Sarah’s Self Interview


This week it’s my time to answer Yvette’s questions, so you can all get to know the mining engineer in your life a little better.

Where do you work and what do you do there?

I am a Senior Mining Engineer for an Australian company that makes mine planning software, based in their Edinburgh office.  Just in case you’ve not been lucky enough to cross paths with a mining engineer, once the geologists use their magical powers to locate an orebody a mining engineer is then involved from the long term evaluation and mine design through to short term production of the orebody.  At Maptek I dabble in selling software, technical support and consulting projects.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Though I sometimes miss site work, as our office covers the European, Northern & Western African and Russian regions I am gaining a much greater understanding of different mining methods and the global mining industry, projects that are upcoming and the various players in the industry.

What did you study at uni and where?

I graduated with a Bachelors of Mining Engineering from the University of New South Wales back in 2006. It seems like an awfully long time ago…


Myself and my fellow engineers competing in the University Mining Games. Yep, that’s a thing!

What is your biggest regret?

Not completing my Underground Mine Managers ticket.  At the time it was the best decision as my head and heart just weren’t in it.

Who has inspired you?

My Dad was a geologist in a past life, and family holidays often had a geological bent.  It also meant that Dad’s friends and colleagues were banker, geologists and engineers so I’ve spent time with some inspirational women who have had amazing success in their chosen fields.

What decisions have led you to where you are?

In high school, all I really wanted to do was play with rocks so I studied all the requisite subjects to begin a career in Geology.  Halfway through Year 12 however I thought that given the cyclical nature of mining, a mining engineer could better withstand the busts. Honestly though, I was mostly just excited about large trucks and being able to blow things up.

I was then lucky enough to be offered a position with Xstrata’s graduate program at their geologically interesting George Fisher Mine near Mt Isa.  It was definitely a case of choosing my graduate job for the deposit and mine rather than the company.

What was the greatest moment in your professional life?

I have been given some amazing opportunities throughout my career to date.  From a personal point of view surviving 12 months working underground and then 9 months supervising a crew of 12 to 16 underground workers.  It was really tough as a 24yo female in a very male dominated industry, but I made some long lasting relationships, gained some amazing experience, hit all my safety and production targets, and grew a lot as a person! No awards at the end, but the sense of achievement has been unequalled since.


What is your favourite thing about yourself?

I’m still fascinated, often overly excited, by the world in which we live.  So many things to see and learn about.


Five minutes in New York and I’d already found the Flatiron building

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

No matter how uncool it is, keep doing the things you love. One day you’ll end up living in Scotland and it will all make sense!!

Where is your favourite place in the world?

The beautiful glacial U shaped valleys of Yosemite, and The Lakes District isn’t far behind.


The Lakes District

What is the hardest decision you have ever had to make?

To quit my job at EHM and travel.  Thankfully I had a bit of a financial security blanket, but it was still really stressful to take that leap.

Why do you need feminism?

All through these questions I’ve just been copying over the top of Antionia’s answers, and her answer to this question is spot on so I’m going to be cheeky and not change a thing!  To quote Antonia “I need feminism because having children shouldn’t end my career and not having children shouldn’t make me less of a woman. I wish Women in Leadership conferences didn’t require a parenting tips segment.”

What is at the top of your bucket list?

Living in Scotland was at the top for a long time, as was taking a gap year to travel, but now they’re both ticked off I need to put a bit more thought into it!  I’ve done the solo travel thing, so now I would most like to take my boyfriend to the States and Canada, hire a car and just drive!  It would allow us both time to get back in to photography, and the Scottish music and dance scene is bigger than you think so we’d always have something to do.


Showing Pete around Sydney

What would be the most effective items in your Eden Jar

The most rewarding items would be of a musical or dance bent, along the lines of “Tickets to a gig”, “A new CD” or “A fiddle lesson from one of the many amazing muso’s in Scotland”.  But even “A new box of tea” or “High tea with a good friend” would put a very large smile on my face and bring balance back to the force!

Where are you going from here?

I have recently started studying an MBA in International Resource Management, so ideally coupled with my practical experience I would like to evaluate projects for a medium sized mining company in a head office somewhere.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about me? Feel free to ask in the Comments section below.


Are you proposing today?



I’m proposing that my boyfriend and I complete 5 Munro’s over the next 12 months.  And that we drink slightly less beer, and finally, officially, move in together.  But I’m definitely not popping the question, ‘that’ question.

