Eske Pillen: “Just go for it. Do it. If it doesn’t work out, go and find something that does.”
Eske Pillen is VP Customer Results at Commit Works. An experienced client relationship manager, she is responsible for ensuring clients achieve their desired and expected results.
Commit Works makes software that helps operations out plan uncertainty by getting all their people working together on the same page. 40% of the world’s largest mining firms use our products to improve production at their operational coal face and to help deliver massive capital projects ahead of schedule and under budget.
An expert in business operations, Eske has been the backbone of the development of several SMEs, driving operational best practice across all business functions. During her career, she has advised clients on operational performance and quality assurance and has managed several front-to-end operational projects, including full IT system implementations and several employee engagement and change management projects.
Why did you choose mining?
To be honest, when I joined Commit Works I didn’t necessarily choose the role just because it was in mining. I did find the mining industry fascinating. My other half is in contracting crushing and the first time he took me to see some of the equipment in their yard I was gobsmacked. I’m originally from Europe and have worked for quite a few years in the corporate sector in London, so it was quite a change! Never had I seen anything like it!
Even today, I’m still fascinated by all the machinery, the organisation of a mine and what the crews are capable of achieving every shift.
What is your experience of being a woman working in the mining industry?
It’s interesting, that’s for sure. It may sound clichéd, but I see it as a challenge. When you do get that respect you feel good! And comments here and there… you just need to find that fine line between ignoring and responding I suppose. If it’s out of order they will hear about it for sure.
Back in London, I worked in male-dominated industries so I’m kind of used to it. I don’t think the mining industry is necessarily harsher than the corporate world – just different. I think I’ve adapted pretty well and I enjoy going on site!
Could you tell us about some challenges you have faced in the resources sector and how you overcame them?
I think the biggest challenge is for people to respect you and take on board what you’ve got to say. There have been a few challenges that I’ve faced in the past 12 months. Good example: one evening, fairly fresh in my current role, we were in a bar during a networking event with lots of people from the mining industry. I was talking to a few guys, genuinely trying to understand the industry they were working in, but I quite quickly realised they were only interested in me “as a woman” and absolutely nothing else. At the time I wasn’t sure whether to just leave it and walk away or say something about it. You learn how to deal with it as you go, I think!
To be respected by the people I work with is important for what I need to achieve doing the job I do and, of course, for me as a person. Being “young”, a woman and without a background in mining can be a little tough sometimes. I’m a lawyer, not an engineer! So I use the skills I have as well as I can, I’m honest if there are things I simply don’t know and I try to put myself in my client’s shoes as much as I can.
What are you passionate about?
Stepping out of your comfort zone! Sometimes I think, “Why Eske, why?” but I love it at the same time. Being raised in Holland, after my studies I moved to London for five years, then lived in Oman in the Middle East before heading to Australia. I’ve moved a fair few times and have worked with lots of different people in different places. A few weeks back we drove 5,500 km to the north of Western Australia to live in a caravan for the next 18 months moving from place to place. And, of course, my horse is coming too. Not always easy, but if it’s possible, why not? It’s a great adventure. And I’m grateful my boss is flexible and lets me work from home!
Any advice to young women starting out?
Just go for it. Do it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself in difficult situations. If it doesn’t work out, go and find something that does. Everything happens for a reason.
In recognition of women’s contributions to the resources sector and to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018, Commit Works is publishing a series of interviews with clients and employees this month.