How Guy's childhood inspired him to lead the change to sustainable mining

For Guy Barroilhet, growing up with a close-knit family inspired him to leave a legacy. Here, he explains why he is driven to find solutions to one of the world's biggest environmental challenges and how his MBA will help him get there.

I was born in Santiago, Chile, where I lived with my parents and siblings. It's common in South America for many generations to be close, gathering regularly, and this close family really made me who I am today.

My family are all talented musicians, and my grandfather really instilled in me a love of classical music. He taught me to play the piano, something that is still a big part of my life today, but more than that, he shaped how I view the world. He believed that you should have a profession that develops both your mind and your culture – and it's something that has shaped my career journey.

My grandfather taught me that we all have an obligation to leave the world a better place than we found it, and it is this that drives me today.

In high school, I was really into philosophy and writing alongside music, but I couldn’t see how to make any of these things into a career. When deciding what to do after school, I toyed with many ideas, from law to economics, even acting. Eventually, I decided to study logistics engineering, primarily because it looked like it might lead to job opportunities. But my heart just wasn’t in it. 

I started to think about mining as a career option. It was just starting to grow as an industry in Chile then and it really caught my eye. I encouraged a few of my peers to come and join me at another university, at the top engineering school in Chile, where we could study mining.

As Chile's economy changed, mining was emerging as a study area and it was an exciting place to be. As any new industry emerges, the basics come first and then the need for new technologies and services quickly follows, and with it comes huge opportunity.

I did a number of internships during my studies and on graduation in 2011, was fortunate to secure a project engineer position with Antofagasta, a large copper-producer with a number of mines based in Chile. I worked my way up there, eventually moving on to a Business Development at Aguamarina, another Chilean-based mining outfit.

As my career progressed, my grandfather's words about leaving a legacy rang in my ears.

In my childhood, I spent a lot of time outdoors and developed a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of Chile. I came to realise that, more than just a love for it, I had a moral obligation to protect it, particularly as someone working in the mining industry.

I began thinking about the impact we were having on the environment, for example, water wastage and contamination, air pollution from the trucks, and agricultural impacts, and I knew I had to contribute to a solution.

The Iroquois believed that whatever you did in your lifetime impacted the next seven generations and you need to be accountable. Thinking like that can change how we view our own actions; it makes us less egocentric and more about the big picture. For me this translated into an interest in sustainable mining practices and technologies, a pathway that would bring me to Australia and The University of Queensland.

I first came to Brisbane in 2016, with a group of mining and technology professionals to take a look at the technologies and practices used here in Australia, and we visited UQ at St Lucia on that tour. The beauty of the campus really stayed with me when I went home. I was interested in the mining research being done at UQ, and I kept turning the idea over in my head, could I go and study in Australia?

It took a few years, but I finally decided to take the leap. I am passionate about business and sustainable mining, and my MBA just seemed like a great choice to give me that business grounding that will help me own the change in the mining industry, to be part of a solution and leave a positive legacy.

Mining will keep happening; we need minerals for just about everything, from home computers to space exploration, so we must take initiative to improve processes and make the industry sustainable. I believe it is possible and we will find the technology to get us there. Through my MBA, I am learning all I can about business and about leadership, so that I can be at the forefront.

The lifestyle in Brisbane is incredible, I am enjoying being near fantastic beaches and everyone is so friendly – I even discovered that my neighbor has a piano and she lets me drop in and use it whenever I want – so I am continuing my passion for music while I am studying. But my ultimate goal is to return to Chile and play a role in protecting its natural beauty for future generations – and as the Iroquois said, not just the next one, but for many to come.

Thank you to Brisbane Grammar School for the use of their piano.

Question everything. Except your legacy.

Find out how a UQ MBA can transform your career