Q&A with Nicole Doig, Gneiss Energy

Taking part in our International Women's Day Q&A series, Nicole Doig, Associate at Gneiss Energy, shares her highlights, challenges, and insights from working in the new energy sector.

Why did you choose a career in the energy industry?

I knew I wanted to be part of the energy industry since I was 12 years old. Growing up in Colombia, a developing country – was the main contributing factor in my decision to pursue a career that played a part in granting humanity with energy accessibility, affordability and reliability.

I remember getting asked in class at school: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and while some girls were saying “a princess”, “a mum” my response would always be: “a petroleum engineer”.

Being surrounded by people in the energy industry from a very young age gave me exposure to its many advantages over any other sector. Being able to form part of an industry with such global influence on a geographical, political and socio-economical level was one that I just could not let go by. An industry that regardless of where you are in the globe, works solely by collaboration.

The new energy sector is rapidly evolving, what do you think we can expect to see in the next three, five, and ten years?

The future of the energy sector is bright. However, in order to achieve continued success, new technologies are needed, financial barriers have to be broken down and regulatory frameworks have to be put in place. Clarity in the latter is crucial.

In the closer future, I would expect that the focus will be on carbon. The more novel CCU(S) technologies will finally become commercialised at scale and in parallel carbon offsets will regain momentum.

As we progress, the main concerns around storage, grid stability and intermittency of renewable energy sources will begin to be more successfully addressed. Separately, nuclear power will proactively keep climbing the ranks in the policy agenda as a climate solution.

In five years time, decentralised energy systems will be taking the spotlight. Yet, attention will still be in balancing the importance of mitigating climate change with the remained need for energy access and economic growth. The cost of renewable energy will most likely have decreased while the number of electric vehicles on the road will have continued to increase.

In ten years, renewables will hopefully be dominating half of the global power mix and the electric vehicles on the road will be nearing a 10-fold increase. There will be, as expected, advancement in energy storage solutions and the technology related to integration of smart grids will be flourishing. Yet, the battery arms race will continue with the Chinese still holding circa 70% global capacity. There will be a big push on hitting the 50GW offshore wind target. However, this is presently looking unachievable based on the time frame to energisation.

It is important to mention that the majority of the above is dependent on investment in grid infrastructure. If this is not done at mass scale, there will be slower than expected renewables growth, higher fossil fuels use, and 50+ billion tons of extra CO2 emissions between 2030-2050.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

I would say the main challenges I have faced in my role throughout my career have been twofold. One is on a personal level and one is on a professional level.

On a personal level – the biggest challenge is being a female in a male dominated industry. Granted, some may see this as an advantage. Yet, you quickly realise it is not when you are in a situation where you lead and complete a project and the client genuinely refuses to direct a question to you just because you are a female. It can be tough.

One phrase that really stuck with me was one from Jennifer Richmond, Executive President of Strategy and Development at Wood: “Men get promoted on potential. Women get promoted on proof.”

On a professional level – having a background in the oil and gas space nowadays seems to somewhat categorise you in the same bracket as being involved in the coal or tobacco industry. Regardless of your genuine interest in getting more involved in the renewables space and having the opportunity to naturally transfer the skillset it seems that being too “oily”, sticks. To reach the net zero targets we will need collaboration – and this is to be led from all angles of the energy industry.

Why do you think diversity within the sector is important?

Diversity is a critical aspect in every team, regardless of the sector. Naturally, a more diverse crowd implies a higher variety of personality traits and rationalising characteristics. This is crucial when referring to the strategies around the following:

  • Effective Leadership: An example here is, women tend to be more collaborative and relationship based leaders. While men on the other hand, tend to be more task-oriented and driven by quicker decision making.
  • Solution Based Thinking: This is particularly critical for the new energy sector. A diverse pool of talent will spark innovative thinking allowing more opportunities to bounce off ideas.
  • Creativity: I tend to relate this to being an artist and having a varied colour palette at your disposal. The higher the diversity in your colours the more powerful the masterpiece! 
  • Ability To Grow & Overcome Challenges: Having a more diverse team allows for more well rounded, planned out decisions given the wider exposure to problem solving techniques and levels of risk appetite. 

What advice would you give to women considering a career in new energy?

I would say: don’t think twice. It is absolutely the right time to venture into this space and the opportunities for growth and development are countless.

I would even go as far as saying that it is the only industry out there that has no real rivalry within. If you think about it, all energy companies are working towards the same goal. In order to reach this goal, they are all “in it together” to progress the following non negotiables:

  • Resource Sharing
  • Innovation
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Market Access
  • Regulatory Compliance  

So, if you are keen on joining a dynamic ecosystem, the engine for global economic growth – this is one for you!

One thing I would say is: pick your “home” well. Being in a company that supports you and is invested in your personal development and career progression is key. If this is not a possibility, at least I would recommend that you find yourself a “mentor” or a “champion” – this is equally as important.

Big shout out to Gneiss Energy and the team for trusting me and giving me a home to re-skill and really catapult my career path forward. As well as to Jon Fizpatrick and Martin Rylance for being big supporters throughout my career and true believers in my talent!

Find out more about Gneiss Energy’s work in clean tech and renewables

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