Sometimes the road not taken can turn out to a real break – especially when that road leads to the tech bubble burst of the early years of the last decade, Greg Smith will quickly tell you.
That’s because, as a newly minted chartered accountant, he made a decision to take the path to Canadian mining, which itself had been in the dumps for a few years. Smith has made his mark as president and CEO of Anthem United, a promising gold company, and as a director of Cheasapeake Gold Corp. and Lowell Copper.
“I ended up getting a job at KPMG in Vancouver, and at the time – in 2000 – the tech boom was in full swing. Everybody had gone into high tech for the two years before that, but I wasn’t really interested. I was more interested in mining and forestry and the commodity group. Mining was a pretty small [practice] group and had good people, so I requested placement with mining. At the time the [mining] market was pretty dead.”
History tells us where high tech went. Meanwhile, mining was enjoying a bit of a revival, Smith said.
“Because mining had been dead for so long, nobody was going into mining, and so you ended up with this really strange demographic: the over-50 set and a few young guys like me coming in. It afforded a whole lot of opportunity for younger guys and girls, because when mining really took off and they needed mining engineers, chartered accountants and geologists, there just weren’t that many out there.”
Smith has gone on to fully immerse himself in the business, founding the Young Mining Professionals association with a KPMG colleague in 2007 to help young mining professionals get the skills and knowledge to advance their careers and to network within the industry.
He personally found networking valuable in advancing his own career. In fact, the prime lesson he has learned – the hard way – is to not ignore the experience and wisdom of others when it’s offered.
“I am still a young guy; I’ve been in the industry my whole career but I haven’t been through multiple [mining cycles] and some of these guys have seen this movie before. They are a wealth of information that we need to take into account.”