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Meet our people – Suvarna Pillay

15 JUNE 2023

Today is the International Day of Women in Mining – celebrating the women who led the way in our industry and those who play important roles in it today. To mark the occasion, we caught up with Suvarna Pillay, one of the amazing women at Hillside Aluminium in South Africa.

Suvarna works as a Process Control and Improvement Engineer, and she shares how she got started in the industry, and her experience working in a typically male dominated field. Get to know more about Suvarna below: 

How would you describe your role at South32? 

I work at our Hillside Aluminium operation where we produce high quality primary aluminium. My role as PC&I Engineer is to ensure that our product meets quality standards and is manufactured in a safe and sustainable manner. 

What interested you about starting a career in mining? 

I studied chemical engineering and worked in the paper and pulp manufacturing industry for three years. A career in the mining industry presented an opportunity to enhance my skills and experience in another industrial sector. Mining is a significant contributor to our country’s economy and presents limitless opportunities for career and professional development. 

What is your experience of working in a traditionally male dominated industry?  

Initially I felt intimidated. It felt as though my technical ability was questioned and that I was tested all the time. What I have learnt from over 14 years of experience, including ten years in mining, is that you must remind yourself that you are here to do a job and let your actions reflect your capability and competency. 

It is important to maintain one’s natural feminine qualities like compassion, empathy, being a good listener to name a few, which builds relationships and changes the dynamics of the work environment in a positive way. 

I am extremely appreciative of the women in industry before me that have opened the path for me to follow. The challenges that they have had to overcome gave rise to opportunities that myself and other women in industry have benefitted from.  

Over the years at Hillside Aluminium, I have witnessed a positive transformation within the company. This has been demonstrated by the establishment of the Hillside Women@Work forum. This forum involves connecting with women on site to motivate and empower all women to make a difference at Hillside Aluminium. 

What are you most passionate about in the mining industry? 

The mining industry is a dynamic, fast paced environment where every day is an opportunity to learn something new, challenge yourself and improve yourself to find a new or better solution. I like solving problems and being challenged. I am passionate about using my technical skills to solve problems.