“- “Whatever you do,” a career counsellor once told Welcha Minnie, “never work with people.” Taking these words to heart, when she left school Welcha dedicated her life to working with rocks, which included earning a BSc Honours Degree in Geology. Now, Welcha is Senior ECOHS and Compliance Manager for Exploration at De Beers.
Welcha Minnie discusses geology in Lucapa, Angola.
“Joking aside,” says Welcha, “my inspiration to pursue this profession came from a woman geologist in the Eastern Cape. She was in the same church as our family. After talking with her I couldn’t conceive of doing anything else.”
At the time, the fact that geology was a male-dominated profession didn’t put Welcha off. If anything, it only added to her determination. Her parents’ support also played a crucial role. “My parents taught us that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough,” explains Welcha, “that the only barriers you encounter are the barriers you create for yourself.”
Welcha applied for and won a bursary to work in the Exploration Division of De Beers Consolidated Mines in South Africa. Since then, she has risen through the ranks to her current position of Senior ECOHS and Compliance Manager, forging a successful and fulfilling career.
Her approach, she says, has always been to view herself as a geologist first who happens to be a woman: “If you perform your role well here, people accept you irrespective of your gender. As a company, De Beers invests heavily in its people, in their technical training and development, which means there’s opportunity for you to really pursue your career ambitions.”
Last year alone De Beers invested around $18.8 million in professional development, including formal training.
Looking back, Welcha now believes her career counsellor was wrong.
“Even as a geologist who spends all day with rocks, working with people and building meaningful relationships is essential. Working for De Beers, you meet some amazing people. It’s these people and these relationships that really help you progress and push boundaries,” she says.”