Line-Audrey Nkule headshot


Line-Audrey Nkule


Mining Autonomous Specialist at Caterpillar

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My name is Line-Audrey Maeva Nkule, I’m originally from Cameroon in Central Africa. That's where I did my high school degree and I came here in the U.S. in 2013. At the time, I was I was super young. I think I was, what, 16 years old. So I came by myself to the U.S. I remember I've been at SME since January of 2016, so it's been seven years and half now.

I started in 2016 when I was transferring. I got my associate degree from Howard Community College and then I transferred to West Virginia University to continue with my two and a half year long mining, civil and environmental program.

January 2016 was my first semester, and immediately I wanted to be in touch with SME. I started with the SME West Virginia University chapter. Shout out to SME WVU! So they were the ones that really got me introduced to SME. I immediately picked up on opportunities, and I even became an officer for the SME WVU chapter, I think in 2017, 2018 timeframe.

So yes, I went to the conferences since 2016. And yes, it's been a love story till now. It's the community. Honestly. We talk about how we I feel like we don't emphasize enough on this aspect of community because SME is a professional organization.

While people go to SME for knowledge, technical sessions, understanding the basics. I get it. It's really valuable to me too. But think about an immigrant that came from Cameroon right? You know, to the U.S. with no family. Most of my family was in France, definitely not in Maryland or West Virginia.

With no family in the area, right in West Virginia, trying to get by the day-to-day at school and not really knowing anyone. SME was the community for me. It was the people, the connections, the people that I met who made me feel like I was home.

Aside from all the people that helped me get a job, opportunities, you know, interviews, all the technical sessions that really enhance my skillset, my understanding of where the mining industry was going for me.

SME was first, the sense of a community having people that you could rely on for information, you know, for even social activities. Because most of the time the people I was in school with at SME, we spent a lot of time doing different activities together over the weekend during the week time. So having people that I could definitely be around, for social purposes, before running myself mad in the brain.

I've learned so much from being in SME. Actually, my first opportunity to interview with Caterpillar was from one of my colleagues within Caterpillar who attended SME. Yeah, shout out to her too! I mean, I'm not even sure if I could say her name but she was the one who, like we saw each other and she knew me from winning a previous awards within the company, but she was kind enough to let me know of this opportunity of hiring into Caterpillar. I actually had accepted a job offer with another company at the time when I saw her at SME 2018. So that was February 2018, she approached me for this job opportunity and then the next week, on Monday, I was on the plane to interview with Cat.

So, even the job I’ve got nowadays, was from one of my dear colleagues and friend who approached me, you know, for this opportunity. You know, the impact that SME has had in my life. All the support that I've had, the awards, the scholarships, the recognitions for the modest contribution that I was able to make. I mean, it's just rewarding, right? You know, that you have a community of family that really cares about all these things.

The future of the industry is definitely the autonomy and, sustainability initiatives. We talk about electrification every single day now with customers globally. Even at the SME conference, autonomy and electrification are now the topic of conversations because we're trying to help our customers maximize their productivity, efficiency, and safety protocols at site while minimizing any damage that you can have. A lot of people are always concerned about the effect it has on jobs nowadays in the market.

But we always want to reassure people that autonomy gives an opportunity for people to get repurposed on site. You can get repurposed into different activities. For example, a traditional dozer operator that used to sit in the machines and get vibrations every day. He's now repurposed into a technology sentry dozer operator. He's sitting in a control room, you know, in front of a system that allows him to manage about 3 to 4 dozers at once.

He's just like playing with it in a control room. He's not sitting in the machine, he's not feeling the vibrations, but he's able to be even more productive than he would have been as a single dose operator because he has the ability with the mine star system to operate 3 to 4 machines at once, autonomously in the most dangerous areas, where a dozer can find itself and safety

With climate change concerns globally, and even the government pushing, helping companies develop some of their resources in order to find ways to be sustainable, for inter-generational purposes.
Intergenerational equity is the term, making sure that we allow the same amount of resources for the future generations. So that you can accomplish as the same as we've done, or even more than we've done. That's the concept of intergenerational equity and sustainability. So this is what we're trying to achieve with electrification, right? We want to make sure that our machines are now battery electric enabled.

So, we're pushing for battery electric vehicles. To make sure that our machines can produce the lowest amount of GHG emissions in the mining industry and still feel as productive as possible for our customers. And with the help of the government with incentives and all that, I believe that's going to be the future for a lot of our mining companies. And a lot of them are sharing interest into electrification of electric vehicles and that can definitely see that as the future implementing that on site.

But the future of our industry is also diversity, equity and inclusion, more and more to get more allies, more supporters, within the mining industry to push some of those initiatives. To put minorities into the right context of the mining industry where they feel safe, sharing their input, sharing their knowledge, sharing their background, sharing their expertise, and even, being collaborative with other people.
I don't think nowadays within the mining industry, a lot of people are aware of unconscious bias, right? A lot of companies get people trained on unconscious bias, on safety, on diversity, culture at work, and how to be inclusive of other people.

So one thing to mention, as I'm looking at the trends of future of the companies the mining industry, I see more and more minorities, you know, taking over in managerial positions, in executive leadership positions, in the future just because we now value the contribution that those people have had in the mining industry or other industries globally.

Someone working in the mining industry in Peru, Chile, Brazil or Australia, when they come to the U.S., they have a totally different way of approaching a problem that can be beneficial because as we're looking at the mining industry, we're trying to not do the same mistakes that we've done in the past.
We're trying to innovate, we're trying to change things, right? So we need more, critical thinking, different mindset, and different ways of processing or addressing issues. And this is where diverse people, climbing to the plate in order to provide that input to us.

So that's a new trend that I see as peeking out, that is picking up here in our industry. And I'm truly trilled to be part of that trend, where people feel like, “hey, Line-Audrey, actually, you know, she's contributing to our efforts, right?” Let's hear her out. And it doesn't matter what managers we're talking about. It can be, a 20 years of experience manager, a 30 years between manager or even a five year regional manager, pausing, and giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts and actually listening to hear and not listening to respond or retaliate.