Updated: Sep 13
Not every day a company has the fortune to celebrate an employee’s 20th year work anniversary, but it seems Duratray International was in luck when back in 2001 had the opportunity to employ Carolina Hinojosa to work as a Financial Assistant in the newly acquired company in Melbourne.
It was November, 2001, when Carolina, who had just immigrated to Australia from Chile was hired by the then Managing Director, Manuel Medel. She started working assisting Manuel with administrative and financial tasks, but soon became Duratray’s first Chief Financial Officer.
Originally from Vina del Mar, located 110 kms from Chile’s capital city Santiago, Carolina has a Bachelor Degree in Business (Commerce) with majors in Finance and Marketing from Universidad de Valparaiso and was awarded by the Chilean Engineer Association E.G. as the best Graduate Engineer in her speciality from her class.
After getting engaged to her Australian (with Chilean background) partner, for practical reasons they decided it was best for them to live in Australia and moved to Melbourne.
Carolina is very grateful for the opportunity Duratray’s owners gave her to join the company when she first migrated to Australia as a young professional. “They gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my skills and capabilities in a period in which it was very difficult for me as a professional abroad to find a job. The market was asking for professional experience in Australia, which I didn’t yet have. In addition, when I was applying for jobs outside my professional field, when looking at my academic background I was deemed overqualified for many of those jobs. Therefore, I am very grateful for the break I was given”, she acknowledged.
Carolina has seen Duratray grow in every aspect. From only exporting to a handful of countries, nowadays Duratray commercialises its dump bodies to more than 30 countries in five continents; new offices have been opened across the globe, including Russia, South Africa and the United States and new manufacturing deals have been negotiated in key geographical locations.
Over her 20 years with the company there are many memories Carolina keeps very close to her heart, including Duratray’s numerous awards from the Australian Government, the pink trays to support breast cancer research, and the opening of new markets. “If I had to choose one, my most memorable moment would be in 2015 when Duratray was recognised in the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame”, she stated. It was the first time that Duratray was awarded in the Manufacturing category due to its excellence.
“We worked so hard in the application for that award. The mining industry around the world was facing an important crisis that had commenced in 2014, and due to strategic reasons the Medel family was grouped in Chile. Consequently, I had to lead the company in Australia, hence Duratray being recognised in the Hall of Fame not only as mining supplier but as manufacturer of the year, was an amazing feeling that lifted the spirit of the entire team. I couldn’t believe it when the name of our company was indicated as the winner; I still have goose bumps when I remember that moment” Carolina said.
Likewise, Carolina takes pride in Duratray’s achievements in Australia. “I would say the implementation of an Integrated Management System has been the biggest achievement”, she stated. Duratray has been for nearly 10 years certified with three major international Standards: Quality ISO 9001, Environmental ISO 14001 and Occupational Health and Safety ISO 45001.
Naturally, not everything has been rosy in the past 20 years. The company and the entire industry faced one of the most challenging crisis back in 2014 and last year the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives.
“The challenge has always been lifting the spirit of the team, motivating them and re-assuring them that at a personal level each of us, as well as a team, will be able to navigate the churning waves to a more tranquil sea. After so many lockdowns in Melbourne, the team is feeling the burden on their shoulders. Emotionally, they are affected. Most of us have our extended families living overseas. Not knowing when you will be able to see and hug them again is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and overwhelming, especially for those whose parents are old and their health has deteriorated these past months. To provide that kind of support is challenging, you need to find the right balance to show that you care, you empathize with them in how they feel, but at the same time you must be strong and positive for them so that they do not fall apart”, she said.
Despite these difficulties, our CFO enjoys the day-to-day work at Duratray. “At Duratray we are one big family, we enjoy each other’s company, we care about each other, and as big family sometimes we may have different opinions, but we respect each other and are willing to walk the extra mile to help each other out” Carolina stated. “I also enjoy the fact that each day I learn new things. Since Duratray has a presence in many different countries, each day brings you opportunities to learn new things about taxes, laws, regulations, a new word in a different language, etc. As I have a high interest in this area, the work at Duratray is perfect to satisfy it” Carolina stated.
Without a doubt, Carolina’s journey with Duratray has been one of deep lessons, successes, challenges and unmatched opportunities.
In hindsight Carolina reflects on her career starting as a young professional at Duratray. “I’ve learned that it’s ok to plan but do not worry if something is not within the plan, as I cannot control everything. Worrying excessively about what tomorrow will bring will not solve any problem and will only add unnecessary stress. This year and a half in particular have shown how the world can change from one day to the next, and that making long-term plans can be frustrating. It does not mean that I am not proactive in my planning approach or that I don’t identify areas of risk, I am still doing that, but I don’t stress now for tomorrow’s concerns”, she mentioned.
Duratray has been very fortunate to have Carolina working with us for 20 years. She has been the person who keeps the boat afloat and spirits high in challenging times and the person who encourages and motivates the team towards success in good times. Her commitment to Duratray and its people has been key for the success of the company in Australia and in international markets, and her caring nature makes new and existing team members feel looked after.
Congratulations Carolina and thank you for all your hard work, commitment and unmatched leadership!