TIM BURMEISTER Mining Editor
The Spring Creek, Nevada-based Mining Minds podcast was on hiatus in September and October while the hosts took care of some business in their mining careers, but the podcast resumed in November.
This summer, the 3Ds – hosts Derek Grover and Dino Brunson and guest DeDe Barker – sat down with mimosas in the Mining Minds studio on a beautiful Saturday morning to talk about Barker’s career in human resources in the mining industry. Barker was one of the first people Grover and Brunson spoke to when they came to Elko to get into mining, and she helped them start their careers in mining.
Barker was born in Langdon, North Dakota, and her family moved to Green River, Wyoming when she was 5 years old. Her mother became a supervisor at a coal mining lab outside of Green River.
At the time, DeDe’s name was Dwana Hell. When other children gave her a hard time, she told them that her middle name was âreferenceâ. She had some difficulties early in her life. While still in high school, she lost a son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and had a second son, Tyler.
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âMy mom was a single mom too, so I always saw her struggles,â Barker said. âI never wanted to have these same struggles, but I did, I lived them. I could barely make ends meet with my oldest son. I did what I had to do and I succeeded.
She worked as a grocery store checker and got a job with TIC at the Tenneco mine outside of Green River.
While working in the warden’s hut, she met an entrepreneur, Kelly Barker, who had a daughter about the same age as her son. After dating for several months, she took a leap of faith and moved with Kelly to Elko, making the 400 mile trip on I-80 to see her new home. It was in 1992.
Barker went to the Goldstrike mine and visited TIC and was hired to work at the front office, where her personality suited her perfectly.
âI always think the person at your front desk or the person who answers the phone is the face of your business,â Barker said.
She later got the opportunity to go work for Barrick, and that’s when she entered HR.
Earlier in her life she had considered becoming a nurse because she liked the idea of ââhelping people. She found that being in HR gave her many opportunities to help people.
âWhen I started at Barrick, I divided my time between receiving and recruiting for maybe the first three months,â said Barker.
She then moved on to full-time HR.
âI would say probably six months later, that’s when I knew, that’s my thing. I love the psychology side, I love the human side, I love the celebration side, being able to help people. Help Derek, help Dino and his friends.
âIt was a great thing and I still do, in the job I have now – making people’s Christmases every day of the year. You can help make a difference and change their lives.
At first, maybe she was a little too optimistic about some people.
âWhen I started, everyone was wonderful and everyone deserved a chance,â Barker said. âUntil I had my first drug failureâ¦ His grandmother would call me leaving crazy messages, he would call me leaving crazy messages. And it opened my eyes and I thought, OK, what did I miss about him that I should have recognized?
âAny drug failure, background check failure – Dana Pray, our manager at Barrickâ¦ did a good job of making us understand what went wrong, what can we learn from that? “
Over the years she has spoken to many, many people and learned a lot about people.
âThere were days at Barrick where we had 14 interviews a day, 30-45 minute interviews,â Barker said.
âOne year at Barrick, when Dana was leading our team, we hired over 1,700 people in one year. “
Even interviewing so many people, Barker always focused on getting to know the people she spoke with.
âYou take a personal approach, which is why you are highly respected in the community,â Brunson said. âBecause you are a human person. You’re not afraid to call a spade a spade, but in the end, you’re here to help. â¦ The hundreds and thousands of people you helped get jobs, they go, man, she got a personal approach to me. I sucked when I got here.
Barker also knew the people and culture of each of the sites she hired for, and she went out of her way to hire the right people in the right place for them.
âI imagine the mental game behind this is that you are playing chess,â Brunson said. âI can move that person here, that person over there. “
âThe fit in the basement is completely different from the fit in the box,â Barker said. âThe underground, they are generally more united. They shower together, don’t they? So there are different groups of people, it’s just a different race. The open pit, a different breed too. â¦ You are going to be alone.
âThere are people still working there, I had to give four or five different interviews with different groups, in different positions, before I finally found a place for them,â said Barker. âI always tell everyone that this job obviously wasn’t for you. We’ll find a fit, you’ll fit somewhere. I’m not going to give up on this person because I feel like they’re going to fit in somewhere.
Barker discovered that a person’s attitude makes all the difference.
âYou can train anyone in any skill you want,â Barker said.
“I’m proof of that,” said Grover.
“Okay,” agreed Barker. âLook at Grover now. But you can’t train them in the attitude. So if you find someone with the right attitude, you can train them in any skill. You could send them to college to be a metallurgical engineer, a mining engineer, an electrical engineer, but you can’t train someone in the attitude.
âYou can’t train someone to be a good person,â Brunson said.
Barker worked at Barrick for eight and a half years.
“And I’ll tell you what, I remember almost everyoneâ¦ the ones that obsessively called like Derek wouldâ¦ I remember almost everyone I interviewed or sat down with, or made their offer. There is always something left over when I make their offer.
In 2018, Barker left Barrick to join Pray & Company, a human resources company that Dana Pray and Rhonda Zuraff co-founded in 2017.
The hard part of Barrick leaving was leaving the many people she had formed relationships with over the years.
âGetting away from these people was so difficult,â Barker said. âBecause they’re like your family. “
When Barker joined Pray & Company, she was the third person on the team.
âTwo and a half years, almost three years later, we are now twelve. We are therefore expanding our team.
âIf someone gives you their resume, what does that mean to you and how do you help them? Brunson asked.
âWhat that means to me is that if they’re working right now, they’re not happy with something, or they’re looking for a change,â Barker said. âSo I try to learn why this person is looking for a change, and what they need different in their life, what they need different in their work.
âNow we have customers all over the country. So we try to find the ideal solution for them and tell them a little bit about this client in that part of the country, the group, the culture there.
Grover said the difference he sees in Barker and the others at Pray & Company is that they care about the people they work with and think out of the box, as well as follow through.
âI take it personally and try to think it over a bit,â Barker said. “I care where Derek goes, I care where Dino goes, I care where all my people go.”
âI contact the base with them from time to time. Even though I have no idea for Derek. Just, hey Derek, how’s it going?
Grover said Barker probably heard about what was going on in the mining industry because people trusted him.
“I’m getting these calls, hey, have you heard of this mining site, and they have this job open?” Said Barker. “If I don’t know, I’ll dig, I’ll research, I might know some people there.”
âOne hundred percent you’re going to know someone out there,â Brunson said.
âI have worked in mining in Wyoming and in Elko, and also now with all the other clients and all the job fairs that I have had with Barrick, I have met people all over the country. , all over the world, âBarker agreed.
“When you walk into a conferenceâ¦ what does it look like for DeDe?” Brunson asked. âI can imagine all the lives you have touched throughout your mining career, and throughout your life. You walk into this place and you keep talking to people all day. â¦ I’m sure people are watching you, I just wanna be there, I wanna be able to visit her because she did this for me.
âI think there are people,â said Grover, âmyself included, you look back and you walk away, I’m so glad she came into my life at that point because I wouldn’t be where I am without someone to go, you’re a good fit for here. You could have put me somewhere with a bunch of jerks, and it might not have worked.
âWhat’s your five-year plan? Brunson asked.
âI probably want to keep making people’s Christmases. To share my experiences and train others who have just entered HR, who have just entered the recruiting world, this is how I did it, this is how I did it. And number one, if you don’t care about people and don’t like what you’re doing, get out of there and do something else.
âSo you don’t plan on retiring,â Grover said. âYou’ve found the job you love, you’ve found your niche in the world. “
âWell, hopefully at some point I can retire,â Barker said. “But I’ve also always said if you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life.” ??