Interview with Julie Zhu – The metals and mining industry from a female perspective
Since the early 1900s, the world has celebrated women’s achievements and advocated for equal rights every year on the 8th of March. Metalshub has considered this a relevant occasion to share the female vision of an important woman in the metals and mining industry. We had the opportunity to interview Julie Zhu, Co-founder, and Director of Viant Commodities Pte. Ltd.
The metals and mining industry has always been a male-dominated industry and continues to be so, even today. Positive steps have been taken that have helped to integrate women into the industry, but women continue to be under-represented.
But the industry is ready for a change as more women begin to enter this field. Many women have paved the way, and others continue to do the same.
Julie’s achievements are a rare sighting, but taking a deeper look at Julie’s work background and attitude, they come as no surprise. Julie has shared some of her experiences and advice for women embarking on a career in the metals and mining industry…
How did you know you wanted to work in this industry?
What attracted me initially was the fact that it’s a people and relationship business. Many industries are quite technical – the natural resource sector, however, is dominated by personalities and decades’ worth of trust built on deal after deal. Although sometimes stressful, I thrive with the fast feedback loops and with the nurturing of human relationships necessary to run and grow the business. And what we do, supplying the stuff out of which emerges, airports, cars, iPhones and Perrier bottle caps, I feel we are enabling human society…we serve a real and very important function, which gives me satisfaction.
What is it like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry?
In the early part of my career it was more intimidating when dealing with hardnosed business alpha males; and our industry, perhaps, is oversupplied with alpha males. With time, experience, and growing into the role via delivery, I found better synergy with my male colleagues and counterparties. Females tend to be more practical and perhaps more sensitive to details, hence adding important aspects to a functioning team – and enabling success. In other words, I have never tried to “out man” the men I am dealing with – rather, I take a different approach and gain my respect through consistent delivery of concrete results.
How does a normal day in your position at Viant Commodities look like?
Mornings typically start with a quick meeting with department heads to ensure we are fully up to date on what is going on and teamwork is best coordinated when everyone is better informed. This is often followed by calls with investors, banks or key customers. Lunch time is yoga or gym followed by a healthy meal. Afternoons usually involve meetings with various customers or reviewing ongoing projects or transactions. The day will be finished by viewing daily cash usage, credit exposure, and position reports. I wish, I had more time to strategize, but time flies really fast with a constant barrage of ad-hoc decisions that need to be taken as a result of constantly changing inputs from customers, suppliers and banking relationships.
How will the metals trading business look like in 10 years from now?
For sure yet more consolidation, and technology will change everything. Technology already offers great transparency in the market; 10 years from now, blockchain will be widely implemented hence less manpower, lawyers, bank clerks, logistics professionals will be required, and the transaction times will be further compressed – and for the first time, we will be able to very accurately authenticate provenance. There has to be real value created to justify the existence of any merchant – trading on the basis of asymmetric info is just not good enough. Space mining will most likely be emerging hence the metals trading might develop into total different dimensions. In fact, I think it’s the most exciting time – right now – to be involved with and help our industry to chart and navigate the future. I’m excited every day and feel privileged to have been given this opportunity.
What do you like about Metalshub?
I love the clean design, and the fact that it’s highly customized for different products. It has highly standardized for documentation on trade flows, making consumer / retail business easier and much more efficient. Also it offers a multi-service platform i.e. logistics, quotation, KYC, and insurance. If Metalshub can add financing, then it will be nearly ‘one-stop shop’.
During your mornings…coffee or tea?
Coffee – I love my morning coffee (almost as much as I love my yoga)
More about Viant Commodities Pte. Ltd.
Viant Commodities Pte. Ltd. operates as a non-ferrous metal merchant. The company trades Copper, Zinc, Nickel, Aluminium, Lead, and Tin. It was founded in 2016 and is based in Singapore with additional offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Switzerland.
Special thanks to Julie Zhu for a great interview and a look into her life as a professional in the metals and mining industry.
Are you a woman in the metals industry too? How has your experience been similar or different? Do you have any questions for Julie Zhu? – Please include your comments below.