Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Sisters on the Rock

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Contributed Photo Danae Chamberlain (left), Junior Exploration Geologist at OZ Minerals, does a composition inspection as her colleague Natalee Hutchings, checks the logbook.
Contributed Photo OZ Minerals Junior Exploration Geologists Natalee Hutchings and Danae Chamberlain carry out a field observation in Bellas Gate, St Catherine.
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this is where she wants to be. "I have a love for geology. I love the earth and the environment. I have an interest to see what is there and try to understand it," she says, firmly grasping the mini magnifying glass hanging loosely around her neck.

Chamberlain has had an interest in the field from as early as she can remember. Her first geography class in high school set the foundation for her major.

"I always loved earth science, rocks and the outdoors, and after having my first semester of being introduced to the study of geology, I was convinced that it was an area I wanted to stick to," she explains.

"Both Natalee and Danae have continued to grow in their role as professional geologists. They have a strong work ethic and are excelling as they undertake new tasks associated with regional exploration activities, an aspect of the job which is new to them," states Peter Collett, project geologist at Oz Minerals. "We did not know of their shared background until they came here, so it is a coincidence that they were both selected to work with us. They were exceptional in the interviews and were hired based on merit, as we felt they were the best candidates for the job."

Their survey site in the rural Bellas Gate community in St Catherine is a long way from home, but their companionship enables them to overcome challenges, while sharing experiences and lessons learnt in the field. Chamberlain, an only child, speaks fondly of Hutchings. "She is like the sister I never had. We have been close friends since we were in high school. We motivate and support each other in achieving our goals."

The team at Oz Minerals provides an additional support system. "Family summarises the work culture here," Hutchings explains. "Oz Minerals emphasises team building; the geologists are patient and understanding, and they listen to workers' concerns. That means a lot to us." Reminiscing on the first day they arrived on site, Hutchings and Chamberlain shared the same excitement. "I was excited to be here. We got a tour of the facilities, and it was my first time being on a drill site when they took me there. Seeing the operations, the health and operational procedures were exciting. I felt blessed." She continued, "Not many can say that they are working in a very diverse career that combines the recreational activities you always loved as a child with professional experience. Having such an opportunity is mind-blowing!" she adds.

Being so vastly outnumbered by their male coworkers who were well suited for the job, both academically and professionally, seemed daunting, but they were ready for the challenge. "The guys were a bit alarmed that I was this young, but it didn't take long for them to get over it," says Hutchings as she recalls her experience. Chamberlain adds, "They were surprised and interested to know why we were here. They didn't expect females, especially so young, but mostly, they were willing to hear our stories."

Both say they were welcomed with open arms, but more important, they are treated the same as their male counterparts. While studying geology at UWI, they never felt out of place, and at Oz Minerals, the family environment ensures that they are not only fully equipped, but are also comfortable.

Before their current jobs, Hutchings and Chamberlain only had part-time work experience doing projects and internships. Working with Oz Minerals has resulted in their independence, increased confidence, a broader knowledge base and sense of stability and hope for the future growth in the field. It is no wonder that they urge youngsters like themselves to relentlessly pursue their passion, regardless of the odds.

Hutchings said her mother was sceptical of her decision to major in geology, and questioned whether it was a good investment or whether there would be viable job opportunities. However, she soon persuaded her that it was her passion and dream to work in the field. Her persistence paid off, and soon she got her mother's blessing. Today, she shares her anecdote and words of encouragement with anyone with whom she comes in contact. "If you truly love something, don't give up, go ahead and pursue it," she said.

Chamberlain, too, has a message for those who are interested in careers that are not popular or mainstream. "Research, network, and get involved in activities that allow you to learn more about scholarships, internships, and your field of study that would pave the way for your development in the career of your choice. My involvement in the Jamaica Geology Society, UWI Geology and Geography Societies, mentorship programmes and networking with people in the field have really helped in my career development so far," she said. "Whatever you choose, if it is something you really want to do, go for it!"