IWD 2022: Huge opportunities for diverse talent to excel
To mark this International Women’s Day, Senamiso Mathobela, Delivery Manager at National Grid, talks about her experiences of moving from Zimbabwe to the UK and joining the energy sector, her advice to others considering the industry and actions businesses can take to help diverse groups excel in engineering.
Growing up in Zimbabwe and witnessing how vital electricity was to daily life inspired me to pursue a career in the energy sector. My childhood friend’s father was an engineer at a local power station and that gave me an understanding of the value of electricity and the difference it makes to people’s lives. I knew from then that I wanted to be part of making sure the lights stayed on.
I studied engineering at the University of Zimbabwe and, after I graduated, I got a job working in telecommunications. Although I enjoyed that, my passion was always electricity. So, when the opportunity came, I applied to the power company in Zimbabwe and started my engineering training in 2004. In 2009 I moved to the UK to work for National Grid. Thirteen years on, I’m Delivery Manager for our National Control Centre in Warwick.
I grew up in a society where speaking up for yourself was seen as boasting and therefore discouraged. It was also considered rude for a woman to talk within a group of men. It was such a change and a real challenge when I came to UK where speaking up was encouraged and seen as something that could help you to succeed in your career.
It’s been a real battle over the years to grow my confidence. I’ve made use of support networks around me and attended self-development courses to learn how to think differently. I’ve also been involved in Employee run networks who offer individuals with similar experiences a like-minded community which can help them overcome some of the challenges they might be facing. Having support structures like this in place can make a huge difference to employees who might struggle with self-belief and confidence in the workplace.
The opportunities for professional and personal development have been vast
To help talent thrive within a business, all employees need access to the tools and resources that can allow them to strengthen their skillsets and enhance their capabilities. Working for National Grid has helped me to develop both personally and professionally, with opportunities to work across different departments. I was also able to get sponsorship to complete my master’s degree in Power Systems Engineering at Bath University in 2016 which was an invaluable boost to my career.
For those considering the profession, there are lots of different roles that fall under engineering and I really recommend looking into the options available to find what might be the best fit for you. Within National Grid for example, while I’m currently a delivery manager, earlier in my career I achieved authorisation as a Control Engineer and became the first ever female Control Engineer in the Transmission National Control Centre (TNCC). This role in particular was a significant achievement, as it was the culmination of several years of hard work while juggling parental duties with two young children. It was also a great opportunity to gain insight into how the TNCC makes sure energy is safely moved around the network to get where it’s needed.
We’re in a time of exciting change and innovation
Working on renewable projects, reinforcing the energy system and being part of the workforce fighting climate change can provide a fulfilling and purpose-led career. There are so many projects happening all over the country which will contribute to a clean energy transition and there are more in the pipeline as we work towards 2030 and 2050 targets.
A really interesting project I’ve led on in recent years was the development of new overhead power lines across Yorkshire, which are planned to connect in 2027. This will help increase capacity for power flows from Scotland, where a large amount of renewable generation is connected, to the southern parts of England where most of the demand is. The project is just one example of key infrastructure connections needed on the grid as we move towards low carbon generation, and highlights how we’re in an exciting time of change and innovation in the energy field.
Net zero requires a diverse mix of mindsets, experiences and backgrounds
The ongoing transition within the sector and the huge role it has to play in securing a greener future requires diverse talent from different backgrounds and with different experiences to provide fresh thinking and new ideas. As more and more employers in the industry try to attract the best diverse talent that will help deliver net zero, I hope my experiences and journey will encourage women to consider the energy sector and inspire them to pursue a career that can both help keep the lights on and tackle the climate crisis.
Senamiso Mathobela, Delivery Manager at National Grid
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