While I am originally from Brazil, my childhood spanned many countries as my family was often on the move. Looking back now I can see the gifts of this experience but at the time it was a challenge. It was hard learning new languages, adapting to new cultures and making new friends. Differences between education systems posed challenges in some subjects, but not maths. It was constant. Equations and numbers are always the same in every language, so it was something I was always drawn towards.
On finishing school, I moved to London to study mathematics and economics. These skills have become a foundation to an international career that has opened many opportunities and challenges. After university I joined BHP Billiton’s London team and three years ago had the opportunity to transfer to Melbourne, Australia.
I am a Principal in BHP’s Portfolio Strategy and Development team. My team considers business development opportunities, acquisitions and divestments. In simple terms, we look at buying or selling new mines or companies in the mining sector. We ensure that BHP has the right mix of assets to optimise its long-term portfolio. My team is involved in large, complex, strategic projects, which makes it an exciting job. I work on many different projects so every day is different and unique. I could never get bored, which is what I love about it.
A universal language, maths has allowed me to travel the world. I have met amazing people and seen extraordinary places as well as learned to have an open mind and view the world from different perspectives.
It’s hard to know exactly what career you want to pursue straight after school. Often the career you think you might want now might not be what you’re doing in 10 years so choose a variety of subjects that you can apply to all sorts of career pathways. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with the skills you will need for a global, fast-paced world – maths does that.
Karin Ditchfield has a Bachelor of Mathematics and Economics from University College London. She is now a specialist in the Portfolio Strategy and Development team at BHP.