Heather Orr - Tailings Dam Project Manager

CurioCity Careers
17 October 2016

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Heather Orr

Tailings Dam Project Manager, Lac Des Iles Mine

I was born/grew up in: South River, Newfoundland and Labrador

I now live in: Thunder Bay, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia where I completed a Mining Engineering Degree. I then complete a Project Management Professional certification at Northwestern University Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Describe what you do at work.

On a daily basis I interact with the senior management group to give updates on the progress of the construction of the new water management facility. I conduct field tours/audits for the contractors, and sub-contractors. On a daily basis I use math, organization skills, strategic planning and risk mitigation to better streamline productivity. I engage in regular problem solving to address communication break-downs and anything that could impact the production schedule.

I make decisions daily as to the best path forward during construction that will ensure best productivity now and in the long term once both constructions are completed. This daily problem solving require a balance of understanding between cost and schedule for both the contractor and LDI. My background helps me feel more confident that I have collected all the relevant information to make educated decisions and to understand the potential impact of these decisions. I have daily interactions with both upper management of LDI and Contractors I look at budget, schedule impacts, and the short-term milestones for the construction.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

The completion of this construction is critical to LDI’s future success to being able to process ore at the mill. If this one construction is not completed it will shut down the mill, and ultimately, the site. This project is vital for our future operations. So, by doing the best job I can do, I’m helping make sure the other workers at the mine will continue their employment and continue to provide for their families.

What motivates you in your career?

Pride in what I do is a big factor in keeping me motivated. Keeping the project on track in terms of the schedule and budget and get the best product for the mine site for long term success is very motivating to me. My career changes as I move to new work sites. This means that I have a job in which the people I work with, the places I work, and the job tasks I am assigned are continually changing; I don’t get bored!

A career in mining provides flexibility to travel the world if you want it. It also provides you the opportunity to be multi-task trained in many fields and exposed to the many speciality job tasks. The job is also typically pays well which is important if you are looking for adventure, opportunities to travel abroad, or even the ability to pay off your student loans.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

I completed a mining engineering degree over a four and a half year time period. However, one year of that was a co-op which provided real, on the job experience which counted towards my P.Eng Status. My co-op terms gave me excellent job experience as well as connections and important relations in the mining world.

While I always knew I wanted to do engineering I was not sure which kind. I decided on mining as it was more hands on with less office work and good pay. No one really influenced my career path.

The biggest challenge with working in the mining world is as a woman is being considered an equal to the men you work with. Being vocal means being outspoken or assertive when it’s a man however women are normally looked at as being aggressive or worse. Failures and challenges go hand in hand based on how you see it. It’s difficult to capture how you grow from them but the biggest benefit is by having a mentor and a supervisor who is open to guiding you down the path but not telling you how to do it.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I like to cycle, engage in bird watching, travel and relax. When I can, I do some volunteer work in the places where I live.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

I never excelled at math on the basic level during my early schooling. However this changed with I got the right teachers to help me. Then I could understand the most complex math for engineers by listening and taking their advice. When they said to review items I did. I listened the hardest to the people who said I could not something. I get great satisfaction from proving people wrong.. I find that as long as I have a good base to build on, I keep learning and widening my experience in the mining field and now project management.

CurioCity Careers

We hope you enjoyed learning about this great STEM career! The information in this career profile was provided by this individual especially for CurioCity. We hope it helped give you a sense of what this type of job is really like.

Let’s Talk Science is pleased to provide you with this information as you explore future career options. Many careers require a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Even jobs that don’t use specific STEM concepts on a day-to-day basis benefit from the skills gained through a study of STEM. People with a STEM background are very much in demand by employers across all career sectors. If you would like to learn about more careers that have a STEM connection, visit http://www.explorecuriocity.org/careers.

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