Renewables, clean technology, data, electric vehicles… none of these words were part of my vocabulary when I was at school, nor indeed at university.
Environmental stuff didn’t really feature either in those days. And yes, that does make me quite old. I opted to study environmental law as part of my law degree, and had to choose something else as not enough people signed up for it. How things change. Fast forward twenty years and I now uncover opportunities to bring together people and projects to deliver data-driven innovation – to support a smarter, more flexible, customer-centric energy future for us all. And I have a side passion for electric vehicles.
I write this blog by way of encouragement to any women out there who may be at the start of their career, or seeking a change of direction. We don’t need to be traditionally technical in the STEM sense, to have a rewarding career in the fields of science, technology, engineering or maths. It takes a healthy mix of skills and experience to make the world go round.
So what led me down an ostensibly technical path? Law did not suit me. An MBA in Environmental Management did. This sparked my interest in clean energy and renewables, leading to my accidental career path, which has twisted and turned, but always with a focus on the green economy, and fundamentally, people. From developing new markets for recyclable materials, to tidal energy feasibility projects, from setting up community recycling groups, to using AI to discover electric vehicles and solar PV on the Low Voltage network; I love bringing people and projects together to realise real benefit, both in technology and environmental terms. A highlight has been the My Electric Avenue project, where I was responsible for securing funding, and managing customer engagement for a trailblazer electric vehicle-grid integration project, to understand the impact of electric cars on local electricity networks. That project ignited my passion for electric cars, and I now also run EVclicks, an online resource library of electric vehicle images (donated from all over the world), for use by schools, communities, people and projects, all in aid of the transition to zero emission transport.
My career has not been without its challenges, and I have faced adversity, not so much because I’m a woman, but because I don’t fall into a readily identifiable skills bucket. It can be tough working in a very technology or engineering-focused environment, where non-technical skills are absolutely needed, but not necessarily recognised as such. A downlight for me was being told that I should go back to college and get a physics or maths A level to progress in that company. I left soon after.
A common thread throughout my working life has been access to mentors; one female CEO in particular taught me such valuable lessons about engaging with and managing people. I am forever in her debt. She opened my eyes to the fact that as human beings, we are far more than ‘just work’. Each and every one of us has a myriad of challenges, stresses and emotions going on in the background, all or some of which may effect our responses and behaviours in our professional lives. It helps to be cognisant of that in our dealings with others. Not least of all in today’s climate.
I need to give a big shout out to all of the amazing women that I have had the pleasure of working with over the years – a blend of technical (engineering), stakeholder engagement, electric vehicle and charging specialists, data and governance experts… I love that on one electric vehicle network innovation project I worked on, the majority of the team was made up of women, from a range of both technical and non-technical disciplines.
Personally, I love being the conduit between the technical and non-technical, translating complex ideas into accessible information across a wide range of stakeholders. I love nurturing an idea and bringing together the right people and skills within a team to make it happen. If I was asked to offer one piece of advice to people, I’d say to find your passion and run with it, own it. Talk to people, meet people, help people, and build your network of contacts. Be open to new ideas, and always be willing to learn lessons when things don’t go to plan. Work hard, and believe in you. Or if you find it hard to believe in yourself (as I often do), then seek out the bigger picture, and believe in that. Actually, do that anyway.
If you’d like to find out more about where I work today, visit www.electralink.co.uk. ElectraLink is the UK’s energy market hub. We work closely with the energy retailers, distribution network operators and all manner of innovators to facilitate innovation and drive forward positive change by virtue of the data that we curate on behalf of the energy industry.
And if you are going to Fully Charged LIVE in June 2021, I will see you there!
About the author
Gill has over 20 years’ experience across sustainable energy, utility, and environmental technologies sectors, including eight years working on electric vehicle grid integration projects – most recently as DSO Lead at ElectraLink, the UK’s energy market data hub. A regular speaker and panellist on electric vehicles and data-driven transition to a low carbon, sustainable world, Gill has been a keen advocate for the uptake of electric vehicles since 2012. In February 2019, Gill founded EVclicks – a free online EV image library for use by schools, communities, projects and businesses in aid of the transition to zero emission transport (www.evclicks.co.uk). She is also an avid runner, and proud Mum to two young children.