Annie Tooley

Mikel Bowman

Culture guru

Like most kids, Mikel Bowman had big dreams growing up.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to either be a fighter pilot or a professional fighter. I have not been either of those. I watched ‘Top Gun’ one time and thought I could be that guy," he recalled. 

Reality set in, and when Mikel need a summer job, he chose to go blue-collar. Unfortunately, he found his way into a “not fun” job carrying block and mortar.

When he entered the workforce full-time, he worked as a counselor for a nonprofit. But he felt like something was missing and headed back to the blue-collar world to find it. 

“I just felt like I needed to make a change. A friend of mine said he could get me a job tomorrow. It paid decent, so I jumped in and went after it," Mikel said. 

He began working as a driller for a mining company. 

At the time, he didn’t have much heavy equipment experience, but he made the most of it what he did know.

“I hadn’t run a lot of heavy equipment, but I had run backhoes, skid steers, Bobcats, cherry pickers, and other stuff like that. I handled customers, took care of the mine sites, and helped with the blasters. I did pretty well, and I became a preferred driller for a lot of companies,” Mikel said. 

Soon, he spotted a big issue in the mining industry: the disconnect between management and workers on the ground.

“I forever wanted to be a champion of the blue collar person in this industry. Corporate higher-ups run the mining industry. A lot of them were born with silver spoons in their mouths. They don’t have a clue what it’s like to have blisters on their hands or big shoulders earned through hard work,” he said.

“I found that the biggest disconnect between the safety people and the operations staff was that the higher-ups didn’t understand what their people were doing and what they honestly needed. All they could do was compute dollars and cents, but not the true heart of what we were doing," Mikel explained.

That disconnect became a driving force in his career. He added, "That’s what got me up every morning, making sure blue-collar people knew that somebody was on their side. There was somebody who was a voice of reason that represented them.”

Mikel became a Safety Manager at Turner Mining Group to help take care of those boots-on-the-ground worker. Later, he got promoted to Culture Guru, a role in which he spent every day doing whatever he could to keep managers and workers connected at Turner.

Mikel believes there’s a position in the mining industry for anyone who's willing to work hard.

“I don’t think there’s a bottom in this industry. I think we’re all in this together. You can go so far in this industry if you get in there and pay your dues. You don’t go to the gym and get six-pack abs by looking at the weights, and that’s how our industry is too," he said.

Head over to the Dirt Talk podcast to hear Mikel talk about his career path and how mining saved his marriage. 

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