More and more women are being recognised for their extraordinary feats in the fight for equality while busting myths on the notion that a choice must be made between having a career or having a family.
Katie Tomicek is the hat-trick powerhouse, currently proving all naysayers wrong by doing the seemingly impossible: dominating a male-centred industry, working alongside her husband AND juggling the daily schedules of three kids.
Katie speaks to how developing highly sought after software for the mining and engineering industry has been a career milestone and a dream come true, and how being co-workers with her husband is not as scary as it seems!
Tell us a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do?
My name is Katie Tomicek and I work at Australian Diversified Engineering (ADE). Our company provides innovative product solutions for the mining industry. Established 30 years ago, the company now has a remarkable catalogue of tech and equipment that has been engineered to problem-solve specific challenges faced by the industry.
Our latest product that I have been excited to work on is our water truck spray systems that’s primary purpose is to control the dust produced by mines. We’ve also recently developed an iPhone app called “Friction Plus by ADE” which allows mining personnel to safely assess haul road friction. Haul roads make up the travel network between mines, and things like dust and water on these haul roads can make them extremely dangerous – the app allows safe assessment of these haul roads before they are traveled on.
I am an ‘E-Learning Coordinator’ at ADE and my main role is to develop online courses for our Learning Management System called “Elevate”. The courses provide information and how-to guides for our products so companies and their employees who acquire our products can easily operate them. It’s my job to help companies and their employees easily transition to new processes and tools by way of E-Learning, which in the long run saves time and resources for the industry.
Talk us through your typical day…
In the morning, I usually wake up around 7am and start getting the kids ready for school. That generally involves making sure the kids have their uniforms on the correct way, preparing the lunches and packing the school bags. Occasionally there’s some last minute homework to finish if the kids have “forgotten” to do it the night before. If I’m lucky I will get to squeeze in a quick coffee and a bite to eat before it’s time to leave.
I usually get to work at around 9:30am and finish in the office at 2pm. At the moment our youngest is only in kindy 3 days a week so I have to work around his schedule.
I should add that kindy and the school is directly across the street. We made a conscious decision when moving into our current house that it would be as close as possible to the school. This means I can spend more time at work or at home and less time in a car doing school drop off or pick up.
Once the three kids and I are at home we work on homework and music practice. Then if I have time I can get in another couple hours of work in the home office before dinner.
Things can get complicated when we start travelling interstate and overseas for business which happens quite frequently. Sometimes it’s only one night away from home and other times it can be for a few weeks. Our family support system is very important to us and we are extremely thankful. The grandparents are now retired and most of the time they will stay at our home so that the kids schedule remains consistent.
Managing my work/home schedule really wouldn’t be possible without an accommodating workplace. I am fortunate enough that I don’t have set work hours which gives me the freedom to set my own schedule. It is still challenging balancing workload and home life obligations and sometimes I find myself still in front of the laptop after everyone has gone to bed. You just have to remember to take care of yourself and not get burnt out, that won’t help your family or work.
What attracted you to this industry which is historically male dominated?
I fell into the industry out of convenience. My husband Eric was working towards building our E-learning platform and was struggling to find the time in his busy schedule to develop it. I really wanted to help out and as I was a stay at home mum at the time I had some spare hours between school drop off and pick up and so I offered to take over the project for him. I already had a basic knowledge of the company and the industry as I’ve spent the last several years learning about it from Eric.
Do you think women feel intimidated entering into or working in this industry?
Unfortunately, I do believe that women feel intimidated when entering the industry. It’s always been stereotyped as a “man’s job” and images usually depict men driving or working on big trucks, which doesn’t particularly encourage women to invest in this line of work. Mine sites can also have long working hours or require work in remote locations well into late hours of the night, and it may be difficult with women stereotypically being the caretaker of the family.
However, I do believe this is changing and I’m in awe of all the women who work to repel this stereotype, proving that women can do whatever they want to, career-wise or on a personal level.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in a male-dominated workplace?
My advice would be to just go for it! There is so much more to the mining sector than most women are aware of, and there are so many roles available that women can do too that are falsely believed to be “men’s jobs”, such as equipment operators, tradespeople, business executives, geologist, engineers and many more.
There is currently a push by mining companies around the globe to get more women involved, so it’s a great time to be bold and take that leap into the industry.
What are your tips for juggling a busy personal and professional life?
It’s definitely a challenge to juggle work and home life, particularly with longer overseas trips that regularly come with the job. However, the kids have adjusted to having a busy working mum, and I’m so grateful for this. They definitely look forward to the presents Eric and I bring home!
My advice would be to always make time for your family and friends, whether it’s a weekly sit-down meal, regular phone calls or having a family-outing once a week if possible – this way you always remain connected with your loved ones.
It’s so easy with technology as well, because we can always video call the kids to check in and when we’re on overseas work trips, we regularly send each other photos or messages, check to see how wobbly teeth are faring – technology makes Eric and I feel like we don’t miss out on the important stuff with our kids.
What is it like working with your husband and being together 24/7?
My husband Eric and I have been asked this question several times actually, and it’s definitely not something that would work for everyone, I’m sure!
It’s been a great experience for us so far and we’ve found that we’re able to better support each other in our individual roles. For example, Eric assists me with the development of ADE’s E-Learning Tool, which makes it a very collaborative process and an easier experience when it comes to deep-diving into the products, which is Eric’s expertise.
We have also been together since high school so we are true friends and laugh together easily. Like I said, not everyone reflects our situation but we are truly lucky in that sense
What advice would you give women who are considering working with their partner?
My main advice would be to understand each other’s boundaries and respect them. While we love working together it’s definitely not ideal for everyone. Most people I know love their own time at work, so I recommend reviewing your situation and understanding what works best for both yourself and your partner, communicate this and try to make it work. If it doesn’t, no big deal, do what works best for your situation.
Is there a particular person that has inspired you throughout life?
It might sound a bit cheesy, but my husband Eric has been my main inspiration in life. We have spent our whole adult lives together and he has always encouraged me to be my best self.
It has been amazing to have watched him continually overcome obstacles and challenges in both his personal and professional life. He has an incredible ability to learn and adapt to any situation he’s in and I’ve always admired how he uses these capabilities to further improve himself, his life and his career. He definitely motivates me to be the best I can be and never run from a challenge.
I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without his constant support and guidance and his endless encouragement in my pursuit of health and happiness in all aspects of my life
What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt (in life or business)?
I have learnt both in life and in business that you can’t plan everything, it’s great to have goals but sometimes you need to let go of the reigns and see where life takes you. I feel it’s really important to make your own opportunities or live a life that encourages new opportunities. And of course, when something does come along, don’t overthink it and trust your gut instincts – it is a woman’s superpower.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.