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We recently had the privilege of catching up with the incredible and inspiring Stacey Sleeman, Chief Financial Officer & Company Secretary at Tomago Aluminium.

Here Stacey shares why she loves living and working in Newcastle, her secrets to success, her daily rituals and why Tomago is focusing on energy affordability for future growth and business sustainability.

Q. Tell me about your role and Tomago Aluminium

My role is Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary for Tomago Aluminium and I absolutely love it!

Tomago has been operating in the Hunter since 1983 and is the largest and most efficient aluminium smelter in the ANZ region producing ~600,000 tonnes of aluminium annually that is exported worldwide. Tomago is Australia’s largest electricity load – using 12% of NSW power which means that Tomago plays a very important and interesting role in maintaining NSW energy grid stability. We are a major contributor to the Hunter region generating in excess of $2b in revenue and employing ~1,200 employees and contractors in the region.

In my role I am responsible for management and delivery of all key commercial outcomes for the Tomago business and manage the Finance, IT, Procurement and Continuous Improvement functions

Q. What does an average day look like for you?

Every day with coffee first!!!

Normal days on site start early given we are a 24/7 operation, for me after coffee, the first hour of the day is spent reviewing the safety and production results from the previous 24 hours in preparation for our daily production meeting and generally preparing for the rest of the day by prepping and pre-reading for meetings.  What I love is that no day is ever the same, they are filled with variety. One day the CEO and I will be presenting on Tomago and talking energy with state and federal MPs and other days will be filled with operational management meetings, budget and strategic planning, board meetings and other days focussing on detailed analysis, value improvement projects or people, team and leadership development.

Q. Did much change for you during the recent COVID lockdowns? How did you cope with Iso?

I felt extremely grateful that I was able to continue working as per normal (with COVID-19 safety plans in place of course) as for us maintaining business as usual operation was absolutely critical – the smelter cannot stop operating.

Whilst general operations remained business as usual, there were many changes for our site support teams (Finance, HR, IT, etc.) – we had up to 50 support staff working from home for a period of ~ 8 weeks and very swiftly developed new processes to accommodate working from home. This change was incredibly successful for us and as a result we have introduced a new working from home policy to allow our employees added flexibility.

From a family point of view, for me the positives were slowing down the pace of life.

Q. Much of Australia’s manufacturing industry has been offshored, how has Tomago Aluminium survived and thrived?

Tomago has had to focus heavily on reduced energy consumption and energy efficiency, innovation and value creation to survive and thrive in the Australian market. For Tomago, like most manufacturing businesses, our largest cost is energy and any increases in cost have a significant negative impact on our business. In order to be globally competitive we have to control what we can control here at site and we do this by leading with an innovation and waste reduction culture in all areas of the operation.

In order to continue to thrive and survive, our focus is on addressing our key challenge, energy affordability, we absolutely need internationally competitive energy.

Q. What’s the challenges and opportunities for Tomago Aluminium over the next 12 months?

Energy, energy, energy! Aluminium Smelters require internationally affordable and reliable firmed energy – at the moment we do not have this in Australia.

Q. You’re new to the area, tell us why you decided to make the move from Sunny Brisbane?

The CFO role at Tomago is incredibly diverse and for me the challenge of a new industry (my background is in professional services and consulting and mining and resources). This role for me was a fabulous career opportunity combined with the fact that both myself and my family love both the beach and wine so moving to the Hunter was a no brainer – I can confidently say that we have adapted and absolutely love the laid back lifestyle.

Q. You are obviously highly successful and motivated, where does your drive come from?

To be completely honest I would have to say it comes from the way that I was raised and my own desire to always push for more, never be satisfied! I cannot remember a time when I have not been driven to constantly learn from my mistakes, improve myself, do better than before and try harder than the last time. I think this attitude is the result of being brought up with the view that you can do anything as long as you work hard – you have to create your own pathway, nobody is going to do that for you.

Q. Finish this sentence. On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me…………………at Newcastle Beach and also walking the track from Nobbys to Mereweather with some sneaky coffee stops along the way.

Q. What do you feel most grateful for in your life?

I feel most grateful for my incredibly supportive family – specifically my husband Todd who has always provided me with limitless support and encouragement to simply back myself and go for it!! If I didn’t have his support I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today from both a life and career perspective!

Q. What’s your fav coffee spot in Newcastle?

Sitting on the steps, watching the waves at The Kiosk, Newcastle Beach.

GWG’s Senior Consultant Amanda MacGregor had the pleasure of placing Stacey in her role. If your looking for financial leaders to take your organisation to the next level or seeking a new position, reach out to Amanda today on 0414 558 214 or email amanda.macgregor@gwg.com.au

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