«One of the best decisions of my life was to go into the profession.»
Natalya Kaibalina has worked her way up from a rank-and-file surveyor to head of a mining asset. Now, as Managing Director of Taseyevskoye LLC, she is responsible for Highland Gold’s Baley cluster in Transbaikalia. In the interview she talks about what she considers to be her main professional achievements and the challenges yet to be overcome.
– Natalya, could you tell us how you came to work in the mining industry?
— I am a mine surveyor by profession, but I did not join the mining industry immediately after graduation, and only in 2000, when I was not young enough, did I get a job at Kazzinc Holding. I started out as a surveyor in the mining and capital group, then became the chief surveyor of the underground Ridder-Sokolny gold mine, one of the largest gold mines in Kazakhstan, and then I headed the mine for about three years.
Atsome point, I went into HR and worked as the head of the audit department of Kazzinc’s human resources department. One should understand that Kazzinc is a large holding with several production complexes, the staff is 22 thousand people.
— Under what circumstances did you move to Russia?
— At the end of 2006, Highland Gold and Kazzinc agreed to jointly develop the Novo-Shirokinskoye mine in Transbaikalia. It took two years to build the plant and to rehabilitate the mine. I first came to Zabaikalye in March 2008 as a member of the Kazzinc delegation, and a year later I moved to Russia. My transition to Highland Gold was smooth: I started working remotely at Novo-Shirokinskoye, and then I moved.
I have changed several positions and regions within Highland Gold. First, I headed the HR department at Novo-Shirokinskoye in Trans-Baikal Territory; in 2012, I went to Moscow to work for a management company as deputy director of HR; about three years later, I went to the Khabarovsk Territory, to the Mnogovershinnoye enterprise. And then she finally returned to Transbaikalia again to head the Baley cluster.
— What is your area of responsibility right now?
— I am the Managing Director of Taseyevskoye. Currently, my area of responsibility in the Baley cluster includes three assets: the Taseyevskoye, Sredny Golgotay and the technogenic ZIF-1 deposits.
— What do you like most about this job?
— The opportunity to launch an industrial enterprise from scratch. I was involved in the launch of Novo-Shirokinskoye, but not as the first person, and otherwise worked at the existing enterprises. Now, as part of the Baley cluster, we are preparing to launch heap leaching at ZIF-1 tailings, which is an interesting challenge for me personally.
— What professional achievements are you proud of?
— As I said, I was the head of the underground Ridder-Sokolny mine. And that is, excuse me, 2 million tons of ore to extract from the ground, almost 5 tons of gold! I had one thousand and a half people in my subordination, almost all of them were men. I was the first female head of a mine in Kazakhstan, and almost the only one so far.
— What about personal achievements?
— I have three children. Quite a few.
— How do you manage to combine work and family?
— The children are all grown up now, the youngest son is 26 years old. That is why I am busy with my work now. And I take care of the children when I go to visit them.
— What do you need to do to succeed in your profession, especially in a male team? What, in your opinion, has helped you?
— As an old acquaintance of mine used to say, «No one has promised to feed you on the road.» So do what you can with what you have, where you are.
— Have you had any special, memorable days at work?
— Over the years I have had professional breakthroughs and unpleasant situations, I remember both good days and bad ones. There were some that I don’t want to remember, and the worst ones were related to safety violations. I personally think that our company is now focusing on industrial and occupational safety and health, and I think it is the right thing to do. No commercial achievement is worth the loss of human life.
— If you had the opportunity, from the perspective of your current experience, to turn to your 20 year old self and give advice, what would you say?
— At 20, I wasn’t really inclined to listen to advice, to my deepest regret.
What would I have said? I probably would have advised to take a job in my profession sooner rather than pondering for a long time whether it was worth going into mining. I think it was one of the right decisions in my life — to go to work in my profession.
— What do you value most in people?
— There are many things to name, but I would probably single out efficiency (as the ability to solve tasks, not just to sit through work hours), honesty (if a person has cheated me once, I can never trust him again — unfortunately, I have such maximalism in my character, I know it). And humor, I have to be tolerated with humor!
— Is there a person in your life who has somehow influenced your professional choice?
— Yes, of course, there is one person who has had a very big influence on my whole life — Julia Popovich, the former first vice-president of Kazzinc. We still maintain relations with her. This is a person of the highest professionalism and logic and, I think, of high spiritual qualities. I absolutely sincerely admire this woman.
The interview was prepared for publication by Olesya Elkova, Interfax correspondent