Today is February 29, the only day in four years women are traditionally allowed to get down on one knee and propose spending the rest of your life together with the one we love.  But these days, during our fight toward proper gender equality, is this tradition valid anymore?

It dates back to the mid fifth century where Saint Brigid of Kildare, who was sick of waiting, beseeched Saint Patrick for a day when women could propose marriage to longtime suitors.  She could almost be called an early feminist, but why did she only ask for one day in every 1461?

If we want true equality, then both men and women should be able to bring up matters like these with no reproof, and discuss them in that often elusive “safe space”.  Equality is a two way street.   While marriage no longer has as many of its advantages, we should empower women, and men, to discuss marriage in an open and honest manner, before signing up for a lifelong commitment.

Seabass with Icelandic Kelp Salt



(…or with whatever other exciting herbs and spices you have picked up on your travels)

Hi! I am a geologising cook who used to work with the lovely Sarah in the mining town of Mt. Isa. I could tell you a few good food-related Mt-Isa stories, including inadvertently causing someone to drive around town for over an hour searching for a fictional new restaurant called ‘The ‘Mo’… which was actually my fabulous kitchen. However, I hate to waffle so I will move on to the task in hand…

When I was asked if I would share a recipe with you I was given the following remit; ‘a quick easy recipe for the busy female STEM professional when they’re asked to bring in goodies for morning tea’. However, as is typical I ignored that and went my own way (sorry Sarah!) because I really want to share a recipe for a lovely evening meal with you instead; it does tick the ‘quick and easy’ box but I do not think that your colleagues would appreciate you bringing fish into the office! Maybe if you like any of them enough you could invite them for supper, or even better put the radio on and cook an easy fancy meal just for yourself, pour yourself a nice glass of wine and relax. I know which I would prefer after a long day at work!


I make quite a habit of picking up spice mixes on my travels to liven up my cooking and to make it a little more ‘unique’; the ‘kelp garlic salt’ seasoning used for this meal was brought back from a geologising trip to Iceland. Depending on my mood I substitute in different spice mixtures; a particular favourite being ‘Mojo’ from the Canary Islands (you may have spotted a volcano theme!).

I am sure that a number of you lovely STEM ladies go abroad in the course of your work, and I would love it if I could inspire you to venture to the local shops and markets and bring some local spices home.



  • Sea bass fillets – one piece per person
  • A tablespoon of spice mix per person
  • Couscous (~ ½ cup per person)
  • Saffron
  • Vegetable stock
  • ¼ red cabbage
  • Approx 5 carrots
  • Lemon juice
  • Good olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Put the couscous into a bowl with a pinch of saffron and the vegetable stock, cover and set to one side. If you don’t make couscous very often check the instructions on the packet for the proportion of couscous to liquid (I tend to make it up which isn’t very helpful, sorry).
  2. For the salad; chop the red cabbage into small-ish pieces, then use the biggest bit of your cheese grater (mind your knuckles!) or a potato peeler to finely slice the carrot. Put into a dish with a generous slosh of olive oil, a squirt of lemon juice, a good few grinds of pepper and a couple of pinches of sea salt. Taste. Add more lemon, salt and pepper if you think it would improve it.
  3.  For the fish; put a tablespoon of your spice mix of choice onto a plate, adding a teaspoon of salt if there isn’t already some in the mix. Rub a small amount of oil onto the fish and then coat it with the spice and salt. Shallow fry for a couple of minutes on each side until just cooked through; be careful not cook it for too long or it will dry out.

Enjoy with a well-earned glass of white wine and a little reminisce about the international travel which enabled you to cook such a delightful meal.


Just in case you actually did need more cake this week, check out my recipe for sponge cake with chocolate and coffee here.

coffee cake

More cake!

Kitty loves cooking, baking, tea, reading and a very special spotty dog (and lovely cat). After living in Melbourne and Mt Isa, Kitty returned to her native England and settled down in the Cotswolds where she spends her time geologising and sharing her love of food and drink with friends, family and the local community.  She blogs at and you can find her on Instagram @kitty_allcock

Put a Ring on It



Just because it’s Monday doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too!  How many times have you been asked to bake for a last minute work morning tea?  How often has your boss assumed that just because you’re a woman you’d love to spend all evening slaving away in the kitchen baking cake for tomorrow’s clients?  Don’t they know you’ll be at work till 7 finishing the prep work for the last minute meeting that was called and then there’s still a yoga class, a healthy dinner to cook and friends to catch up with over wine?!  Luckily Hedy is here to help, with a week full of quick recipes to convince your colleagues you really are the perfect modern woman.

