SPOTLIGHT ON A WOMAN IN NUCLEAR
For the March issue of WiNFo we feature an interview with
Kamila Syzdykova, Managing Director for Economics and Planning at Kazatomprom.
Today, more than 20 thousand employees work in the nuclear industry in Kazakhstan, of which about three thousand are women. They work in all parts of the industry – as geologists, engineers, builders and metallurgists among other roles. Do women face challenges working in the uranium production industry? What is their role in the modern nuclear industry? And what trends can be observed in the future? These and other questions are answered by Kamila Syzdykova, Managing Director for economics and planning at Kazatomprom.
How did you get into the nuclear industry and Kazatomprom? What made you choose this industry?
- In 2009, I took the position of Financial Director in the mining enterprise Kyzylkum LLP, which is part of Kazatomprom. It was a fascinating opportunity since the enterprise was going through a difficult period due to significant deterioration in market conditions, which impacted its business plan. I had a lot of responsibility and my main task was to help the business avoid default on the its credit obligations. For a year and a half, we restructured the company debt, introduced a new business plan and successfully secured capital for the enterprise.
Soon after, I received an invitation to work at the head office of Uranium One in Toronto, where I was engaged to implement a new management reporting system. After that project was completed, I worked as Deputy Finance Director of Uranium One Kazakhstan for a long period managing all the day to day financial issues related to uranium mining. Throughout my career I have always been given interesting and challenging roles with lots of responsibility in the uranium industry, and this is what attracts me to it.
When you first started as a financial officer in the nuclear industry, did you face any challenges building up an understanding of uranium production and its processes?
- At the beginning it was difficult, since the production of uranium has its own unique characteristics. It is unlike any other production process, and I had no experience in a manufacturing enterprise, I came into the industry from the banking industry. It was a jump into the unknown for me in this regard, but I worked hard and quickly learnt all I needed to know about the industry.
I started by spending significant time at the mining site, meeting new people and acquiring all the practical knowledge I could. My colleagues from production were incredibly helpful and patient. They taught me all they could about the production process and its nuances.
The most valuable experience for me from that period was building a system of internal budget management which involved identifying key divisions and organizing effective communication between them. From this I developed a deep understanding of the uranium production process and the cost indicators which financial professionals like myself need to manage. I also quickly leant about the different work structures at individual mining enterprises.
What projects have you been able to implement successfully while in your current position? What have you introduced?
- It’s probably too early to talk about successful implementation in my current role since I have not completed my assigned project. As the leader of a project to implement an IPS (integrated planning system), I am responsible for the modernization of the medium-term planning processes at Kazatomprom. We have completed the first phase of this project and we are now engaged in the implementation of the second phase. So far, together with my project team, we have stated system requirements for integration of company's existing information systems to improve data transfer across the business. The remaining objectives of my project are to develop a unified data management system, automate planning processes and introduce a planning and scenario modeling tool to the business.
What do you think of the role of women in the modern nuclear industry?
- Women are incredibly important and valued in the workforce here, it is a generally recognized fact. We have a lot of talented female colleagues leading important functions. For instance, we have a strong group of very talented women, who are our chief geologists and lead our geology department . The role of geology is key in the overall uranium mining process, and their leadership reflects the growing attraction of industry for talented women. Another important production function — laboratory testing — is also almost entirely staffed by women now. We also have very strong female representation in the auxiliary service departments like finance, economics, procurement and legal. I believe that women in our industry have great career development opportunities if they have right skills and attitude.
What trends, in your opinion, will prevail in the future for women in the modern nuclear industry?
- I think that the role and importance of women in our industry will continue to grow now that the traditional stereotype of men only working in production is disappearing. For instance, the major global trend in our industry today is the introduction of automated systems, and here we see more and more women coming into the workforce as business analysts and data miners. Their skills are in great demand in the modern nuclear industry. In fact, many of the transformation projects at our company are being carried out under the leadership of women, and this only confirms my conclusions about the growing importance of women in the modern nuclear industry.