In conversation with the successful Chloe Munro Scholarship 2021 recipients, who will all be undertaking a leadership course delivered by Education Provider, Women & Leadership Australia.
Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally
I am an avid baker and huge tennis fan – January in Melbourne is by far my favourite month of the year! I enjoy spending time outside in nature with my schnoodle, Charlie, and Melbourne’s fantastic coffee culture. From a young age, I was drawn to exploring our beautiful environment, and wanted to dedicate my professional career to protecting it. I have a Bachelor’s in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Arizona and a PhD in the same field from Monash University, where I studied materials that can be used to make thin, flexible and transparent solar cells that are inexpensive and can be used in unconventional applications (like spray paint to coat the outside of buildings!). I spent 18 months working for the global management consulting firm, Bain & Company, to develop skills in corporate strategy, before joining the commercial team as Commercial Manager at RayGen, a Melbourne-based next-generation solar and storage company that will shake up the energy industry over the coming years!
What was your pathway into the renewable energy industry?
I grew up in the sunny southwest town of Tucson, Arizona in the US. Living in the desert meant learning very early on about the importance of conservation – in particular the precious water resource that can be so scarce there. I was fortunate to partake in Earth Camp, a summer school program at the Arizona Desert Museum when I was 12 years old, spending the summer learning about our unique desert environment and how sensitive it is to changes in weather patterns, as well as having the opportunity to visit the University of Arizona to learn about water exploration expeditions that were underway on Mars. Around the same time, I started noticing an interesting trend: countries in Europe were significantly investing in deploying renewable energy technologies, like wind and solar, while in my sunny backyard, with its 350+ days of sunshine a year, there wasn’t a single solar panel in sight. This realisation, together with the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, set the stage for me to dedicate my education and career to the advancement and deployment of solar energy technologies. My exposure to academia at an early age inspired me to pursue solar energy research as a bachelor’s student at the University of Arizona, which eventually led to my acceptance of a PhD scholarship to study next-generation solar energy materials at Monash University in Melbourne.
What leadership impact do you hope to make with the scholarship?
RayGen is a fast-growing organisation that is currently transforming from a small R&D company in Melbourne to a global supplier of solar energy-plus-storage products, with ambitions to deploy 100 MW+ power plants around Australia and internationally. This transition provides an incredible opportunity for me to step into a leadership role that will help inform decisions around the business’ strategy moving forward. I plan to utilise the learnings and support from fellow Leading Edge course participants to significantly grow my leadership skills and apply them directly to my current role, which is largely dedicated to assisting RayGen’s leadership team in developing a robust global strategy to scale the business significantly over the coming years. In time, I hope that this expansion to a global energy player will also provide me with opportunities to lead my own team at RayGen, as the business continues to scale.
In a male-dominated industry, what advice or encouragement would you give women who want to work in the clean energy sector?
Female mentorship in a male-dominated industry has been the most significant contribution to me achieving my goal of working in the solar energy field. Throughout my academic and professional journey, I have been fortunate to have found, and worked closely with, women in the industry that not only believed in me, but actively supported and helped me to develop confidence in myself and my abilities. I would encourage women with ambitions to work in clean energy to identify women in the field that they admire, and to actively seek out mentorship – whether formal or informal – from them. I’ve found that inviting someone that I find interesting out for a coffee is always a great first step – who doesn’t like to take a break from their day-to-day and speak about the journey they’ve been on to get to where they are now?
Why is it important to support female leaders in the clean energy industry and what improvements could be made to increase the number of women in renewables?
As with any other industry, it is vital that we support female leaders in the clean energy industry because of the unique and often different perspective and approach women take to decision making and leadership. I believe significant investment should be made in developing young women to have the skills and confidence to pursue education in traditionally male-dominated fields, like engineering and science. Further to increasing enrolment of women in these areas, it is important to provide them with support, such as mentorship programs and scholarships such as the Chloe Munroe scholarship, which allow women to have exposure to and connect with other like-minded leaders in this industry. Programs by large players and corporations in the industry to fund university scholarships specifically for women pursuing degrees related to renewables would also help increase the number of women in this sector.
If you would like more information on our scholarship opportunities, please click here or email [email protected]
This Scholarship is made possible by the generosity of our partners.