We have a few special guests lined up, friends of ours who like baking and eating cake almost as much as we do.  The meat in the Hedy sandwich is food bloggers Harriet and Kitty and my boyfriend Pete, who gave his coworkers a run for their money in his Christmas Bake-Off.  Thanks in advance to all of you for donating your time and sharing your favourite easy recipes for those last minute morning teas!

Melt & Mix Coconut Cake

The first recipe comes from that bastion of womanhood The Women’s Weekly.  Yvette and I discovered it at an orchestra morning tea in Mt Isa a few years ago and it’s been making an appearance at work morning tea’s ever since.  It’s super easy, and a useful recipe if you’re baking for someone who doesn’t like chocolate.


  • 1.5 cups Self Raising Flour
  • 1.25 cups Caster Sugar
  • 1.25 cups Desiccated Coconut
  • 125g Melted Butter
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 0.75 cups Milk

6 Ingredients, and quite a bit of product placement!


  1. Grease and flour a 21cm pan.  I like to use a ring pan, but regret this every time I start trying to line it with baking paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well with a wooden spoon and pour into prepared tin.


3.  Bake in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes.  Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool.


Have your cake and eat it too!

If I’m taking it to work/party/friends place then I also like to drizzle some icing over the top.  I tend not to ice it completely as mine rises nicely and I love the texture of the cracked top.


Hedy’s Guide to Surviving your Work Christmas Party


My work Christmas party was last night (Friday night) so I’m feeling a teeny bit rough today as a result.  No matter what you think about your work mates or the whole idea of Christmas parties, if you see a future with your company then it’s a good idea to at least make an appearance at the event.  So to get you through I have put together a few golden rules, well they’re more like guidelines.  Let’s see how many I managed to break last night!

Appropriate PPE

So we’ve all heard this one hundreds of times before, but despite including the word party this is still a work function so unless you want to be the office gossip next week it’s best to make sure you wear an outfit with a low risk of wardrobe malfunction.  Also make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear for the event.  I’ve been to many different types of christmas parties, from BBQs at sports ground with 1000s of people to fancy dinners, and making sure you’re comfortable in your outfit really is the key to being able to enjoy yourself and make the most of the event.

My colleague last night told a story of the 2010 function, the year it was particularly snowy in Edinburgh.  Her heels were so high and slippy that she managed fall over in the snow after the party, almost lost her two front teeth and ended up looking like a turtle trapped in the snow.  Never a good end to the evening!


Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

I didn’t do too well with the Appropriate PPE last night.  My dress was very modest, with a high neck line and the hemline well below my knees, however the choice of a white dress and red wine as my beverage for the evening was not an inspired decision.  Sarah 0 – Christmas Party 1

Eat Beforehand

It’s generally a good idea to at least line your stomach with something before you get to the christmas party so that first glass of prosecco doesn’t go straight to your head!  And if possible get something healthy and filling in to you so you don’t spend the evening hovering next to the snack table.

We started the party early with red wine and Christmas cake.  It all went downhill from there….  Sarah 0 – Christmas Party 2


I’m a firm believer in having a couple of drinks to lubricate yourself and make conversation easier, but you must draw the line somewhere so you don’t end up photocopying yourself, or under the mistletoe with one of the graduates.  You probably all have your own rule of thumb when drinking, so I would stick with that and decrease the amount you drink that night.  I like to stick to one or two kinds of alcohol, interspersed with a fair amount of water.  If you don’t drink at all then sparkling water is a great option, which you can always pass off as vodka, lime and soda if need be!
I did pretty well on this count this year, with red wine as my poison of choice after a couple of prosecco’s to start the festivities.  Then moved on to whisky to finish the night.  Red wine can make me emotional sometimes so it’s not usually my poison of choice but with the temperature around zero at the moment and mulled wine readily available it’s a pretty sensible choice.   Sarah 1 – Christmas Party 2

Don’t drink so much you wear tinsel on your head


Or as a moustache..


Topics of conversation

The Christmas party is a great opportunity to network getting to know your colleagues without the pressure of deadlines or enforced group work.  But if you’re following golden rule #4 then conversation may still be a little stilted so I’ve put together a topics of conversation that are sure to get the party started.

