Ella Cullen: Empowering Responsible Mining

Women in mining


Supply chain management is vital to society, providing the mechanism for getting all sorts of products into the hands of consumers. It’s a field that has evolved significantly over the years, as businesses now realize the need to demonstrate that whatever they produce, they produce responsibly. This allows organizations to access global markets and investments while reducing      environmental degradation.

With blockchain, this becomes much easier. A revolutionary new technology, blockchain can track the origin of inputs and optimize management processes, reducing costs and improving supply chain efficiency. Established in 2018, Minespider, a leading public-permissioned blockchain for supply chain traceability, exists to advance sustainability – rewarding companies that bring about change. 

With over eight years of experience in tech and six in blockchain, Co-founder and CMO of Minespider Ella Cullen leads the marketing, sales, and product teams. “We aim to build and ship solutions that are intuitive and effective at capturing and communicating complex supply chain data,” she states.

At Minespider, Ella creates solutions to empower supply chain actors to showcase their efforts toward greater responsibility by communicating key data such as due diligence reports, ESG metrics, and CO2e emissions. This data is accessible via a digital passport which conveniently gives organizations a way to de-commoditize their minerals, gain new buyers and investors, and enter new markets.

Integrating the Supply Chain

Ella’s passion for blockchain began due to its ability to tell the truth and create trusted data that cannot be tampered with. “Creating a source of truth that originates at the mine site is a game-changer in supply chain transparency. I met our founder, Nathan Williams, almost six years ago and it was this idea that inspired us to start building the company,” she shares.   

Over the past five years, Minespider has created a strong network along every stage of the mining & metals supply chain, ending with downstream OEMs in consumer electronics, and electronic vehicle batteries. “I believe our USP is our ability to connect a broad range of companies to share data for compliance purposes, trade facilitation, and supply chain efficiencies, or to work together on ESG targets, for instance, Scope 3 emissions reductions,” says Ella. 

With the vision to create a world where tracked, responsible products are the norm rather than the exception, Minespider is driving the change toward sustainability and transparent business practices. The leading traceability platform for mining and raw materials tracking, Minespider’s team      extends across multiple geographies including Germany, Portugal, North Macedonia, France, Ukraine, and Turkey. 

Among its partners are leading giants such as Google, Cisco, Ford, and Renault, as well as some of the biggest mines in the world, such as Minsur, the third-largest tin producer worldwide, and Fenix DVTM, one of Brazil’s largest gold aggregators.

Ella Cullen: Empowering Responsible Mining
Ella Cullen

A Flexible Leader

For Ella, success is all about growing a company that improves the world with technology, be it blockchain, AI, or IoT. She enjoys working with inspiring people whom she can learn new things from and believes in maintaining a great work-life balance with adequate time off for recharging and self-reflection. “At Minespider I’m proud to say we have all three – for the latter, we are currently trialing a four-day workweek and I’m excited about the improvements in creativity, productivity, and stress levels that are already apparent in the team,” Ella shares. 

Having spent due time understanding and formulating her own leadership style, Ella practices flexible and transparent management. She leads her team by frequently asking them questions and gathering their opinions and ideas to create an open space where anyone can take initiative beyond their usual role. 

Apart from Minespider’s significant partnerships and brand equity, Ella is most proud of the remarkable growth she has witnessed from her direct team, some of whom have been with the company ever since it started in 2018. “Despite us working entirely remotely, and even with some team members I’ve never had the chance to meet in person, they consistently demonstrate a hunger for learning, take plenty of initiative, and shoulder responsibility for their divisions. For me, the most gratifying accomplishment is observing them flourish in their roles,” Ella says.

On her journey from a young college graduate to the transformative thinker she is today, Ella credits her success to a blend of influences – mentors, mentees, teammates, parents, friends, and business coaches. “I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that your strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. For instance, if you’re very persistent this might make you a superb negotiator, but on the flip side, you may push for your own ideas rather than allowing others the space to contribute. I try to acknowledge those weaknesses and seek support in working through them.”

Tipping the Scale

Throughout her life, Ella has been engaged in typically male-dominated industries such as mining, tech, and blockchain. However, over time, she has witnessed these sectors evolve towards greater inclusivity each day with more and more women breaking the glass ceiling. “While there’s a clear need to inspire more women to explore STEM subjects, it’s essential to emphasize that entering these fields often doesn’t necessitate a technical background,” she opines.

According to Ella, the best way to gain insights into an industry is by stepping into it directly and accelerating one’s learning curve. In her mentoring roles, Ella often comes across smart and capable women for whom the biggest barrier is simply themselves. “I believe we shouldn’t fixate on our perceptions of an industry, but rather strive for roles where we can deliver value and leverage our strengths to propel both our personal growth and the industry’s evolution,” she states.

Despite the changes in perceptions about women in leadership roles, senior female representation in the mining industry is severely lacking. Despite about 40% of entry-level mining roles being filled by women, industry retention rates are terrible due to the difficulties of assimilating into the ‘boys club’. Ella says, “While the progress is slow, mining companies are morphing over time and will need a fresh approach and new (female) leadership if they hope to achieve outsized growth and meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, which include diversity within the company and in the community at large.”

"We aim to build and ship solutions that are intuitive and effective at capturing and communicating complex supply chain data"

Recognition and Me-time

Recognized as one of 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining (WIM100) in 2022, Ella is an honorable mentor at CV Labs and DLT Talents and contributes to ongoing discussions as a UNECE expert in blockchain traceability. In 2019, she created TokenWoman.io, which features over 200 female Web3 speakers to give leading women the space and visibility they deserve. Passionate about decentralized systems and governance, Ella regularly speaks on topics such as blockchain traceability, sustainability in the mining/automotive sector, and female entrepreneurship.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to engage with Women in Mining UK through their WIM100 initiative, and it is truly inspirational to meet so many trailblazing women in the space. These are the role models we should champion to create an environment where women in mining find a supportive community, amplify their voices, and continue to foster a culture that’s both diverse and inclusive,” Ella shares.

Outside work, Ella can be found dabbling in bachata, salsa, yoga, or kitesurfing. She enjoys reading and listening to podcasts and is learning Portuguese on the side. An avid traveler, Ella explored the world by herself for two years before calling Lisbon, Portugal her new home.

Advice to Women

When embarking on a career in mining or any field, it’s common to fixate on titles and salaries, inadvertently overlooking more important questions, feels Ella. “Where do I want this job to lead me in five years? Who will be my boss/teammates and what can I hope to learn from them? Does this job offer the work-life balance that I would like to have? Is it aligned with my values…” 

Once you’ve put pen to paper and clarified these questions, finding a job or furthering your career will be in alignment with your goals and therefore a much smoother journey,” concludes Ella Cullen.

Women in mining