As we wrap up women’s month in South Africa, we interviewed Odette Aspeling, Fusion Team Lead, certified scuba diver and proud mom of 7 fur babies who has been part of the Datamine family for more than 22 years.
Learn about Odette’s journey as women in the mining industry in the interview below:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a proud mom of 7 fur babies, aunty to an amazing niece and nephew, sister to a brother who can drive me crazy, but I love him to bits. Born and bred in the south of Johannesburg and have lived there all my life. Unfortunately, never had the opportunity to marry – I would have loved to have had kids, so I surround myself with my animals and everyone else’s kids.
Anything creative draws my attention and if there’s a course, I’m on it. I’ve done so many over the years, from cake decorating to stained glass lamps. I completed my NAUI certification for scuba diving while at tech and did an amazing 2-week trip with classmates, diving all along the coast from Cape Town up to Port Elizabeth. I started working and studying through Gold Fields in 1987 and spent the next few years living in Carletonville. In 1994 I decided to resign as my boyfriend who also worked for Gold Fields had taken up a job in Uganda. So, I moved back to Johannesburg and started temping, and in February 1995 joined Datamine for the journey of my life.
Tragically in Aug of 1995, my boyfriend and his work colleagues were killed in a plane crash in Entebbe- Uganda. I know it is a sad thing to bring up, but I mention it because it was a pivotal moment in my life. Although I had only been with Datamine for 6months, you can never know the support I got from the people I worked with. In September 2017 after 22 years, I made one of the hardest decisions ever to leave Datamine and pursue a new opportunity. Things didn’t turn out as expected, but I learned a lot from the experience and it allowed me to realize what was important for me in my work environment. In September 2021, I returned home to Datamine.
What inspired your career in the Mining Industry?
To be honest, it was by chance and nothing magical like collecting rocks during my childhood. I was unsure of what I wanted to do after high school and was given the opportunity to work and study through Gold Fields. I started off in analytical chemistry but soon realized it wasn’t for me and switched to Geology.
Major mining companies collaborated with Wits Technikon amongst others to offer a curriculum aimed at ensuring students were given both the education and practical experience needed to be productive straight out the gates. These programs comprised alternating 6-month blocks at Technikon followed by practical exposure on the various mine operations.
My practicals were spent at Oberholzer Base Camp in Carletonville working in the sedimentology (logging a lot of core), engineering, and geophysics departments and practical mine experience at Deelkraal and Doornfontein Gold Mines.
Some of my best experiences came from my time at tech and working for Gold Fields. There was so much to learn, and it truly gave you a solid foundation.
As a woman working in mining industry, what has your experience been like?
Things were very different when I joined the mining industry in 1987/88. I was one of only two women working for Gold Fields at the time that were being put through the program at Wits Technikon. It was a male dominated industry through and through, and I made sure I never got caught up in being offended if men were swearing in the cage going underground.
I was always treated with respect, and there was a natural tendency for your immediate supervisor to ensure you were kept safe else it could have had huge ramifications and bad publicity.
I know my experiences were very different to those experienced by women nowadays in this industry. Maybe they thought it was a novelty that would wear off eventually. But 30+ years later women have showed they are here to stay.
I don’t claim to know half the struggles women have currently in the workplace. I was extremely fortunate and overall, my experiences were good. I have been privileged enough to work with and for amazing people. People for me make or break a work environment.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your role / the work you do?
I love being part of a team that collaborates on ideas and solutions. With my work in the Fusion team and working primarily on the database side of things, I have found it strangely satisfies my creative side – you take something that is a disorganised and build a solution that puts it all in order. For me it’s all about the people. When you work with amazing people, and I’m not just talking about intellectually amazing people, I’m talking about people who are genuine, friendly, helpful, people who care about people – I could do this job till the end of my days
What are your best memories from your career?
Most of my work travels have been within the African continent, but I had the opportunity to work out of the Perth, Canadian and Wells office in the UK for 2 weeks. Those were all amazing experiences.
Cycling with colleagues from Carletonville to Parys one Sunday morning. A 702 walk a group of Dataminer’s did a few years ago. Our conferences have always been an amazing event – we used to have up to 80 clients attending Datamine conferences.
Some of my closest friendships are work colleagues.
Connect with Odette on LinkedIn here.
For more information or to connect with our team, make sure to send us an enquiry.