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Member spotlight: Karl Hackett


The latest in our series of Professional spotlights has landed.  We are delighted to share with you an interview (at 37,000 ft, no less) with Karl Hackett (RGS 1982-1990). Karl works for global mining company Rio Tinto and is currently based in Australia, having worked across four continents.  Karl has shared some insights about his work and life with us.

Briefly describe your role and business
I work for global mining company Rio Tinto in the iron ore division. We supply about 340 million tonnes of iron ore per year which is made into steel to build bridges, roads, cars, buildings, fridges, etc to make modern life work. I lead a team that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide decision making tools to our teams that run our mines, ports and rail network. Our company is a world leader in automation with fully autonomous haul trucks, mining drills, and the world’s largest robots – our 2.5km long, 30,000 tonne autonomous trains.

New trains. New Locomotives and wagons operating in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Photo by: Christian Sprogoe

What is the best thing about Rio Tinto?
The opportunities to work in so many roles including mining operations, engineering, metallurgy, processing, and technology, in addition to commercial roles such as marketing, sales and shipping, and also functional roles like finance, legal, HR, and working with communities. Furthermore, there are so many amazing places to work. I’ve worked in cities such as Denver in the USA, Brisbane and Perth in Australia; small towns in Australia’s outback and tropical north; as well as living in Mozambique in Africa. We have offices and operations from London to Mongolia to Singapore to Canada’s far, far north.

Any new and exciting things that you would like to share?
The fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0) is here and we are continuing to build on our position of leadership in automation to deliver high-tech solutions to what is a very old industry.

What has been the proudest moment in your career?
Seeing members of my team develop in their careers and move into more senior roles all over the world.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?
We have neither, but my wife wants a dog…but I’ll end up having to look after it…so…no dog.

Are you a fan of any sports team?
I’ve been an American football fan for decades and because I lived in the States for 20 years, mostly in Colorado, I am a big Denver Broncos fan. As I type this I am watching a game while cruising at 37,000 ft over Western Australia.

Describe yourself in a single sentence?
I’m a process-driven, highly-adaptable leader that focuses on helping my team be successful, and I always make time for my wonderful wife and kids.

Do you know all the words to your national anthem?
I’ve lived for many years in three countries; the UK, the USA and Australia. I do know the words to all three and they are interesting each in their own right. God Save the Queen seems best when singing with a bunch of flag-waving soccer fans (perhaps with beer in hand), the Star-Spangled Banner is best sung with hand on heart, but motionless, right before a high school football game with pride and respect; and Advance Australia Fair is a very upbeat song best delivered by a swath of primary school kids in their floppy sun hats wondering what the word “girt” means. Google it.

Fill in the blank: I once met..
David Walliams (ha ha!), and I also once met my wife, Anna, who is a very successful fiction author (82 published novels).

If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?
Reading people’s minds – sure would make it easier to get things done.

What would your advice be to those starting in your profession?
Ask questions, build relationships.

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