12 Aug Monika Paplaczyk, Senior Investment Manager, Thrive Renewables
Monika Paplaczyk has been part of Thrive Renewables since 2007, joining the team when the company was managed by Triodos Bank. Thrive is a renewable energy investment company, established in 1994 as ‘The Wind Fund’ to enable ordinary people to invest directly into the development of renewable energy projects in the UK. Over the past 25 years, their investor community has grown to over 6,000 individuals, organisations, and institutions, building or funding the construction of 25 renewable energy projects that have generated over 1.7TWh of clean electricity.
What job do you do?
In my role as Senior Investment Manager I lead on originating, development, acquisition, and construction of sustainable energy assets for Thrive. I also manage the commercial aspects of the portfolio, such as sourcing and negotiating power purchase agreements.
A typical day for me involves keeping a look out for interesting investment opportunities that could deliver positive impact. I work with the Thrive team, analysing financial models to assess which projects will produce the best returns and weighing this up against producing the best possible environmental and social impacts. Building and maintaining relationships with developers, communities, local authorities, and other organisations who we work on projects with is a key part of role, along with working collaboratively with the rest of the Thrive team to get projects off the ground.
Tell us about your background
I was born in Poland and I studied at Krakow University of Economics in the beautiful Royal City of Krakow. During my studies I became very interested in the then novel sustainable economic model that balanced the ’three Ps’ – people, planet and profit. I graduated in 2003 with an MSc and a thesis on Sustainable Infrastructure Investment in Tourism. Following graduation, I was keen to continue exploring opportunities in international business. I joined Napier University in Edinburgh where I completed a second MSc in Entrepreneurship and Business Management. I enjoyed studying in Scotland as it improved my Business English and boosted my confidence in communications.
I joined a boutique consultancy in Edinburgh, Euro Access, specialising in accessing grant funding for infrastructure projects. It developed my project management and problem-solving skills, as some of the grants were very complex.
What has been your personal experience of climbing the career ladder?
I remember going to the All Energy conference in Aberdeen when the renewables industry was still in its early days. I realised that joining the energy industry would be an excellent opportunity to apply my business and practical skills as well as my interest in impact.
So in 2007 I joined Triodos Bank based in Bristol as an Investment Administrator in the Investment Banking team, which managed impact funds and investments focused on renewable energy and sustainable businesses in the UK and across Europe.
That was a great move for me. The funds we managed were relatively small and medium (£50m to £150m), as part of a small team I had exposure to all the faces and mechanics of fund management and in particular I learnt a lot about renewables and the different technologies. I learnt about shareholder management, investors relations, marketing and governance. As I was developing, I started to focus on managing renewable energy projects and investments. I was able to grow and progress with the organisation. I was promoted to Investment Analyst and then to Investment Manager and Senior Investment Manager. Whilst at Triodos Bank I also sat on the Investment Committee which was reviewing and approving global equity renewables investments within Energy and Climate.
In 2016 Triodos Renewables, one of the funds we managed, was rebranded and separated from the bank and I moved across to Thrive Renewables with the team. I love working for Thrive, because I can work independently and contribute to realising new renewables in the UK.
What kind of support have you found helpful in advancing your career?
My line manager Matthew Clayton, Managing Director at Thrive, has been a tremendous mentor over the years. He has taught me how to lead, treating everyone equally and with respect, bringing the team along with you. He has provided guidance at each step of my career development with the company, always encouraging me to reach for more.
I have also been inspired by examples of strong Dutch female leaders at Triodos who lead the Energy and Climate and Investment Management teams – they have always inspired me through their firm attitude and deep caring for impact.
In 2019 I took up a course on Leadership and Change at University of West of England (UWE) which was a great academic refresher in business management, and I was stunned how much has changed in the academic approach to business management. In particular it was great to learn more about different leadership styles in times of change and building resilience. This has been particularly important in the energy sector as it goes through a huge transition.
What advice would you give to aspiring women in the energy sector?
I feel that the sector is welcoming to anyone. I have not experienced barriers due to the fact that I’m a woman, I’m not a UK national or that English is my second language. I have found the renewables sector really friendly and supportive. It is almost like it operates within its own unique culture.
My tips for aspiring women would be:
- Always be open to opportunities in front of you.
- Join networks for woman and make friends in the industry. There is a lot of helpful support through networks like POWERful Women, the Hawthorne Club or Entrepreneurial Women in Renewable Energy (EWiRE).
What are your views on the current state of play regarding gender diversity in the UK energy sector?
Personally, I’m lucky that the business network and companies that I worked for were providing me with opportunities rather than barriers. Thrive has strong female representation at all levels of management and Board level, making it a well-balanced and supportive environment to work in.
I think it would be interesting to see what impact the lockdown experience will have on the ways we work and career progression in the near future. Many companies have already announced that going forward they will move to reducing office work and increasing home working. I wonder if this could be a great chance for women to progress their careers and show a lot of creativity, entrepreneurship, and flexibility to respond to the changing circumstances.
You just need to believe in yourself and go for it!
If you’d like to be mentored by a leading woman in the energy sector, check out our mentoring scheme POWERful Connections and complete the application form here.