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Our Stories 25 November 2021

Humans of Bis - John

Meet John, Site Manager at Gunnedah where Bis has been providing essential on-road load and haul solutions of coal from Whitehaven Coal’s open cut mine at Tarrawonga, NSW, to the Gunnedah Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP) since 2014.

Looking for a new Challenge

Starting a new job can be overwhelming at the best of times. For John, the situation was decidedly more challenging. John joined Bis in early 2020 just as the global Covid pandemic was gathering pace.

With a background in agriculture and transport, he was looking for a new challenge: “I was attracted to the way Bis solves customer’s challenges using unique solutions.

"I am very passionate about safety and with Zero Harm being a pillar of Bis’ values, I felt it was the right opportunity for me to take as a manager."

A new beginning like no other

In ordinary times, as a new site manager, John would have visited other Bis sites - such as Newlands in QLD, Whyalla Steelworks in SA, Murrin Murrin in WA, and the Bis head office in Perth - to build connections and exchange tips. The pandemic changed all that.

As interstate travel ground to a halt and intermittent lockdowns limited even inner-state travel, he spent the first few weeks working from home without meeting any of his colleagues in person. It worked out better than expected.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the business adapted to the unprecedented challenges, using technology to keep employees connected across sites and state lines,” John says.

“While I still haven’t been able to meet many colleagues face-to-face, even some 20 months later, I can honestly say I’ve been able to build valued connections and even make friends.”

Asked about one of Bis’ key values, Deliver Every Day, John says: “For me it means finding safe and productive solutions to a problem, and achieving goals no matter which obstacles present themselves.”

What's a typical day?

So, what does he do on a typical day? Here, John pauses for a moment and then laughs. “What don’t I do?” It’s a fair point, the role of a site manager can be as varied as it gets, but key activities include:

  • Overseeing the Bis operations in Gunnedah and the Hunter Valley;
  • Cultivating effective working relationships with key stakeholders such as Whitehaven Coal, suppliers, and Bis staff;
  • Assessing safety and sustainability performance, and ensuring that identified risks are assessed, controlled and reported in line with Bis’ Zero Harm policy;
  • Developing plans to meet operational KPIs and facilitating critical site communications.
  • Developing new connections and business opportunities across NSW.

The best thing about his role, John reckons, is working with people and leading the charge to deliver excellence. At Gunnedah, he manages over 60 staff that make up the site’s operational and maintenance crews, including overseeing their ongoing career development.

And what about his own career development?

“I’d like to continue to expand my capabilities as a manager and play a leading role in helping Bis grow its business in the region,” John says.

As for rest and recreation, spending quality time with the family is top on John’s agenda (followed by a few swings on the golf course, and a sip of craft beer here and there). And if his career in mining hadn’t worked out, he could have well become a university lecturer.

Asked what he can’t live without on site, he looks around the office and lands on one thing: The Espresso machine! He’s not addicted to coffee, of course, but it definitely helps to jump-start the 5am starts to the workday.

One thing he rarely brings to site, however, is his guitar, despite being a passionate player and singer songwriter. “This is a safe space, I don’t want to ruin it for everybody,” he winks and laughs.