In 2018, Ferrexpo announced the launch of a pilot project at its Ukrainian mining and processing assets. The idea was to involve women in the transportation of rock mass in open pits using light-duty dump trucks. Olena Nikolaychuk-Neroda, who had previously worked in a completely different field, far removed from transportation and mining, became one of the company's first five drivers. What prompted her to change her profession? What kind of trucks does she operate? Olena answered these and other questions in an interview with CFTS.

Olena, let's start off with a little background. What did you do before you decided to become a driver?

For a long time, I worked as a hairdresser. However, cars have never been an oddity for me. I was able to do more than just drive. Sometimes I had to make minor repairs to my family's Zhiguli. Getting under the hood of a car was not a challenge for me. On the contrary, it was satisfying.

But a passenger car is very different from a mining dump truck. Why did you decide to change your profession and start learning to drive a truck?

I have always wanted to work for an international level company. That's why I decided to send my CV to Ferrexpo. To be honest, I didn't even expect to be offered a job driving a truck! The fact is that in 2018, the company was just launching a pilot project to motivate women to try their hand at driving heavy-duty dump trucks.

What kind of vehicles did you learn to drive?

These were light-duty dump trucks. They are used in the open pit to remove rock mass from those areas where 220-ton Caterpillars simply cannot reach.

With what trucks did your driving experience at Ferrexpo begin?

My first dump truck was a 32-ton Bell truck.

What kind of truck do you drive now?

Now I drive a 220-ton dump truck in the open pit at Ferrexpo Yeristovo Mining. For this, I have undergone appropriate training and recently received a driving permit.


Were there any difficulties in your training?

Of course, when I first heard the words "dump truck," I had little idea what kind of vehicle it was. But I tried driving it and it turned out to be not so difficult. In an open pit, of course, you need to pay even more attention when you are driving than when you are on city streets, because you need to consider your safety and the safety of your colleagues. But I wouldn't say it's technically difficult.

What about physically?

Sitting behind the wheel for a long time puts a lot of strain on the spine. That's why I have been going to the gym for over a year now, where I do exercises to strengthen my back muscles. It helps me a lot to keep fit.


How do male colleagues and managers perceive women as drivers?

Previously, men openly tried to convince us that mining and open pit operations in particular were not for women. But when they saw us at work and realized that we could work on a par with them, their attitude changed. They respect us and help us whenever we need it. It's not about inferiority, but about respect and support, understanding that men are better at lifting heavy things. Just like when something happens to a vehicle, I don't repair the dump truck myself, I inspect it, assess it, call the repairmen and clearly explain to them what needs to be fixed.

The company has undergone many changes in recent years to promote equality and diversity. And when a major war has been going on in the country for more than two years and men are still being mobilized, we as women must continue to work to support the industry, the country, and our future!

Do you plan to stay in your position as a driver?

Yes, I do. That is why I recently completed my training to drive a 220-ton truck. However, I do not want to limit myself to driving. In February of this year, I shared my experience with a group of graduates of the OnTrack driver's school as part of the Reskilling Ukraine project. In addition, I tried myself as a mentor directly at the workplace and last month I mentored one of the students who has already become part of our company.

I also plan to try myself as a mining shift supervisor. To do this, I want to get a higher education and climb the career ladder.


In your opinion, is it now easier for women to master professions that were previously considered purely male?

Now I have a feeling that some kind of gate is opening for women that prevented them from being seen before. Even in terms of employment in the mining industry: before, women had to go through competitions, show all their abilities and skills, as well as the ability to recognize which part needs repair and perform minor repairs to equipment if necessary to prove that we are worthy of working here. Now it is much easier and more comfortable for women to get a job in the industry than before. Therefore, I urge women not to be afraid to try something new in life and to move forward under any circumstances. It is interesting and rewarding!