Economic mine geologist Pamela De Mark, 51, was born and raised in southern California but has worked around the world, including in the UK and Australia, and is now firmly established in Vancouver, Canada, where she’s director of mineral resources at Pan American Silver. We caught up with her.
How did you climb the career ladder?
By taking on responsibility early in my career, volunteering to do certain tasks, learning from workplace mentors, taking external courses and seeking roles that developed my skills. Spending time on underground mining operations has been my most useful professional experience and the most respected. Visiting lots of mining projects worldwide as a consultant has exposed me to high industry standards and talented colleagues.
What does your current job involve?
We have six operations in Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia, and are building two new mines in Argentina. I make sure our silver and base metal mineral resources and reserves are estimated to industry standards, using drillhole and underground sample data. I also ensure our public reporting of technical information to the Toronto Stock Exchange and NASDAQ is accurate and compliant. On top of that I conduct due diligence reviews of silver projects for potential acquisition deals.
How has your upbringing helped you professionally?
My parents gave me a strong work ethic, self-confidence and a positive, friendly attitude. Working in different countries has also helped me become adaptable and accept new challenges.
What do you value most in your working life?
Making a difference, spending time with fun and talented people and seeing the world. Now that I’m based in Vancouver I don’t travel as much, but I’m learning to appreciate a deeper engagement with the community I live in. I’ve been with my current company for over seven years which has given me the opportunity to optimise our geology and resource estimation processes and gain a better understanding of the mining industry as a whole.
Have you had a ‘eureka’ moment that changed your career?
Not a moment as such. In terms of career direction, I’ve sought opportunities that reflect my goals in terms of experience, location and lifestyle. I’ve taken my time to consider where I would like to head next and then found work that takes me there. As a newcomer to Australia, for example, I wanted to live and work in a relatively unusual place, which led me to work in Tasmania.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take time to learn more about other disciplines on the mine. For example: different mining and mineral processing methods, environmental and community concerns and particularly the financial side of things. Studying for an MBA may have helped move my career along more quickly.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I think I’ve gained a reputation for having high professional and ethical standards, for being engaged and reliable and for being fastidious in my work while keeping a sense of perspective. I’m known to be a mentor, coach, a sponsor of deserving employees and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in our male dominated industry.
Have you had any career low points and how have you overcome them?
I haven’t experienced any major setbacks, but my career has been disappointingly slow to develop relative to my peers. I find that I’m more likely to gain promotion by switching employers who have a fresh perspective of the available talent.
I would have preferred to benefit from leadership and career succession programs within each of the organisations I’ve worked at. But there are moments when I’ve been held back by those who feel threatened by the growth of others or by changes to the status quo. In those situations, I’ve been prepared to put forward my perspective and have the necessary hard conversations.
Who are your career role models and why?
There’s no one person, but there are aspects of many. The people I admire listen to others, share their experiences, are quietly confident yet willing to change their minds when presented with strong arguments, keep calm under pressure, lead by example and have a good sense of humour and perspective.
What are your career goals?
I’m looking to advance to vice president level and hope to serve on the board of mining companies in the near future.
If money was no object what would you buy?
A lifetime membership to a travel club that gives unlimited access to first class air travel and five star hotels. But I’m not sure that exists, so I’d settle for a 15-foot hard-topped aluminium-hulled motorboat with a big ol’ push button starting engine and prawn trap winch.
What would your motto be?
Life and work is far too diverse for a single platitude! But whenever asked to take on a new challenge, the word you will hear most often is ‘yes’.
Want to make the most of your career like Pamela? Find out how we can help.