engineering consulting, and environmental sustainability. She holds a Masters’ degree in soil chemistry from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Seattle University. Evalyn is bilingual (English/Spanish) and has spent over a decade of her career abroad, working and living in Santiago, Chile, and now Phoenix, Arizona.
As a Vice President at Stantec, Evalyn currently serves on the leadership team as the mining discipline leader. In her role, Evalyn is responsible for driving technical excellence and successful project delivery for Stantec mining projects. She and her team provide guidance and create standards for use by project management and technical teams in areas such as health and safety practices, client satisfaction, discipline-specific professional and technical standards, quality assurance, and research and development. In addition, Evalyn is the Program Manager for a portfolio of mine tailings and waste-related projects in Indonesia.
By Kathy Sole
Your initial degrees were in environmental soil science and your early career focussed on environmental clean-ups and remediation of industrial waste sites. Please tell us how/why you chose to transition into the mining industry?
My transition to the mining industry wasn’t by design, but more by good luck. About 10 years into my career I moved to Santiago, Chile, for personal reasons, and found what I had been doing in environmental consulting wasn’t a career I could continue within that market. Having worked in engineering consulting firms for many years, I chose to work at a consulting firm that specialized in mining engineering. That initial opportunity allowed me to use my consulting skills in a new market – mining – which is the largest industry in Chile.
Please describe your career progression and how you reached your current senior position within your organisation. How does your prior experience complement your current role?
I started my career doing technical work and spent many years in the field: watching things get built, making sure the designs were implemented and worked as planned. I gravitated toward project management and loved getting to know clients and building more business. After around ten years of working, I went back to university to get my MBA, as I realized I wanted to take on more of a business management role. My big career shift happened when I moved to Chile: I got involved in the mining industry and pivoted from project management to a role that was a mix of business development and risk management. That role ultimately led me back to the US, where, in my current role, I still manage projects and develop relationships with clients and project teams, but I also help the overall business develop practices to continuously improve. My favourite part of my role is mentoring and sponsoring junior level professionals. I love helping up-and-coming professionals to grow their careers.
You have worked for both large multinational corporations and for much smaller companies operating in the mining space. How would you compare the challenges and rewards of these different types of companies?
The smaller organizations I’ve been a part of were wonderful in that they gave me an opportunity to take on many roles – wear a variety of hats. For example, a firm I worked at early on had our technical and project management folks highly trained in business development and there wasn’t a marketing group to support the business: we were all expected to pitch in. We also took out our own trash! While the company culture is firm-dependent, I have often found smaller employee- or family-owned firms provide good benefit packages and high employee engagement. Yet these smaller firms aren’t always able to take on large projects, which is certainly a drawback. Another drawback is the ability to grow your career– there are fewer opportunities to advance at a small firm.
Large companies, on the other hand, can do large, iconic, exciting projects, which really sets them apart and makes them an attractive, exciting place to work. Yet in a large company it’s more difficult to get a well-rounded view of the overall business. You find a lot of efficiencies in large companies too – certainly the burden of taking out your own trash, is relieved! In my experience, if you put in the time and work hard, roles in large companies can be very rewarding.
You have been fortunate to work in a variety of jurisdictions, including North and South America, Indonesia, and Australia. Please comment on similarities and differences in cultures in the mining industries of these countries, particularly with respect to integration of women.
A majority of my experience in mining has been with multi-national mining companies, where I see women in positions of influence across many levels. In terms of integrating women into the industry, I think we have a way to go, everywhere in the industry. Some of the challenges include conditions that hinder women from getting experience in the field in remote locations. Of course, this varies across geographies, and I have seen an increase in opportunity in the locations where I have worked. I hope to see those opportunities continue to grow for women.
Please describe your personal and professional attributes that you consider have been most influential in your success.
I make a point to be honest with myself and others. As a result, direct communication is my default and, I admit, it isn’t always pleasant for everyone. Another strength is my ability to make quick, informed decisions, then follow through on them. Finally, I enjoy being around people and leading teams – trying to figure out what will make my team laugh, how to engage them, and keep them ‘rowing in the same direction’ is something I love to work at.
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?
The presence of women in management is a real and effective driver for bringing more women into an organization. Having a ‘pod’ or a critical mass of women in an organization helps with keeping them there. The presence of women in leadership roles is proof that an organization promotes women—that there is opportunity to do something important and make an impact.
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?
I have many things that I wish I had been told – here are my top 5…
1. When you see something needs to be done, take initiative and just do it. Don’t wait for permission to do something, just get it done.
2. Try something new if you want to, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense in your career path. The more diversity of experience you can get, the more value you’ll bring to any organization, and ultimately the more options you’ll have.
3. Try to get really good at something, dig in, and get deep—in at least one area that sets you apart.
4. Maybe even more important than 1 to 3 above, is that if you can get out into the field, even if for just a few years – do it! You’ll never learn more about how things work than if you get outside the office and are a part of the team that is getting it done.
5. Last – presentation is everything. The way we present ourselves, in writing, in body language, in the quality of what we send to our clients, even the time we take to put ourselves together. People notice and pay attention to how you present yourself and your work—so take the time to present well: it will pay off.
Have you any hobbies or pastimes that you would like to tell us about?
I love doing just about anything outdoors. Since moving to Phoenix, Arizona, I’ve had to adjust a bit – the summers are hot and are pretty much only for swimming! Year round, I keep active with hot yoga classes, hiking, and taking turns with my husband chasing my young kids around at the beach.