"My young daughter says she wants to 'do mining', like mum. It's all about creating role models that lead the way."

"My young daughter says she wants to 'do mining', like mum. It's all about creating role models that lead the way."

Brazilian industrial engineer and MBA graduate Livia Soares shares how her unstoppable curiosity and pushing outside her comfort zone has seen her become a global leader.

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Without meaning to, Livia Soares turns motivational coach when she’s asked about her career path. “For me, the feeling of ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it’ is how I know it’s the right fit,” she says. “Inside, I’m freezing with fear, but saying to myself, ‘You can do it! You’re going to learn!’ I want to challenge myself every day.”

In January 2023, Soares was promoted to VP and Head of Global Sales for Business Line Mining and also primus-inter-pares Global Head of Sales for the Process Industries division at ABB. “Now I’m in a position to really drive everything that I believe and what I would like to see in this organization.”

She has 15 years of excellent experience to draw on as she thinks about ways to structure, develop and motivate her team. “This global arrangement of the business is new, previously we were working in regional hubs. Team building and bringing the communication between the different countries to create this global network to exchange ideas and collaborate is very important.”

Growing up in São Paulo, Soares was a young child when she announced she’d follow in her engineer father’s footsteps. “I wanted to be an engineer before I was even sure what it was,” she says. “He was a construction engineer and on weekends he’d take me with him to check on a site – I found it exciting.”

Soares says her mother loves to tell the story of when 10-year-old Livia answered a phone call at home from someone at a construction site looking for her father. “A truck with a lot of materials had arrived and they didn’t know what to do. The guy was panicking, and I said, ‘Just tell them to bring the materials in’, and he just followed my instructions!”

An engineer’s approach to customer service

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Fast-forward to near the end of her industrial engineering degree, when she went to a job fair at the university with one of her best friends. “He was studying electrical engineering and his dream was to work with ABB,” she recalls. Soares was looking at automobile companies, but went with him to the ABB booth. “They had really nice pens, and I asked if I could have one and they said, ‘Yes, if you drop us your CV, you can take a pen’, so that’s why I left my CV!”

Before she knew it, ABB had hired her as a sales trainee. “I loved it – my first boss was so inspiring and is my friend to this day,” she says. “He really exposed us to everything, to the factory, to our customers. I learned so much.” By the age of 21, Soares had moved up the ranks from supporting the sales team to leading customer-facing projects.

Soon after, she was promoted to her first international role, leading the sale of ABB power transformers in Chile, based in Santiago. “We wanted to grow the business there and I had let my boss know that I’d always wanted to work overseas – I was offered Chile or Peru and I chose Chile, such a beautiful country.”

She began working with mining customers who were buying ABB transformers, and that brought her to the attention of ABB’s Process Industries division. Within a year of arriving in Santiago, she was made account manager for ABB Industrial Solutions for Codelco, the state-owned mining company.

“When I took this job, most people didn’t believe I would be a success, because I wasn’t local, I was from Brazil, I was not speaking in my language, I was a woman and I hadn’t come from mining,” she says. “But it was a good fit! In three years, we really grew the account.”

Looking back, she attributes the success to a combination of things. “But since we were doing zero business at that time, I had nothing to lose, so I’m really going to shake things up!” She says her persistence and communication skills were key. “I could connect to the people, I was a different face and they wanted to talk to me about Brazilian culture. All those things that initially could have played against me actually worked in my favor. I brought them new ideas about how they could do projects, and they were open to seeing how it could work. People buy from people, so I worked at making strong connections with people in the company who believed in the ideas, and we built from that.”

I was told I was too young

Off the back of the Codelco success, Soares pushed for a promotion. “I was very proud of what I achieved and I wanted to do more,” she says. “I was told I was too young and I had to be more patient.” She was mad. “I thought, ‘OK, I’m too young to get a promotion, but not too young to bring you many successes with customers'. I told them if you don’t think I’m experienced enough, I’ll get that experience somewhere else.”

Another engineering company had already approached her. “The Chilean market is small, and I was known for what I’d done with the major customer account. It seemed like the right time to try something new.” She says it was a great experience but her heart was still at ABB. A little over two years later, she would return. By then, Soares and her American husband had a daughter, and planned to move to North America.

“I left my former role in April and in May my old boss from ABB called me and asked if I was ready to come back,” she says. Soares told him they were moving to North America and if ABB had something for her there, she was keen. “It was good timing because they were looking for a regional sales manager for mining, cement and aluminum for Canada, the US and Mexico.”

That was in 2019. From there, Soares has continued to be promoted to her current dual global roles. She has also had another child – her daughter is now almost five and her son is 18 months. “ABB was really supportive with great maternity leave benefits ,” , and that was important for our family.”

Being part of the future of mining

Soares is now pouring herself into her two global leadership roles and heading into the unknown is again igniting extra energy. “Even though I’ve been in sales for a long time, this is totally out of my comfort zone. Before it was me and the customers, and now I’m leading a team of more than 300 sales people around the world.”

She is passionate about the essential role of mining in the energy transition. “We need mining more than ever. In the next couple of years, this will be clear to people: The mining industry is going to help the world drive sustainability and mining itself is going to be transformed.”

ABB’s technologies driving mine decarbonization – known as eMine™ – are taking up a lot of her attention. “Electrification and automation are the pillars for mines to go through this process and decarbonize,” she says. “With the targets for net-zero by 2030, our focus is on supporting our customers and it is not one product that fits all. We build the transformation journey for each customer. What do you need? What do you want according to your sites and your conditions? We are going on the path together with them.”

As Soares talks about her work, it’s little wonder her young daughter proudly says she wants to “do mining” when she grows up – just as Soares herself wanted to be an engineer like her dad. “She has no idea what mining is, but she sees me very happy with what I do.”

“It’s about creating role models and leading the way.”
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What makes Livia Soares Unstoppable is not just her own curiosity and self-belief, but her passion to bring others along with her. “It’s about creating role models and leading the way.”

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