  • Are you planning on seeing the new Star Wars film?
  • What do you really love in life?
  • Did you know that Tim Peakes is the first Briton to be chosen as a European Space Agency astronaut and will be on his way to the ISS on December 15, launching from Kazahkstan?
  • How scientifically accurate is The Martian?  And what are the chances that he was actually a mechanical engineer AND a botanist?!

Three red wines later and I was busy telling everyone how all koalas have chlamydia. Sarah 1 – Christmas Party 3


This is an important one!  My recommendation is to go all Cold War spy and choose a good friend you can trust and put together a set of code words or gestures that you can use to get each other out of trouble.  Every office has that one guy who thinks it’s appropriate to get all up in your grill and completely ignore everyone’s right to personal space, so make sure you’ve got an out.  Maybe you can scratch your nose and your BFF can whisk you away to get some water, because hydration is the key.  It’s a little less obvious that mouthing ‘Get me the f out of here’ to most of the room.  He/she can also be the one to make sure you don’t go overboard or that if you do you make it to the bathroom in time, she can hold your hair back and makes sure you get in the correct taxi at the end of the night.

My office only has 12 people in it, 4 of which are female, and we’re all close enough these days to have this down pat.  On Friday night I was the one who made sure we all got up and down the multiple flights of spiral stairs between our private dining room and the bar!  Sarah 2 – Christmas Party 3

Stay Hydrated

I’ve already mentioned this one before but it’s so important it deserves it’s own section.  Staying hydrated is important if you want to minimise the damage the next day.  But it’s even more important if your Christmas party is in the heat of the Australian sun.


Beer isn’t appropriate hydration for the harsh Australian sun

Whilst we were both still living and working in Mt Isa, Xstrata held it’s Christmas parties at about 4pm at the local hockey ground.  There was minimal shade and the average weather forecast was 40 degrees and sunny so staying hydrated was super important.  Unfortunately Yvette had only had one glass of water that day, so after one drink at the Christmas party she vomited everywhere, fainted, argued with her boss about her age, and ended up in hospital overnight with low blood pressure.  Not really why you want to be the centre of attention at your work Christmas party.

Thankfully this year the waitstaff took care of this one for me, ensuring my water glass was always full so I was well hydrated by the end of the evening.  Sarah 3 – Christmas Party 3

At the end of the night

Most importantly you need to know how to get home.  Have your exit strategy worked out in advance. Use that friend of yours to get out of any particularly sticky situations, make sure you know which train/bus/ferry you’re getting home, or prebook a taxi.  You can always change the time of the taxi but at least you know it’s coming and that you will get home.  Take out enough cash to get you home earlier in the day so you don’t need to make a beeline to the ATM as drunkenly stumble out of the party.

The only plan I had was to meet the boyfriend after my work party and stumble down the road to his work party and meet his colleagues for the first time….


Sometimes I surprise even myself with my sheer inappropriateness…

So after what I thought was a pretty successful evening my Final Score = Sarah 3 – Christmas Party 4

We hope you have a great work Christmas party, and meet a few new people and get out of your comfort zone a little.  But not so much that there’s photocopies of your butt all over your desk when you go to work the next day!

10 lizards leaping,9 wombats working


I entered ‘Christmas presents for engineers’ into my search engine and was promptly deluged by page upon page of ‘gifts for him’, ‘gadgets he’ll love’ and even ‘great fathers day presents’.  Anyone else see an issue with this?  I don’t want ties, socks, or jocks that tell you what temperature it is inside and outside of your crotchal region and probably could hit a hole in one for you.  I’m just not that kinda gal!  And I’m assuming you guys aren’t either.  So I’ve compiled the following list of gifts just for you guys, so you can make sure your lovely engineering ladies have a particularly festive Christmas 🙂


So this is a pretty stock standard present for most ladies out there.  But you’ve probably never seen jewellery like this!

From resistor earrings, to RAM necklaces or a bit of steampunk gearing.

Kitchen Gadgets!

While this may seem a little like gender stereotyping, a modern woman still needs to be able to feed herself! And I do secretly love a good kitchen gadgets.  This cheap gadget spiral slices cucumbers and zucchinis/courgettes.

This one is slightly more expensive so possibly not just for the girl next door.  If they really love pizza then this oven sits on a domestic gas ring and can cook a crisp pizza in as little as four minutes.  And looks pretty stylish to boot.

