Thursday, June 9, 2011

A little bit smug about my job. Also, a day in the life of me (at work)

I'm feeling pretty smug happy about my job these days. Quite a turnaround - a few years ago my head was not a pretty place when it held thoughts about work.
I'm happy because a) I enjoy what I do and b) what I used to do is getting a bit risky.
I used to be a sub-editor. At a newspaper. And before that, this one. If you were following the news about a month ago you'd have heard how subs are starting to become an endangered species, with Fairfax announcing plans to axe 82 subbing positions from its newsrooms. I hadn't worked for Fairfax, but am still a bit relieved I got out when I did. However if/when the gold market goes belly-up, I will be smiling on the other side of my face. Because I now work at a gold processing plant.
I started as a stickpicker. Boring and pretty well self-explanatory (picking foreign material out of ore as it trundled by on a conveyor). Then I moved to the gold room. Sounds much more glamorous and exciting than it was. More of the boring, as well as lots of nasty chemicals. We were responsible for the pouring of the gold bars, though, so that bit was impressive.
And now I've moved again - into the lab. Which I love.
Granted, it is neither as exciting as it sounds, nor as flashy as it is in TV land. For example, it's nothing like what Abby does on NCIS. There is no death metal music. No goth boots. Not even a white coat. Definitely no storming through the building yelling 'Gibbs! Gibbs! I know who the killer is! It's not the boyfriend - it's the mother-in-law!'.
And sadly no workmates a la Tony DiNozzo:
May I see your, uh, badge, Agent DiNozzo?
Image source:

 Though I will say concede of the guys could be worthy candidates for that Australia's Hottest Tradie comp. However, in my experience so far, these have been limited to contractors who come out for a few days and then disappear again, drat it.
Not that a lack of DiNozzo types is altogether regrettable. After all, as uniform and safety rules (among other things, i.e my thighs) decree that I look like this...

The work ute and me (looking slightly possessed
due to my efforts in willing the camera remote to work).

Rather than this...
Agent Ziva David: Smart and smokin'.
Image source:
... the presence or otherwise of attractive agent lookalikes is hardly relevant. (Also, my Paul works there too - he's one of the maintenance guys.)

Anyhows, I know all my former news colleagues (well, two of them. Maybe) are hanging out to hear all about my change of career. So here is what I do now.
An average day in the life of a lab tech at a gold mill
5.45am: Arrive at work. Huddle in designated smoking area for change-of-shift meeting. Try not to breathe in too much second-hand smoke (am not a smoker).
6am: Go to oven/dry-sample prep area next to lab and divide up samples of crushed ore collected by mill operators during past 24 hours. Take buckets of resultant ore into lab and divvy up into relevant trays/bags for testing for moisture content and sizing (done by us) and gold content (done by commercial lab in town).
6.10am: Go outside and up to top of leaching and absorption tanks where samples of slurry have been collected during past 24 hours by operators. We put these samples through air presses which separates the solution - the liquid - from the solids. Collect the solution in pre-prepared bottles and solids in prepared bags and oven trays.
Repeat with remaining samples (depending on the client and circumstances, number of samples here can vary from three to about eight. Usually). Also collect extra slurry samples, which I later put through sieves to determine how finely the mills have ground the ore.
Measure 'density' of slurry in stipulated tanks by weighing exactly one litre of slurry from relevant tanks.
7.30: Finish pressing samples and take everything back down to the lab. Put trays of solids in ovens to dry. Do the above-mentioned sieving. Collect a sample of 'process water'.
7.45: Now for the nifty bit! Prep solution samples. This involves drawing out set amounts of solution from the bottles using sciencey things like pipettes and squirting it into test tubes. Mix in chemical that draws out the gold from the solution so it sits, conveniently, on top of the solution. Just like oil sits on top of water.
Some time later (depending on how organised I am and how long everything has taken): The interesting bit! The chemical has done it's gold-collecting thing and the solutions are ready for testing. Boot up assay machine (a very complex bit of equipment that I don't properly understand and so won't even attempt to explain) and attached computer. Use assay machine to test gold content in each of the samples. Print out results. Also, test pH of some of the solutions.
9am or thereabouts: Take dry solids out of oven and weigh so can get data on moisture, sizing etc.
9.15am: Enter results of all the testing and weighing into spreadsheet and email to relevant big wigs. Fill in rest of paperwork required. While sitting at a computer desk for a few minutes take the chance to have a quick bite to eat - it's been a long time since breakfast at 5am.
9.30am: Bag up all the samples designated for testing at the commercial lab in town. Finish up any other jobs.
10am: Find out from office people what jobs I need to do in town.
10.15am or thereabouts: Drive to town - about 30km. Drop samples off at commercial lab. Complete other jobs - eg picking up supplies from various outlets that service the local mining industry.
By the time all that is done it's usually early afternoon. I return to site and get everything ready for the following day. As well as anything else required to keep the lab gear and supplies stocked, clean and in working order. All sciencey-type jobs, which I find myself enjoying. But don't tell anyone or they might decide to stop paying me.
4pm: Go home.

Doesn't that sound like fun? What's the favourite part of your job? And your least favourite?



  1. Sadly my job also lacks the eye candy seen on tv shows about my work.
    Favourite thing about my job: anything that involves surgery (unless it's a rabbit spey)
    Least favourite thing: dogs with parvo (and also the boring shoes I have to wear)
    And you thought I didn't read your blogs :-)

  2. Your job sounds way cool compared to mine. I'm a cafe manager. I sell premade healthy sandwiches/baguettes so there's not really a lot for me to do exept make coffee.

    I'm slowly going crazy after 3 years of working pretty much by myself except for 2 hours a day.

    I set up around 7.30, morning coffee rush is around 5 coffee's at 9am, then I spend a few hours on the net or reading till its time to get ready for the lunch rush which lasts around 20min then I pack up and head home at 4pm

    I'm hoping to start doing web design in a few years, I'm over hospitality.

  3. Fav part of my job is the variety, I am out and about all over Logan, in schools, diff libraries, community centres etc. Least fav is feeling helpless in not having right skills ie social work

  4. Your job sounds fab and such a change from being a sub-editor. Don't you love how sometimes you find yourself in situations thinking, I never imagined I'd ever being doing something like this, and loving it!

    I am a social worker when I am not on maternity leave, most recently working in community health, but I have also worked in mental health and aged care. My least favourite part of my job is lack of autonomy and dealing with managers who are past it and going through the motions. My favourite part would be connecting with people. It's a real honour when people trust you.

    Lots of people think that social work would be hard, but being a mum has been WAY harder!

    I loved this post! Especially the photo of you in your coveralls! LOL!

  5. With being a recent college graduate and seeing all the news articles on the surplus of other graduates unable to find work, my favorite thing about my job is that I have one that is salary-though small- and right now secure. Least favorite is that its no where near my degree field.... in due time I guess. =]

  6. Your job does sound pretty awesome. I did Earth and Enviro and Bio in High School and I miss doing all the experiments!
    Atm I'm a full time mummy, but before this I did tattooing and am hoping to get back into it, so fave/least fave about that job:
    Fave - being able to be creative every day and have people like my art so much they are willing to wear it on their skin for the rest of their life.
    Least Fave - people who bleed lots and people who come in asking for something somewhere they can cover it up later. Why bother then??

  7. Can I see your badge indeed! I've got a mate who is a chemical engineer and he does lab work all day long like this - he loves it too :)


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