Working in Laos: Lisa Harmony, Phu Bia Mining

Lisa Harmony Working in Laos

Lisa Harmony is an Australian expatriate working and living in Laos. She is employed by the Australian mining company, PanAust as Recruitment and Workforce Planning Superintendent. Lisa shares her experiences moving to Laos and the challenges and rewards faced by an expatriate joining the workforce here. 

WLL: Lisa, we understand you grew up in Queensland, Australia where you attended university and attained a degree in Human Resources and Marketing. This helped to commence your career in human resources and led to you move into the mining sector. What attracted you to your field and how did you transition into mining?

Lisa:  I really wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do when I finished my degree.  I had been living and studying on the Sunshine Coast and relocated back to Brisbane (Queensland’s capital city) to find work.  The job market was really tough at the time so it took me a few months to find a job.  The combination of my HR degree and previous customer service and administration experience seemed to really suit the recruitment industry, so I found myself drawn to job ads for recruitment consultants.  The job that I was first offered was actually providing administrative support in a small recruitment agency, which was a lower level than I had hoped for, but I accepted the opportunity anyway.  My career progressed from there to a senior role within a recruitment agency specializing in the mining industry.  It was there that I was approached by one of my clients to join their company to set up their internal recruitment function. 

WLL:  You lead the recruitment and workforce planning team for Phu Bia Mining, which is PanAust’s registered company in Laos. What is your main role and what are your responsibilities within this role?

LisaMy team are responsible for the recruitment of expatriate and Lao national positions for Phu Bia Mining’s operations here in Laos, so it is always busy!  My main focus has been to develop and implement standard processes and procedures and to train the team so that we are maintaining best practice standards for recruitment, but I am also responsible for workforce and localization planning.  This involves developing manning budgets and planning for future growth, whilst considering the training and development requirements of our Lao workforce.  I am really lucky that I have a varied role, so every day is different and there is always an interesting project to work on. 

WLL: Were you already working for PanAust when you relocated to Laos in 2011? Was it a difficult decision to move to an unknown country away from friends and family?

LisaNo, I joined PanAust in this role in Laos.  I was working for another mining company in Australia when my position was made redundant due to a company takeover.  I had already travelled to offshore mining operations in that role, which had started me thinking about pursuing an expatriate opportunity – it seemed like an exciting new adventure.  When it comes to job opportunities, it is always about timing…this was one of those situations when everything worked out perfectly.  Of course, it can be hard being away from friends and family, but I felt really positive about the new company, job and location so I knew that it was the right decision.

WLL: Many expatriates would agree that Laos is a wonderful place to live. The weather is warm, the locals are friendly, living expenses are relatively low and Vientiane Capital is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of larger cities.  But working in Laos can be very different to working in other countries and some adjustment is often needed.

How does office culture differ in Laos to Australia? What major cultural differences have you noticed in the workplace? Have you had to overcome any cultural hurdles?

LisaI am really fortunate to be working in our modern office in Vientiane, so when I am sitting inside in the cool air conditioning, it doesn’t feel any different to working in Australia!  Office culture is still maturing in Laos, and as a large, professional organisation, we have certain office rules and etiquette in place, which are no different to what I am used to in Australia.  I am sure that this is a different environment to what many of our Lao staff are accustomed to, but they all handle themselves professionally.  One of the more obvious cultural differences is the way that I greet new business associates.  I will only shake hands with someone if they initiate first, otherwise I will nop – this is particularly the case when I am meeting Laotian men, it is important to be respectful.  The other difference is the typical office dress of the female Lao staff, being the sinh.  I had one made a few weeks after I came to Laos and was pleased with the reception I received upon arriving at the office in my new office attire – “Lisa, you look beautiful in your sinh!!”, but was then deflated to hear, “but, it is too short!!”  It was sitting just on my knee, making it almost risqué in this part of the world.  Lesson learned, my other sinhs fall to a respectable calf-length.

WLL: What do you believe you have learnt from working in Laos? Which skills have you developed since working here?

Lisa:  I have a really multicultural team with Lao, Australian, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian staff reporting to me so I need to modify my style to suit their culture and have had to be more patient, flexible and take more care when I speak.  I didn’t realize how much “Aussie slang” I used to use!  What I have found though, is that there are more similarities between us all, than there are differences.  Everyone wants to enjoy their work and be able to support their family.  In terms of work skills, I have had the chance to manage a number of different projects with Phu Bia Mining.  I am really lucky that I have been able to broaden the initial scope of my role, which has provided me with great career development, whilst also developing the skills of my team. 

WLL: Laos has just become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and will soon enter the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. These are both excellent national opportunities, but also lead to the challenges of greater competition. As a human resources expert, how do you believe the Lao workforce will meet these challenges? What do you see as the number one area for improvement in Lao human resources?

Lisa:  You are right, it is an exciting time.  The Lao workforce will need to be prepared for this increased competition by planning and further developing their professional skills, including their skills in other languages.  It probably sounds like a contradiction, but they will need to be flexible and prepared to take some risks to seize opportunities as they are presented, but be patient about how quickly results will be realized.     

