Hugo Simard: A Passionate and Highly Skilled RioExpert

There are just over 100 people across Rio Tinto’s global network who take on the role of high-level expert. Eighteen of these experts come from the Aluminium group, including Hugo Simard, an electrical engineer who joined the programme in January 2022. With 25 years of experience in high voltage switchgear, Simard’s passion for the job and the opportunities provided by Rio Tinto have helped him excel in his career and take on a leadership role at the company. He is passionate, possesses leading-edge expertise, and values mutual aid and altruism, making him an esteemed RioExpert around the world.


The RioExcel programme allows technical staff with expertise to achieve recognition and progress by sharing their knowledge with others in the company. Rio Tinto’s talent management team is based in Australia. To join the programme, aspiring RioExperts are asked to complete a certification record demonstrating, among other things, their technical knowledge, history of collaboration and mentoring, and the value that they have created for Rio Tinto at its various facilities.

What does it mean to be a RioExpert?

It is first of all a show of confidence and recognition of my expertise and all my previous achievements. But what is also key in this programme, beyond expertise, is knowledge sharing and the human side of things, because we must be able to use our knowledge and professional background to lead the work teams towards technical solutions. So, 50% of it is expertise and the other 50% is working with people and listening to their issues in order to put solutions in place.

How would you describe your role as a RioExpert?

As a RioExpert, I get to contribute to a variety of different assignments, and that’s what I like about this role. Plants need my help to fix breakdowns, repair equipment, or implement investment plans based on the risks at their site. I sometimes find myself dealing with emergencies that require a great deal of composure, as the pressure is intense in such situations, but it is by working with the teams that we can find the root causes of problems and fix them. In my job, I get requests from plants in the region, but also from elsewhere in the world. I recently participated in a reliability review of transformers at the ISAL smelter in Iceland. I will increasingly be spreading my knowledge and networking globally, which is very exciting.

How could your expertise be best used to shape the organisation?

We RioExperts have the opportunity to develop our full potential through ongoing training and access to global forums. The company is always there to support our initiatives and help us be the best. RioExperts must be able to address problems and move forward with innovative projects—so this status attests to their determination and leadership skills. As for me, I am always willing to share my knowledge so that my colleagues can benefit from it. In fact, for the past decade, I have been helping with the drafting of technical papers that are used in international forums to disseminate what we learn. Sharing is key in my practice and even more so in this new role. It is in my nature to get involved in the work teams and offer them all my technical potential. In this field, external networking is the best way to learn and improve our practices so as to enhance the company’s performance.