Jazmin Smith holds the position of administrator data management & systems at South32. She has completed a Certificate III in Businesses Administration and a Certificate IV in Human Resources.
What's your name and job title? What did you study?
My name is Jazmin Smith and I am currently in the position of administrator data management & systems at South32. I joined BHP Billiton as a trainee in business administration in 2012 and during the course of 12 months, completed my Certificate III in Business Administration. Since then, I have completed my Certificate IV in Human Resources and am currently studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in human resources management as part of my development plan with South32. I worked in the HR function for about three years and have recently moved into the Health, Safety, Environment and Community (HSEC) reporting team.
Who are your mob? Do you identify with a particular tribe or people?
My great grandmother was a Murri woman who grew up on the Yarrabah Mission in Queensland. She later relocated to the east Kimberley where my grandfather grew up in Oombulgurri on the Forrest River Mission. My ancestral mob are the Kaantju people. However, I have not met my family in Coen, Queensland as my great grandparents relocated to Western Australia in the 1930s.
Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your life.
I grew up in Carey Park, a small suburb in Bunbury, Western Australia with my mother and older brother. We lived in government housing which was very convenient as we lived right next to our primary school. My mum was very strict on education and made sure I completed high school and my TEE subjects. I moved out of home at 16 and lived with my school friends’ families until I graduated from high school in 2010, and immediately started working in retail and reception. Not long after, I saw an advertisement of an Indigenous administration trainee posted online and immediately applied for it. I was 19 at the time, and that’s how I ended up working with BHP Billiton and South32.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I moved into my current role as an administrator data management & systems about three months ago. I was lucky enough to have some very kind-hearted co-workers who recommended me for the role, which is very humbling. I have just reached five years of service with South32.
Did you face any obstacles as an Indigenous student?
I think all students face obstacles, particularly in their adolescence, but I personally did not have any struggles because I have had a lot of support networks. Being very fair skinned some people do not understand my connection to country which is strong through my maternal side. In the past, I have had difficulties with lack of motivation and self-belief, but now that I have faced those challenges I know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.
Was your Indigenous heritage ever an advantage?
I have a great love, understanding and caring for Aboriginal people and the importance of connection to the land and country. I know all about intergenerational trauma, racism and the impact of colonisation that has affected Aboriginal culture and language. Because I have this understanding I have found it easy to keep relationships with other Aboriginal people and are respectful of their cultural practices and beliefs. To me, this is an advantage.
I think a lot of people have this misconception that by being Indigenous we are advantaged by the government benefits that are offered to us, or that it is ‘easier’ to get a job because of diversity targets, but these are just basic human rights and to obtain equity across the country these things must be provided – they are not an advantage. There is a lot of pain from the trauma and racism that impacted our families and our people and that still resonates with you every single day.
Applying for your job
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
Before I moved into human resources (HR), I had no desire to move out of my role in administration and was also considering nursing as a profession. At the time, I was reporting directly to the head of HR, who I had a lot of respect and admiration for. She suggested HR as a career and I immediately knew that this was the right choice for me.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
As I was 19 at the time the interview process was very daunting. I remember being so nervous and unprepared, but as soon as I entered the room I felt comfortable. The interview panel were so welcoming and the questions were very much tailored to my level of experience as a trainee. The questions were all based on my past experiences working within a team, working under pressure and handling grievances, all which required a scenario based response. Being from a retail and people focused environment, I felt very confident answering these questions.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
There are many different elements within HR, but I like to think that many of the practices are people focused and instinctive rather than based on textbooks and theory. If a student is wanting to go down this career path, I would recommend not only studying HR management at either bachelor or diploma level, but also developing their communication, people, grievance resolution, and motivational skills. From experience, I highly recommend that students research the industry they are wanting to primarily work in and gain an understanding of the organisation’s behaviour and culture to ensure that it aligns with your personal values. Work experience is recommended as it will help build all of the abovementioned skills. During my time with South32, I have worked with numerous Indigenous school-based trainees, all of whom have been very successful when seeking permanent employment in their chosen career path.
What does your employer do?
South32 is a globally diversified metals and mining company, operating primarily in Australia, Southern Africa and South America. South32 mine and produce bauxite, alumina, aluminium, energy and metallurgical coal, manganese, nickel, silver, lead, and zinc.
What are your areas of responsibility?
I am currently responsible for producing the monthly HSEC reports and providing HSEC system support for South32, covering all operations across the world. During my time in HR, I was part of a larger team responsible for the payroll data management for all employees within Australia.
Can you describe a typical workday? What was the last thing you worked on?
In my current role, every day is a surprise. I am often working on multiple projects along with scheduled tasks such as end of month reporting. The last project I worked on was a benchmarking activity on South32’s human capital performance. The intent was to identify how South32 compares to other International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) members and whether there are any opportunities for improvement.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
I think anyone can succeed in any career, however the key is to commit to a career that you are passionate about, to truly succeed and to feel accomplished at the end of each day. HR is very people-focused, so a successful employee would need to be respectful, unbiased and dedicated to creating an equitable work environment.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
The opportunities are endless. My current role could take me to a specialist role or supervisor role in the long-term, or my HR studies could open so many doors in disciplines such as recruitment, employee relations, remuneration and benefits, and learning. I am hoping that I could be a part of a graduate program when I complete my studies in HR.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Absolutely, I am a prime example of this, being from a HR background and working in the HSEC department. I am a strong believer that everyone is capable of achieving anything they put their mind to, it is all about whether or not they are motivated to get there.
A word to the wise...
How important is it for Indigenous youths to stay connected with their communities?
Very important because they are the future of this country and they are the ones that can make sure that the elders are heard and the traditions are kept strong for each individual tribe. Without this connection, our culture, stories, and history could be lost.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to Indigenous students nearing graduation? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role, or even be career-focused.
Firstly, be proud of yourself; take a step back and look at everything you have accomplished so far, and set yourself some exciting goals. Some people will try to knock you down and tell you that you can’t achieve those goals but stay true to yourself and you will conquer them.
Secondly, continue learning everyday. Knowledge is power and the future for Aboriginal people and upcoming generations relies on what you do now to promote Aboriginal enterprise.
Lastly, get a great mentor; find someone who has had similar experiences as a professional, [and] who can help guide you through the difficulties and the challenges that arise from cultural commitments and the expectations that go with this.