There may not be as many women in leadership roles as men, but the number is growing. As women continue to rise in the professional ranks, there is a need for female role models who inspire and encourage women to shatter that glass ceiling. We wanted to highlight several inspirational women leaders like this in a series, in celebration of Women’s Month 2022 in South Africa. As part of this series, we spoke to Megan du Plooy, a rising star in the mining and exploration industry.
A Commercial Account Manager with a geology background, Megan shared what she has learned about growing one’s career, her experience working in all-male teams, and being fearless.
Read the full interview with Megan and see all she had to say.
A conversation with Megan du Plooy: Memorable career lessons, challenges and experiences in the mining sector, and more
1. What is your current role & industry?
I currently work as a Commercial Account Manager at acQuire Technology Solutions in the exploration and mining industry, and have a background in geology.
2. What is it like being a woman in the Exploration and Mining Industry?
Colourful. It is what you make of it, it’s not always easy. I am an outgoing person, so I love it. There is so much to do in this industry.
3. What did you wish you knew when you were first starting out in your career?
You are not the wisest when you are in the middle of nowhere. Your job is not yours, but your career is, so be intentional about each job. No one is going to build your career for you, but others will be able to advise you along the way. Be open-minded and open to change. Do not get attached to an outcome or job title because you will be disappointed. Don’t be a verb! Never burn bridges.
It’s possible to be assertive and kind at the same time. It is okay to fail but get back up quickly and do things differently. Drop any entitlement – you don’t deserve anything. Stay humble.
Keep a logbook of experiences, jokes, and memories – you will forget otherwise! Label those rock samples you collect and keep a record or you will forget when and where you got them, and what they are!
Get a clear understanding of what mental health is and always prioritise it. It is okay to quit a course. Be a ‘learn-it-all’, not a ‘know-it-all’.
Take photos with other geologists you meet, especially all the geos who have made significant contributions to the field. Prioritise personal development – professional development will then be fuelled naturally.
Impatience will get you nowhere faster. Empathy gets you far. Don’t get too angry or sad, nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Life is long until it’s not, so try everything. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
4. Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.
I often draw inspiration from my mother, Heleen du Plooy, who used to run a mine hospital (albeit about 30 years ago) as one of the OG trailblazing women in mining. Her advice on professionalism in the mining environment remains relevant [today]. [Advice on] how to maintain assertiveness in a male-populated workplace; being confident as the subject matter expert; and enjoying the journey, as it is a unique industry and can make for great memories.
There are many women in this industry whom I look up to, too many to mention here. A lot has been done in the past by other women (and men) for me to be able to work in this industry. I also look up to women who are younger than I am. Great heights are being conquered [by women] and we can all learn from different experiences, perspectives, and roles within the industry (so many strategies are transferable across silos).
Having sought professional career coaching has also helped me articulate my thought processes and skills which inspires me daily in my professional life and personal life – thank you Briony Liber!
5. Which of your personal traits are you proud of and think have helped you succeed?
My tenacity and always wanting to be better than my younger self. Being open-minded about the destination so I can enjoy the journey more. Frequent introspection to assess if my personal development and my professional development are aligned. Good ethics and values. Learning to say “no” more often. Prioritising my mental health. Individualisation (my greatest strength according to Clifton Strengths Test). And my favourite: networking.
6. What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?
Learning to not identify professionally as a verb. This has opened so many different doors in the industry for me. I have met so many great people, and there are no more limits in my mind (this is continuous work but so worth it).
7. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Fear of failure. It lowers our chances of trying.
8. How do you balance your career, personal life and passions? Is there such a thing as balance?
The balancing act is stressful. It suggests equal expenditure in all directions at all times. I believe in alignment. I try to align everything I do in life with my core values. It is more sustainable for me to move forward that way.
9. What do you do to take care of yourself?
I check in with my friends, family, and network often. I prioritise my mental health. Self-care comes in many shapes and forms, from waking up daily and practicing gratitude, swimming a couple of km at the gym in a meditative state, applying sunblock daily, sitting in silence and zoning, and not shaming myself for being unproductive.
I also love reading and prioritising sleep, getting energised by interacting with others and then taking a day for myself to energise as well, along with spending time looking at trees, “Marie Kondo[-ing]” my life often, collecting memories, and continuing to build my wealth – which is my relationships.
10. How can we stop gender bias?
We can remind ourselves that different genders have different strengths and weaknesses, and when we let go of ego and celebrate these differences, we can achieve so much more.
Gender bias goes both ways in my opinion. I always say that someone’s reaction or behaviour (good or bad) towards me has nothing to do with me, but has got to do with their past experiences and/or insecurities.
I also believe respect is not earned, only lost, so give people a chance. Women have a lot of value to contribute to the mining industry, and if one door doesn’t open, just move on from it – there are many other doors that open up to better opportunities.
11. Do you experience resistance when you are leading men? How do you deal with it?
All the teams I’ve led in the mines and fieldwork I’ve done consisted of men only. There was never any resistance, only great mutual respect and trust.
A specific saying from one of my Zambian field team workers has been playing in my mind every day for the last five years, “we all need to work together to eat the same bread”. As my current direct report says, “harness the wisdom in the room”, so let’s learn from one another and get to the best solution faster.
What you give is what you get in most scenarios. Go in to learn, not teach – it’s the best way to lead anyone, in my experience.
12. Advice to women in South Africa: How would you encourage women to not give up?
Success is not linear; only measure yourself against your past self. Build and maintain a trusted, diverse network as your community. Always give it one more go. Tomorrow will always be better.
Feeling inspired by this interview with Megan du Plooy? We have more to motivate and inspire you with other women leaders we spoke to! Read our interviews with Rumisha Motilal, Raksha Naidoo, and Linda Diedericks and see what they have to say about their career experiences and being female leaders.
Which women do you look up to and consider role models for you and other women chasing career success? Let us know in the comments!
Get a chance to win a book written especially for career women! Visit our Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter platforms, find our post on Megan, and leave a comment about successes you have had in your career as a woman to enter our draw.
Looking for your next professional role? Head to CA Engineering’s job board and see the latest engineering, energy, and mining jobs in Africa, Australia, and beyond, and apply today.