Theresa Nyabeze has accomplished a lot throughout her career in the mining industry. Not only does she work as a front line supervisor for Vale, but her 17 years of experience in the field helped her attain some influential leadership roles, like becoming the president of Women in Science and Engineering Sudbury.
Nyabeze’s career took an even more interesting turn in 2017, when she wrote and published an illustrated children’s book called Underground! My Mining Adventure through her business Diversity STEM.
As the publisher’s name suggests, this book aims to encourage young children, especially girls, to take up an interest in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“I just bump into a lot of able bodied people who, I believe, could thrive in the mining industry, but they tend to have misconceptions about what the work looks like and feels like,” Nyabeze said in a conversation with the Thompson Citizen.
To help quell these concerns, Nyabeze’s book follows a young girl named Maiya, who accompanies her mother to a mine site one day in order to learn what the industry really looks like in the 21st century. Instead of finding a damp, dreary death trap, Maiya discovers that working underground is quite safe and attracts a varied group of smart, intelligent people.
Since the book was published in March 2017, Underground! My Mining Adventure has received widespread support from Nyabeze’s peers and is currently being translated into French, Ojibwe, Spanish, and Portuguese.
While Nyabeze’s inspiration to write this book came from multiple sources, including her own 10-year-old daughter Chiedza, she mentions she wouldn’t even be in this position if it wasn’t for the time she spent living in Thompson between 2001 and 2006.
Nyabeze refers to this period as her professional “foundational years,” since it marked her first experience working at a mine site since graduating from Laurentian University.
“A lot of who I am, my work ethic, comes from the kind of lessons I got from various people when I worked in Thompson,” she said. “To me, being in Thompson was going to be my ‘do I stay in this industry or not’ [test]. Am I welcome in this industry or do I not fit in? I think Thompson solidified for me that I belonged in mining and that was a big part of my life.“
Nyabeze also took strides to engrain herself in the local community through organizing events, running a business with her family, and volunteering for community staples like the spaghetti bridge building competition.
“That was really my lifestyle in Thompson. I was looking for opportunities to volunteer and for community engagement,” she said. “I think I’m even on one their recruitment videos to encourage people to move to Thompson.”
Even though Nyabeze has since moved back to Sudbury, Ont. to be closer to her extended family, she continues to maintain close ties with Thompson, so much so that she’s thinking about donating a copy of her book to the Heritage North Museum.
“I think it would be a nice addition,” she said. “The book just makes me show my passion for mining and I feel like it makes sense, given Thompson’s heritage.”
After such a busy year, Nyabeze said she’s planning to take a little break during the summer to spend some more time with her family. However, the engineer turned children’s author said she’s still planning to write more books and will continue to promote diversity in mining industry through the arts.
“There’s more stories to tell and it will be a book series for sure.”