Namdeb HR practitioner commits to making a difference in the lives of others
Namdeb Human Resources’ Trizelle Olivier talks about the challenges a woman in mining faces to achieve a work-life balance.
“I started at Namdeb in July 2013, working as a temp receptionist. In December that same year, I became permanent as the Human Resources Business Partner.
“During my first year at the University of Stellenbosch, although having a bursary, I still struggled with funds to complete my studies. One of Namdeb’s plant managers approached me and, at his own personal cost, assisted me to get through my studies. That made me realise that the philosophy of sustainability and developing people are imprinted in Namdeb’s employees.
“I started at university with the plan to become a psychiatrist, but two weeks into the course I realised this was not what I wanted to do. I changed to industrial psychology with an extra course in entrepreneurship and innovation management.
“I believe in the intentional learning philosophy whereby learning involves asking the right questions, gaining perspective, self-evaluation and forming habits that apply what is learnt. I do not see a negative experience as limiting one’s growth, but rather I ask: ‘What did I learn from this experience, what should I continue or stop doing?’
“This helps me at work by seeing challenges as learning opportunities that will only lead to my growth and will help other employees grow as well.
“While working in mining, I have come to realise that you need to know yourself and know what values you stand for. One cannot be a good leader and not have self-awareness. This self-awareness lies at the root of a strong character. It enables me to lead with a sense of purpose and gives me the ability to better understand what I need from other people.
“In the mining industry, there are a lot of safety risks and it can be considered a dangerous place to work for men or women. However, I am pleased to say that Namdeb has taken the mature approach whereby safety comes first and employees feel free to discuss unsafe conditions and ensure they are addressed. Everyone shares one common goal, and that is zero harm.
“In the HR sphere, we have certain objectives, yet I have the autonomy to control my work situation. This has allowed me the freedom to approach my work in a way that suits my personality and skillset that contributes to Namdeb’s objectives.
“Namdeb’s culture of supporting work-life balance was one of the many reasons I decided to work there. But, even though the company supports a work-life balance approach, I personally find it a challenge to create this balance. My goal of wanting to be successful has at times made me spend more time working than with my family. I have realised this flaw and I now believe that there is no such thing as a work-life balance.
“I am working towards a ‘work-life synergy’ approach, where the interaction between the two aspects of my life produce a combined greater effect. Therefore, should I need to work late, I will, for example, involve my two children, aged three and five years, by getting them to draw or colour in while I work at home. I think most women face the same challenge as I do with the work-life balance: trying to be successful as well as the primary caregiver at home.
“I have an assumption that women have to work harder to prove their worth to others, so my advice to women starting in the industry would be not to do so, but strive always to prove to yourself that you are who you want to be.
“Maya Angelou, an American poet and activist, once said: “Courage allows the successful woman to fail and to learn powerful lessons from the failure, so that in the end she didn’t fail at all.”
“I have had a number of highlights while working at Namdeb. One of them is very recent. Part of the company’s initiative on Valentine’s Day this year was to share the love within the community and we went to the hospital and old age home in Lüderitz.
“An old woman lay in a room alone, while the rest were either sitting outside or watching TV. We went to her and explained that we just wanted to share the love by giving her a cookie. We found out that she was blind and she grabbed me with excitement and kept hugging me, and clapping her hands. This made me realise how a small good act can have a lasting impact on someone. One person can make a difference.
“It is my aim to make a difference.”