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Success story: from junior specialist to director in a gold mining company

29 March 2022
Success story: from junior specialist to director in a gold mining company

Alena Starodubtseva worked consistently to achieve her main goal. As an undergraduate, she knew that she definitely wanted to work for an industry leader and find a position perfectly matching her educational background. The choice was clear, and now she is the director of Polyus’ Research Center.

Alena strongly believes that working for a proven and dependable company that pursues its social commitments and unlocks career potential means a great deal. She has described how her career developed and how she went from being a junior specialist to director at the largest gold miner in Russia.

— How did you get hired by Polyus?

— Polyus was like a dream and my ambition even before I graduated from university. It is a large and well-known company, so I was eager to work here. You need some experience to get hired, but unfortunately I didn’t have any, so I first got a job at an iron and steel company in Krasnoyarsk. Finally, 18 months later, Polyus took me on and I joined its rotational staff in Severo-Yeniseysk.

This was not a spontaneous decision. I studied for five years to master my professional skills, and my efforts were not in vain. I believed I could find the right place to work regardless of its location. Even rotational work would be good.

— How did you develop your career path within the company? What positions did you hold?

— I started working as process control foreperson at Blagodatnoye when Polyus was constructing Mill 4. I completed my first shift at Olimpiada, then after four months I was promoted to leading QA engineer.

Then I headed process and production for quite a long time. I joined the company when the department had just been set up and only consisted of an engineer and me. It had increased to 28 employees by the time I left it. The department integrated all functions related to the process plant, like monitoring processing parameters and tailings facilities as well as dispatching activities.

My work was very interesting. I gained extensive experience at an operating site. My tasks were varied, and we resolved all the issues related to the process plant. My time working in a process plant team gave me a strong positive impetus for further career growth.

Once my maternity leave ended, I returned to work for Polyus Project, which performs engineering surveys for all Polyus assets from the Krasnoyarsk Territory to the Magadan Region. I was head of the processing department and then became director of production technologies. It was all very different and brought out more interesting aspects.

Working at the operations is one thing. It is quite different when you see the other side of the coin and realize how many services are in place to ensure smooth production and, most importantly, its further development. Operations’ personnel work in the here and now. Their main goal is to produce gold today. Meanwhile, the services are designed not only to provide support right now but also to build the basis and potential for future development.

— What kind of experience did you gain from working for Polyus Project?

— I learned more about design, large-scale feasibility studies, other types of production and alternative technologies. Having gained experience in operations, I grew professionally as a process engineer. Working at Polyus Project has improved my management skills. This is where I learned to build effective teams and make decisions.

I am proud that I was able to form a strong team at the process plant as well as in Polyus Project. I think I did a good job.

We spend most of our time working, so it is important to enjoy your work without it being a burden. I believe that team spirit plays a vital role. As we know, the truth is born out of arguments; therefore any constructive discussions are warmly welcomed. Any member of our team can express their own vision and put forward their arguments so that we can arrive at a consolidated decision.

I do my best to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, and people also want to be able to express their thoughts and be listened to. They might not be perfect or right, but they are still important. Even an idea that seems unfeasible at first can be improved by somebody else in the team and implemented going forward. This is where the value of the collective value lies — where one person can do nothing, the team can do a lot.

— What are you responsible for today?

—In late 2021, I became the director at Polyus’ Research Center and now lead an established team of creative workers and researchers.

— What do you like most about your work?

— Every new day brings a new task. Here I have interesting people, conversations and new challenges. We can see the situation changing rapidly across the globe and in business. You need to look for a way out every single day and keep developing. This is a wonderful job where you never stand still.

— What focus does the Research Center place on training programs and career development?

— The Company pays great attention to training and education. Our HR team and company top management have contributed a lot. We have Succession and Gold Reserve programs as well as individual performance plans.

For example, the Finance for Non-Financial Experts training course is very useful for process engineers. This provides basic knowledge, and many trainees start to think outside the box in terms of their goals and tasks and get an understanding of how the company is evolving.

These training programs are ideal for us as we study our own cases, looking at our projects and figures. I completed similar programs for project management and finance. I believe that you need to educate yourself regardless of your position.

— Tell us what professional skills and personal traits help you at your work and in life. Who do you work best with?

Persistence and the refusal to give up help me in my daily life. And I do not stick to gender stereotypes. At work, it doesn’t matter if I work with men or women.