“The single most powerful thing an organization can do to promote more women leaders is to create a culture of Conscious Inclusion – building the desire, insight, and capacity of people to make decisions: to lead, think, and act with the conscious intent of including everyone.”
Paulina Jaramillo has worked in the Chilean mining industry for more than two decades and has risen through the ranks to achieve considerable professional prestige and a role as an executive of one of the largest multinational mining companies. She currently holds two leadership positions in Anglo American: not only as the Head of Asset Strategy and Reliability for Copper, but also taking on the role as General Manager of the Technical & Sustainability group in Chile. She participates in the company’s Inclusion and Diversity working group and is an active member ofWomen in Mining Chile . Her ethos is to work collaboratively and participatively, and she is strongly supportive of new professionals in the development of their careers and she is a mentor in the programme “Women of High Potential”.
By Kathy Sole
Although Chile is well known as a major copper producer, there were relatively few women entering mining and metallurgy at the outset of your career. Please tell us why you decided to study Mechanical Engineering and what attracted you to the mining industry?
I was always a very adventurous and curious child. I wanted to be in the middle of everything and do whatever I wanted. My parents never set any limits and always pushed me to do what I wanted, but with one condition. The only limit they set was that everything I did, I had to try to be the best at it. As a child, I loved sports and science. I think that is why I always wanted to be an engineer.
After graduating, I chose mining as it is a dynamic and challenging environment. It seems to have been the right choice, as I now have over 20 years of professional experience in mining. I love the challenge of working in a demanding and sometimes difficult, but dynamic environment. I really enjoy the opportunity of learning and developing people, as well as having the sensation of always moving forward.
You have had a highly successful career, most recently holding very senior positions in major Chilean and international mining companies. Please describe your career progression and current role.
I have worked at global companies such as Minera Escondida – BHP Billiton and Minera Esperanza – Grupo Antofagasta Minerals SA. My area of professional expertise has always been related to maintenance and continuous improvement management.
I’m now the General Manager for Technical & Sustainability Chile and Head of Asset Strategy and Reliability (AS&R) for Copper for Anglo American. What does this mean in reality? My area of interest in AS&R is to enhance our technical knowledge in asset management and to improve our people’s working lives. My role is really about managing risk and trying to get the best out of my people.
Being in AS&R is the chance to seek to enhance the development of my team. I interact well with people and always seek to work collaboratively. I am focused on meeting our team’s goals and objectives, and I always strive to get the best out of them. Our endeavour is for excellence, so that we are continually improving as we move forward together.
Please describe the personal and professional attributes that you consider have been most influential in your success.
I have worked in the mining sector since I was 23 years old. I think the most important thing is to do your best, learn from your mistakes, and celebrate your successes.
You have to believe in what you are doing: it is like finding your passion. Moreover, I think you have to accept that you will make mistakes. But it’s then how you deal with these mistakes. The things that go wrong can be the prompts for things that you can then do right in the future. Lastly, I think you have to embrace the challenges that come up. It can be almost impossible to fit in everything you want to do. You have to therefore accept the fact that you can’t be perfect, but find your own way of then coming up with the right solutions.
What has been the most rewarding professional experience of your career? What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
To be honest, in every company that I have worked for, I have had excellent professional experiences, which have allowed me to grow and develop. My greatest achievement is to say that I am a woman, that I have worked successfully in mining for over 20 years in the traditionally male-dominated environment of maintenance, and I am here today in a senior position in Anglo American. To have been successful and then to use all this experience, knowledge, and my expertise to support and develop my colleagues is what I am most proud of.
What has been most challenging in your career?
At the beginning of my career, the most challenging thing was having to continually validate myself with my peers, particularly with my male colleagues, given that there was a preconception that the mining world was only for men. In a way, I feel that I am responsible for destroying that belief, as I have demonstrated that with skill, effort, and perseverance, men and women cannot just work together, but actually do better.
As a leader in this industry, working with a variety of stakeholders from corporate executives to technical and operational staff across a range of countries and cultures, please share your leadership philosophy and how you manage diversity in the workplace.
Intelligence and the ability to motivate people, to move people forward, is the cornerstone of my leadership philosophy; to be able to inspire and to create a reality that people can work towards.
I think if you were to ask my team, they would describe me as a person who constantly faces challenges and pushes them to do better, while trying to maintain a space of trust and even joy. I try to start the day with a sense of purpose and end it with a sense of accomplishment.
