27 Nov Rubina Singh, Gemserv Limited
What job do you do and what do you love about it?
Gemserv is an expert provider of professional services enabling the energy transformation and the data revolution, and I’m a Senior Strategy Consultant there, helping shape the company’s strategic direction and innovation strategy. My role involves identifying business opportunities in the transforming energy landscape and setting up new propositions to grow the company. I’ve also been leading on our multi-industry workshop series to influence industry and the government to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK.
A really important and exciting component of the job is working with different market actors on enabling new innovation in cleantech, along with the potential impact it can make towards enabling a zero-carbon future.
On a typical day I might be developing our business plan or innovation strategy, organising an EV workshop, liaising with various external stakeholders or writing a thought leadership piece. I love that I’m able to concurrently work on a number of different projects from strategy and marketing to technology assessment and building partnerships.
“My first job was to work with a professor on developing and commercialising a novel solar energy technology, which really cemented my passion for saving the world from global warming”
Tell us a bit about your background and your career path.
I studied electronics and sustainable energy engineering at the Australian National University. I then pursued my Masters in energy systems engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a program in entrepreneurship and innovation at Stanford University.
My first job was to work with a professor on developing and commercialising a novel solar energy technology, which really cemented my passion for saving the world from global warming.I then worked as a solar engineer at the Fraunhofer Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) in Boston, where I took on numerous projects with the government, large corporations, universities like MIT and startups on developing new solar technologies. My final role before Gemserv was running Fraunhofer TechBridge, an open innovation program to accelerate emerging energy technologies.
What has been your personal experience of climbing the career ladder?
While working on development of cleantech startups, I realised the importance of commercialisation of renewable energy technologies and took on the role with Fraunhofer TechBridge. While there I worked hard at successfully running global innovation competitions, launching new initiatives, and was promoted to lead the department within a year. It was an incredible journey and not without its challenges. Looking back, I think what really helped me was taking the initiative, voicing my ideas and then executing them. One valuable lesson I learnt is that if you want something you need to ask for it – it might make you uncomfortable but brave conversations go a long way.
“Learn to believe in yourself and do it – that’s where the magic happens”
What kind of support have you found helpful in advancing your career?
I have been very lucky in finding mentors and role models, especially from managers during the early stages of my career. Having such inspiring women and men support me and help me identify and leverage opportunities has helped accelerate my career. In particular, I’d mention Cordula Schmid of Fraunhofer CSE, Jacqueline Ashmore at Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and Tony Thornton, former Head of Strategy at Gemserv, all of whom were incredibly supportive and empowering, and available to guide and advise me.
“I think greater visibility of women accomplishing awesome things can inspire us all, and help us achieve gender equality in the energy sector”
What advice would you give to aspiring women in the energy sector?
Aside from seeking out such mentors, my advice to other aspiring women would be to have more confidence. If something scares you, but you know it’s the right thing to do, learn to believe in yourself and do it – that’s where the magic happens.
With a background in academia, I’d published numerous papers but if invited to speak at conferences I’d say no as the thought made me nervous. Realising the opportunities I was potentially losing, I decided to take the leap of faith and when I had the opportunity again, made myself go for it. It was terrifying at first but I quickly got over my nerves. Having now spoken at multiple conferences, I now realise I’m not bad at it, and I actually enjoy it!
My top 3 tips would be:
- Do something that scares you once every month. This could be something as little as speaking up in a meeting or as significant as relocating to follow your dream job
- Follow your passions and keep learning! It doesn’t have to stop at work, there are so many interesting events and initiatives around us, so I would recommend getting involved in the community and network like crazy!
- Take the initiative – if you have new ideas, be vocal about them, get support and make it happen.
What are your views on the current state of play regarding gender diversity in the UK energy sector?
When I started my studies in engineering 11 years ago, I would often be the only woman present in groups of 30-40 people. Though this is slowly changing, there are still definitely not as many as I’d like to see in industry. Indeed, as a woman in engineering and energy, and having worked in India, Australia, USA and the UK, one of the common threads I’ve noticed is a lack of gender diversity, particularly at senior levels. Even now, often I am the only woman in a panel session at conferences.
“Having now spoken at multiple conferences, I now realise I’m not bad at it, and I actually enjoy it!”
Initiatives such as POWERful Women and Renewable UK’s Switch project are working to change this. Encouraging more women to speak at events, for example, is important as it increases the visibility of women, which can inspire young girls to take up STEM in school. Finally, I believe that it’s important to extend the mentorship and support available to women entering the energy industry to more junior and even more senior levels – allowing women to always have the support they need to succeed.
We tend to look at the likes of Indra Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg, but role models are all around us. I’ve met some of the most inspiring women by bumping into them at conferences and networking events: women who have worked hard to be who they are and achieve their dreams, and who are not too many steps away from where a lot of us want to be. I think greater visibility of women accomplishing awesome things can inspire us all, and help us achieve gender equality in the energy sector.
I will soon be taking on a new role at Centrica Business Solutions focusing on developing and expanding their global distributed energy portfolio, where I will continue working towards enabling a clean energy future.
If Rubina’s story resonates with you and you would like to enquire about being mentored by her, complete the application form here, mentioning your interest in Rubina Singh as a potential mentor.