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Gemma Lancaster: already part of the Mackay branch family

Although relatively new to the company, Gemma Lancaster has already made great strides in her role. In fact, she’s been so impressive she recently became the Customer Service Manager for the Mackay branch.

Gemma has experienced more of regional Australia than most, living in various parts of South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales. Her family moved around a lot when she was younger, and it was family connections that got her the first job of her career in the mining industry. “Dad was working at the wash plant at the Newlands coal mine west of Mackay when I was in my early 20s”, explains Gemma. “I had always dreamed of being a marine biologist then realised I hated the ocean! I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to go on so thought I’d take some time off school to try to figure that out when a job at the mine came along”. Gemma spent 6 years in the purchasing department there and got some great experience in supply administration and purchasing.

She moved on to the underground mine at Narrabri Coal next where she spent 10 years working in maintenance administration. “I started for a few months helping safety and training and I was pretty experienced with the software they used, so I took on a permanent role as the maintenance administrator which included inputting work orders, generating work orders, running forecast reports as well as mine production reporting – pretty much the whole lot.”

One of the key features of both roles for Gemma was the interaction with such a wide range of people. “You talk to a lot of people and when dealing with so many people in different scenarios, there’s always something different happening. I really enjoyed that aspect of it”.

Fast forward to 2019, and Gemma had a toddler in the form of son Dexter and gave birth to her 2nd child Odette, so took some maternity leave. With her husband Josh working FIFO as an Underground Deputy, they decided being closer to wider family was a better decision for them and their 2 kids, so the family left Narrabri in late 2019, and spent a year at Moranbah, southwest of Mackay, before buying a house in Mackay. “It was time to come home, to get back to the coast so our son could be with his cousins more and we could get some family support with the kids too”.

That support enabled Gemma to return to the workforce in early 2021 after seeing a job ad for a Service Coordinator’s role at Sullair in Mackay – she started in February and hit the ground running. “It’s a busy office with lots to do – we were running 4 technicians, so I was booking all the tech jobs for the weeks ahead, along with their travel and accommodation. We cover local mines in the Bowen basin mostly, but also have a Rockhampton and Gladstone run, as well as covering parts of the north around Airlie Beach”.

Gemma was getting into a good rhythm with her role, when the Customer Service Manager’s position was advertised. It felt like a natural progression for her, so she applied and got it. “It’s only been 2 months so I’m still transitioning into the new role,” she explains. “There’s a lot of administration involved, making sure all our processes around audits, and inspections, and building monitoring are up to scratch. There’s also the HR function to keep on top of – how the technicians are going, timesheets, annual reviews and so on”. Gemma meets with the other branch managers around Australia once a week to share what’s going on locally and to keep across the broader company’s activities. “I honestly learn something new every single day because I have a genuine interest in how compressors work. I love when the techs come in after a breakdown and explain why it broke down and how the different parts work to fix it.”

An important and validating part of the job for Gemma has been the strong culture of the organisation. “There are just a few of us in the office, plus the technicians, so we all know everyone well. The family culture that we have here is really nice too – everyone’s so supportive of each other. Everyone’s got your back and I’ve always felt welcomed by everyone in the company.” It’s been a lot of activity in a short time, and a long road to get to a position she now feels ownership of, but it’s been worth it. “At the end of the day it feels like I’ve been rewarded for all the work I’ve done. I’m proud to work here, of what we’re doing and what we’ve achieved. I love coming to work every day and being part of a great team”.

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