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As part of our Careers in Mining series, this post looks at the job of Vice President of Technical Services with Gord Doerksen of JDS Energy and Mining Inc.
Gord grew up in Nanaimo and after graduation from BCIT (Dip. T. – Mining), Gord began his career as a UG surveyor at Giant Yellowknife Mines. Over a five-year period at Giant, he progressed to mine planning and production foreman positions before returning to college to get his mine engineering degree at Montana Tech in Butte. After graduation, Gord moved to Wyoming to work for FMC Corporation in their trona and coals mines. In 1996, adventure came calling and Gord and his family moved to Zambia as part of a team hired by the World Bank to upgrade the Zambian copper mines in anticipation of privatization. Gord and his family moved back to the BC coast where he was the Mine Manager at a large sand and gravel operation in Sechelt. He then became a mining consultant, first with SRK Consulting (Canada) Inc. and then finally with JDS Energy and Mining Inc. where he is currently the VP Technical Services.
What is your main role as VP of Technical Services?
By reading the rest of the interview, I think it covers the answer to this question.
What came first - a desire to go into mining, or the desire to become an engineer?
I got into mining first and then decided to be an engineer later. None of my family was involved in mining so I didn’t know a lot about it but I liked the possibility of doing a combination of office and field work and seeing the world while working.
I got started in the industry by taking a 2-year diploma program in Mining Engineering Technology at BCIT so I could get a good basic understanding of the industry and then get to work as quickly as possible. My first job was at the Giant Mine in Yellowknife. I was there for 5 years and then went back to university in Montana to get my engineering degree which turned out to be a good decision.
When you started out, did you see yourself in such a position, or was that something that evolved as you grew in your career?
My career just evolved into where I am today. I followed the opportunities afforded to me to get a broad range of experience early in my career and it just developed from there. I always sought new challenges. It is very hard to know which direction your career will take when you first get out of school. Once you get a chance to see different types of jobs in the industry you can decide which suits you best.
Where have you had the chance to travel to? And what's been the most exciting or fascinating part of the world you've seen?
I have travelled extensively in North and South America and Africa. I have travelled to Asia, south-east Asia and Australia – I guess that almost covers the planet! There have been many highlights all of which involve an interesting combination of local people, food and interesting sights. Peru and Turkey are two of my favourites but I enjoy it all. My most exciting trip was going to a small coal mine in the middle of Borneo. It took us three days to get to the site from Vancouver with the final leg being in a small powerboat snaking up a river for about three hours. We were on site for about two hours and then started the 3-day trip back to Vancouver.
You must be away from home for extended periods. How long? What makes you the type of person that can do this successfully?
I have never had to spend more than a couple of months away from my family at a time and those were rare occurrences. Most of my time away is 7-10 days in duration and only occur every 2-3 months. I have been very fortunate to be able to have my wife and two daughters with me wherever I have worked. We have lived in many parts of Canada and the US and lived in Zambia for 5-years, which was a great adventure.
What does your average day look like in the office?
About half of my day is taken up by meetings with clients and colleagues for various projects we are involved in. The rest of the time is normally spent doing project reviews, writing project proposals, recruiting new employees and doing administration work. I usually try to meet for lunch with colleagues a few times a week.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My current job is the highlight so far. We are doing good things for the industry and our business model is unique and successful. It is fun to be part of a growing company that provides our client with the best solutions for their projects.
What do you love most about your job?
I have always enjoyed the travel aspects of my job. Like most engineers, I also like finding solutions to problems. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. I also like the variety of work and types of projects we get involved with. There is never a dull moment. I really enjoy the people I work with, a good mix of young and old who are smart, hard-working but also like to have a good time.
There must be aspects of the job which you don't enjoy so much. What are they?
Any kind of administration work is always a bit dull.
As an engineer who's made it to the top, what advice would you give to someone interested in following this path?
I am not sure I have made it to the top as I think there are more exciting challenges out there!
My advice to people starting in the minerals industry is to follow the career path that gives you the most personal satisfaction. Do what you want to do, not what others want you to do. Focus on working hard and do quality work and be willing to take a chance now and then and you will have an enjoyable career.
For more interviews with mining professionals in different jobs, have a look at our main Careers in Mining post.