Rio Tinto’s Didier Arseguel carries significant responsibility for the mining giant as Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium’s vice-president, technology. He’s in charge of tech, R&D and innovation worldwide, as well as one of the company’s major decarbonization streams. But the France native – who has been in Canada since 2012, and actually prefers Québec winters to his homeland’s – also dedicates time to Rio Tinto’s newcomers.
“This fall,” says Arseguel, “I will be speaking with our graduate program’s North American cohort about my role in the company, and answering any questions they may have. It’s an important part of the program to have senior leaders do that. Part of my job is to ensure that things keep going well here, and the new grads – future leaders, with different perspectives from a different generation – are absolutely crucial.”
Rio Tinto’s two-year graduate program is open about the challenges that recent university grads face. The first sentence in the program guide welcomes young people to a “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment (VUCA),” before moving directly to providing insight into “the Rio Tinto strategy and how we live our values and behaviours.” Those values – care, courage and curiosity – infuse the program and help attract the future leaders Rio Tinto wants.
Sarah-Lee Fortin entered the graduate program in 2018, and is now a strategic project adviser reporting directly to Arseguel, who calls her “my right hand.” For someone like the Laval chemical engineering grad, who has a strong sense of curiosity and love of travel, Rio Tinto had much to offer.
“There were rotations within the base site, Sorel-Tracy in Québec in my case, in the first year,” Fortin says, “and six months in South Africa during the second.” The travel certainly caught the eye of Fortin, who will begin a two-year stint back in South Africa early in 2024, but so did the variety of job experience to be gained.
“Different plants, different processes, different countries – there was a lot to learn and discover,” says Fortin. “I was hired as a full-time permanent employee, except there was more time dedicated to focusing on my development, paired with great exposure opportunities. Together, it was a very attractive program, a really good fit with my personal interests.”
Outside the graduate program, Rio Tinto also matches its employees’ values through community engagement policies that can be tailored to individual interests. A recognition program rewards exemplary employees with tokens, which they can give to selected local organizations of their choice. And then there’s the prospect of what Arseguel calls “the challenging but fantastically interesting” task of decarbonizing operations.
But for newcomers like Fortin, the grad program matters most, citing the mentoring she received during her two years in the program. “There were a lot of important conversations about our corporate values, professional engineering values and the situations where they have to be applied.”
And the program is significant for Rio Tinto itself, Arseguel says, circling back to his session with the North American grads. “This communication we’re talking about doesn’t work one way only. Our program participants, they care, their curiosity is very high. And their courage? They ask questions that other people may not ask. From the company side, we just have to ensure that we listen, we take care of them and we bring them to their full potential.”
Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.