I think treating, and likewise being treated too, as an equal is also important. Recognition too that I am not in the position I am in because the Company is trying to meet a certain quota of women, but that they recognize and value my capabilities, knowledge, and experience, and are willing to take on board my point of view. Women are so important in this industry because we have the ability to look at challenges from a different perspective.
My underlying philosophy is that we are all people, but some of us have more knowledge in certain areas than others. I have no problems with my ego and if I need to ask for help when I need it, then I do so. It is so important to recognize and accept your limitations. We can all make mistakes: the valuable thing is to learn from them and keep growing.
Maintenance and equipment reliability have traditionally been male-oriented activities. How do you believe the different approach that you can bring to the Anglo American Copper business will enable better outcomes?
I must admit that I love the technical part of my role: it’s like my comfort zone. Obviously, being a woman though, I do bring a different perspective.
There is a huge amount of untapped potential, and it has been shown that companies with gender equality are more productive and have a better working environment. We need to be more positively committed to embracing diversity.
We should not think that because an area is very technical it is only reserved for men: if we start our discourse with this premise, we are very wrong. Men and women contribute equally from their own point of view. Working together allows us to have a broader focus, and this makes us more agile and assertive in our diagnoses and prognoses.
A key aspect of asset reliability is achieving mutual commitment and early information-sharing between those who operate and those who maintain the equipment, because planned maintenance, of necessity, requires production downtime. How do you approach achieving this balance in your role?
My area of interest in AS&R is to enhance our technical knowledge in asset management and to improve our people’s working lives.
Each piece of equipment has defined production targets, which take into account maintenance times. Our role as AS&R is to ensure that these targets are in line with the performance benchmarks, and that they are appropriate so as not to put our workers, our business, or our assets at risk. The cornerstone is the asset: both operations and maintenance have to work collaboratively to get the most out of them.
It is important to minimise the “leaky pipeline” and ensure that women who enter this industry are retained once they have developed skills that are valued in other business environments. Do you have suggestions on how to improve the progression of women to more senior roles and ensure that women feel valued and able to contribute meaningfully at all levels of the organisation?
I think that attracting and developing more women in leadership roles requires company-wide change, driven from the top. Retention, succession, addressing the skills gap, and committing to inclusion are some of the ways that organizations can challenge the status quo.
The single most powerful thing an organization can do to promote more women leaders is to create a culture of “Conscious Inclusion” – building the desire, insight, and capacity of people to make decisions: to lead, think, and act with the conscious intent of including everyone. In the 2020s, we can’t remain in the past. We must hit the accelerator to build an equal and inclusive future. Our economic growth, workforce participation, and future generations depend on it.
What would be your advice to young women starting out in their first job at the start of their career?
I think I would say that you need to control your destiny — because if you don’t, someone will do it for you. I guess, believing too that nothing is impossible. You need to be decisive in what you do and to believe in what you are doing. But also know that nothing is free in this life and you have to push yourself every day to be a better person.
My advice to young women would be that they need to believe in themselves, value their abilities, recognize that there are opportunities for improvement, be humble, but be proud too. Each one of us can write our own story: this story does not start with biases or paradigms. We can make a significant contribution to companies. Women are not a minority: we are nearly 50% of the world’s population, so let’s believe in ourselves.
Do you have any positive lessons that you can share from the global pandemic experience? How will the constraints of the last 18 months shape the world of work in the mining industry moving forward?
Without a doubt, these 18 months reconnected us with our lives. Knowing that you could lose someone close to you made us really appreciate what we have. Not just in the mining industry, but in all industries, the pandemic allowed us to break biases and paradigms regarding remote working and pushed us to implement change quickly and then to make it work successfully.
In terms of a global perspective, it’s shown us that we need to work together and that there are different ways of achieving our goals. We need to approach the world of work from a different perspective: it’s really about quality, and not quantity, in terms of the amount we work. We need to be more focused, and clear about our goals and perspectives.
On a personal level, I must admit that the pandemic has shown me that I have everything that I want —I have a great partner, wonderful children, and a job that allows me to balance my family life and work. The pandemic has really shown me how lucky I am.
Have you any hobbies, pastimes, or secret talents that you would like to tell us about?
I like outdoor activities very much. In summer I definitely enjoy the beaches of central Chile and in winter I enjoy the ski season.
I guess my secret talent is that I’m very good at putting together puzzles and doing handicrafts. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I know that I can drive people crazy.