WLL: What are the top 5 attributes that you look for in a potential employee?

Lisa:  Aside from having the right qualifications, skills and experience for the position, we look for people who are motivated, have excellent communication and language skills, the ability to work with people from different backgrounds and strong problem solving skills. 

WLL: What advice can you offer to Lao graduates looking to start a career in the mining industry?

Lisa:  Firstly, I recommend speaking to people you know who are already working in mining to understand more about the industry.  Attend the Careers Fairs at the universities and speak with the company representatives. 

Graduates in all countries often think that just because they have finished a degree that they are guaranteed a high paying job.  This is not the case.  There is no doubt that having the right degree, particularly in the industry specific disciplines like engineering, will hold you in good stead for a Graduate position. But you also need to have excellent communication skills, including English language.  You will have a lot to learn and have to prove yourself as hardworking, committed and be prepared to listen and learn. 

You will also need to be flexible about the role that you are initially offered.  For example, we offer a two year Graduate Development Program, but numbers are limited.  The alternative for Graduates is to join us in an operational role, which provides an excellent chance to gain on-the-job training and experience that could lead to a higher level, technical or professional position in future.

WLL: Thank you very much for your time, Lisa. We wish you the best of luck in your career and hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Laos.

This article is part of our “Working In Laos” series of interviews in collaboration with 108job.

By: Cameron Darke
Translation: Keovisouk Dalasane


 ??????????????????: Lisa Harmony, ??????? ???????

Lisa Harmony Working in Laos 2

??????? ???? ?????? ??????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????? ??????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????  PanAust ??????????????????? Recruitment and Workforce Planning Superintendent. ???? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ???? ?????????????????????????????????? Queensland, ????????????? ???????????????????????????? ?????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????. ??? ???????????????????? ???????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????. ???????????? ????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????????????????????

Lisa:  ?????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????? ??? ??????????? Sunshine Coast ?????????????????????????????????? Brisbane (??????????????? Queensland). ????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????. ?????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ???????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????? ?????????.     ???????????  ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????. 

WLL:  ???????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????? Phu Bia Mining, ???????????????? PanAust ???????????????????. ????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????

Lisa??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????? ??????????????? ??????? ???????? ?????????????????????????????? ! ????????????????????????????????????????? ??????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????? ??????? ???????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????? ????.  ????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ??????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????????????? ????. ????????????????????????????????? ???????? ???????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????? ??????????????????????????.

WLL: ???? 2011 ???????????????????????????????????? ????????????????? PanAust ??????????? ????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????? ??? ???????

Lisa??? ???????? ???????????????? PanAust ?????????????????????. ?????????? ?????????????????????????????????? ??????????. ?????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????. ??????? ??????????????????????????????????????? ??? ????????????????????????????????????. ????????? ?????? ????????????????????? ??? ????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ??? ??????????? ???????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????? ????????? ????????????? ????????????? ????????????????????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????????????. ?????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????.

?????????????????????????????????? ??? ????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Lisa?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????? ????????????????? ?????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????! ??????????????????? ?????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????? ??? ????? ?????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??. ????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????? ?????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ??? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????? ?????????? ?????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????. ??????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ??????????????????????? ???? ???????? ???? ?????????? ???  ??????????????????????????, “?????????????????????”  ????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????.  ??????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ?????????????????????????????? ???????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????

Lisa ?????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ??????????? ????? ????? ????? ??? ????????????? ???????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????? ????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????????. ?????????????????????? ????????? ???????????????????? “Aussie slang” ?????????! ???????????????????????????????????????????????????. ??? ???????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????? ??? ??????????????????. ????????????? ????? ??????????????????????????????????  Phu Bia Mining ??????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ??? ??? ??????????????????????????????????????? (WTO) ??? ???????????????????????????? ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) ???? 2015. ????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????. ????????????????????????????????????????? ?????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????

Lisa???????? ????????????? ??????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????? ????? ?????????????? ???????????. ?????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????? ???? ??????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????.

WLL: ??????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????

Lisa: ???????????????????????????? ????? ??? ??????????????????????????????????? ?????????? ?????????????????????? ?????????????????????? ?????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????? ??? ????????????????????.

WLL: ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Lisa???????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????? ????????????. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???? ???????????????????????????.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ????????????? ????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ????? ????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ???????????????????????????? ????????? ????????????????. ??????????????????????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????? ?????? ??????? ??? ??????????????????.

??????? ???????????????????????????????????? ??? ????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????? ????????????????????. ??????????? ????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????????? ???????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ????????????????.

WLL: ???? ???????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.

?????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????? Work Live Laos ??? ???????????? (108JOB) ????????? “Working In Laos”.

??????: Cameron Darke
?????????: Keovisouk Dalasane



  • Good jod good person, I like when see dress in Laos skirt she really look so beautiful

  • yes she’s very beautiful person and have alots of abilities .. so I would like giving you the big hands .. you have done well

  • ???????????????????? ???????????????????????????? ???????????????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????????????????

    • ??????????????????. ?????????????, ?????????????????????????????, ??????????????, ??????????, ??? ?????????????????????????????????. ?????????, ?????????? ??? ?????? ?????????????? ??? ???????????????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????????????? ??? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????.