I have to get myself one of these for my extra virgin single origin olive oil.

Interior Decor

Back to Easy for this one, there’s a bunch of really cool patent prints at this store.  They’re US based but ship worldwide so perfect for the global travellers among us.  I think this oil rig poster is my favourite.


If stuff really isn’t her thing, or she earns enough to buy her own pretty things, then give the gift of continuing education  and like minded new friends.  Do an internet search for meet up groups in your area, who knows what you will find!


Instead of using your computer calendar to work out what the date actually is, purchase this perpetual calendar and it will be centrepiece of your favourite engineeresses desk!

Your best friend a little stressed at work? Then this zen ball may be the answer.

My boyfriend bought this at the airport when we last went on holiday and I fell in love immediately.  A stylish and unique timepiece that is a hell of a conversation starter!  The time lights up in binary but when you’re not needing to tell the time it doubles as a very handy mirror.

Is the engineer in your life more the practical type?  Websites such as Sparkfun sell all kinds of kits they can use to start a project.  Just ignore the slightly dorky guy with a ‘tache on the site banner.

They could always build their own robot!

I hope this wee guide has given you a bit of an idea about what to give the engineeress in your life.  Christmas shouldn’t be a time to show off your bank balance or size of your credit card.  It’s a time to be spent with loved ones, be they friends or family.  And to play with really cool gadgets!!

White Ribbons and Shades of Grey


Today, I had mixed feelings towards White Ribbon Day.  And I don’t think I was alone.  There is no doubt that violence against women is wrong.  So wrong.  So wrong that it’s obvious that you should never ever do it…? Then, if so, why do we need this day?  Is there anyone that actually thinks it is okay?

I find it really difficult to acknowledge that just because of the body I was born into, I fear the world in a way that my larger, stronger, (whiter,) male contemporaries don’t.  I don’t accept rides, accept drinks, go on public transport late at night, engage in conversations with strangers, stand up to strangers even when they act like a**holes/chauvinists/other sorts of bigots, walk in the dark, fall asleep in random places, go out somewhere without telling someone, go home without telling someone.  I over-analyse people because I feel I have to trust the people in my company absolutely because basically there is nothing I can do if they turn out to be questionable/abusive/violent (at least to avoid the initial instance of abuse).

Accepting that one needs the protection of another is painfully humbling, especially as a daughter of the “girls can do anything” generation.  But, in the same way that an over-persistent, unwanted suitor can be abated by the mention of (even a fictional) boyfriend/husband, it is the unsavoury reality that the type of men who perpetuate violence against women respond better to being told not to do it by other blokes, rather than by “hysterical feminazis”.

We were holding morning teas in our offices, across various floors and locations.  With my stubborn anti-patriarchal attitude, I was tempted to girlcott the events because we were encouraged to bake something and just as a general rule I don’t bake stuff when men tell me to.

But, I have kind of missed the point. This is not about me.  This is not about baking.  This is not about women being forced into kitchens.  This is about women being forced into situations where they are the victims of violent acts in a culture that allows this to perpetuate.

A few weeks ago, I was at Sydney Central Station with some colleagues viewing Sydney Trains’ operations centres. We saw what appeared to be an instance of domestic violence; a young woman screaming and being grabbed at by the male in her company, in an alcove, somewhat away from the public eye.  I’m ashamed to admit that it took me a little while to process and then take some action.

I turned to my female colleague and said, “What do we do?”

We discussed the options:

Intervene physically = risk being injured

Intervene verbally = risk the aggravation of the perpetrator, especially if the girl was just really upset about something else and he was trying to comfort her

Do nothing = see the number of women murdered by partners increase by one on my facebook feed later that evening? Or, equally likely, nothing happens…

In the end, I reported it to the security at the station and they intervened.

I think I did the right thing here for my own safety and while still being concerned with that of the woman involved, but it took me a moment to do something because things like this are really, really grey. The White Ribbon website has some step by step guides for guys to deal with situations such as this.  Perhaps if I’d read these before I’d have acted differently.  Or maybe not?   I’m not the target audience for this campaign so I’m not really in a position to judge its effectiveness.

There are so many intricacies wrapped up in the issue of violence against women – culture, alcohol and drug abuse, sexist language, mental illness, shame, socio-economic factors, unemployment, education, gender roles, consent, privacy, victim blaming – a white ribbon is not a silver bullet.

But it’s a start.

And a conversation starter.