«You should go to metallurgy if you are interested in building a career and want to see the results of your work»
Daria Kryachkova, Vice President for HR Policy at MMC Norilsk Nickel, knows the situation of women in the mining and metallurgical industry better than anyone else as she has not only worked in mining and mineral processing for many years herself but is also directly responsible for HR management.
In an interview with WIM Russia, she talks about the peculiarities of the steel industry from an HR perspective, women’s employment and finding a balance between family and work.
— As an HR manager of a major mining company, can you tell us how the attitude towards girls in the industry has been changing in recent years?
— Since this year, we have had a change in legislation. On the one hand, the list of professions forbidden for women was reduced. On the other hand, the list still includes many professions that are relevant to our company, particularly those related to underground work. Now our Company employs more than 19,000 women and more than 9,500 of them work in blue-collar jobs.
As for the attitude towards girls in the industry, it is definitely changing. There are more girls in the industry. It seems to me that this only improves interaction, work and relations in the team. When there is a gender balance, different points of view, different managerial approaches, it is always beneficial.
— Once at a job interview I was asked if I was pregnant right now and if I was planning to have a baby in the near future. How do you — as HR and as a woman — view this situation?
— I think such questions are far from characterizing both employers and the culture as a whole. Unfortunately, there are certain stereotypes. The fear that a girl will not be able to work effectively is one of them. Sometimes even at a job interview you can hear the phrase: «Don’t worry, I am not going to have a baby» — women say it themselves, trying as if to justify themselves. It seems to me that this position is absolutely wrong. I wish our society would change its attitude towards women’s plans to become mothers. After all, it is a personal matter and responsibility of each individual, how he is going to build his life in parallel with the work, how he plans his workload. In my opinion, having children and a career are absolutely compatible stories these days. Certainly, it’s strange to expect that a woman, once she becomes a mother, will immediately go to work. Certainly, the help of relatives or nannies will be needed to take over some of the care. But if a young mother is ready for this, there are no obstacles to continuing to build a career.
— Tell me, are there any programs for girls returning from maternity leave to get up to speed as quickly as possible?
— Here it is important to understand that if you leave a modern organization for three years, you are already essentially returning to a new place of work. Most likely, it will be partly a new team, perhaps there will be some new tasks.
At Nornickel, we do not make special programmes for girls returning from maternity leave. However, we are building the Company’s training system in such a way that people are constantly developing and training is accessible. Therefore, in addition to the standard educational programs of our corporate university, we actively develop online training. Last year we launched the Nornickel Academy educational platform. It contains dozens of interesting educational products and is available to every employee at any time and from any device.
— Do you need any specific knowledge for HR in mining?
— Of course. You have to have a good understanding of the conditions in which people work, the specifics of their work, the regulatory framework and the culture of the industry. It seems to me that every industry has its own cultural code, its own history. All this has to be taken into account when compensation and benefits systems are being developed, organizational transformation is taking place, or new educational programs are being developed.
— How did you get into the mining industry and where did you start to grow to Vice President of Human Resources?
— I started my career in human resources, as a recruiter. And as a recruiter I came to work in a metallurgical company. My main employers were companies in the metals industry, which is where I grew up to my position.
— Do you often have business trips?
— This year there were no business trips at all, but in general yes, quite often. Sometimes I go every week, sometimes once a month — it all depends on production tasks.
— Do you remember when you first came to Norilsk, what impression the city made?
— I came to Norilsk for the first time in winter, everything was under snow, huge snow drifts, a snowstorm, and very cold — minus 35. But, as it turned out, it was beautiful weather, because the planes fly and there are no delays. I was surprised how, even in such a cold weather, people stand calmly at bus stops and wait for transport. Cars are not turned off even at night. There are large numbers of plates on the houses so that they can see the numbers in the blizzard. At the same time it is very warm inside, you feel warm even when you come in from the cold. There was polar night, but you don’t notice it when you are in the office all day. The main impression for me is people who are always very hospitable to meet you, drink tea and smile. For many people, including me, Norilsk is a place where one wants to come back. Despite the frost and cold, this is an incredibly warm place in terms of people, atmosphere and human character. You see what people have built in such conditions, how they have rallied together shoulder to shoulder and are doing a great job — it is very impressive.
— How do your family members feel about you being away a lot?
— My family got used to this regime pretty quickly. I think it’s thanks to the clear rules we agreed on. When I am at work, everyone is quite independent. At the same time I am always in touch, I find an opportunity to call, to talk, to find out how things are going. When my son was little, we had a ritual — every night I invented and told him a new fairy tale. So as not to break the tradition, I called him with a new tale and from business trips. Of course, on weekdays work takes up most of my time. And on weekends I fully and completely devote my time to my loved ones. It seems to me that such a clear division allows me not to deceive anyone’s expectations.
— Not being a production worker yourself, do you still identify with the mining industry, is there a sense of belonging?
— Of course. We work with people, most of the work is directly related to production personnel, with social programs, training, development, remuneration. Therefore, it is impossible not to feel part of this big metallurgical story. I absolutely identify with the fact that I work for a major mining and metallurgical company.
— What advice would you give to girls so that they are not afraid to build a career in mining?
— Firstly, do not be afraid! If you want to build your career and grow professionally, don’t let stereotypes stop you, remember that you are talented, and move forward. It is interesting, it is developing, it introduces you to a lot of wonderful people. You yourself are constantly changing and you get great pleasure from your work.
As for metallurgy, this industry is now rapidly developing and being renewed. Technology allows the industry to be environmentally friendly, modern and innovative. Over time, there will be even more jobs for girls. And any developing industry opens up opportunities for career development.
You should go into metallurgy, by all means, if you are interested in building a career and want to see the results of your work. Metal is a tangible product that is used almost everywhere, that you can see with your own eyes. For example, nickel is now in a huge number of devices — from cars and batteries to mobile phones. And you feel really involved in the vast world of manufacturing. When you end up with nickel or copper from a piece of ore, it’s incredibly inspiring. You feel involved and proud of what you’re doing.
Interfax correspondent Olesya Elkova interviewed