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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.

M Barnett Profile Photo

Maja Barnett
Development Portfolio Manager
Tilt Renewables

Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally

Having worked in the renewables industry since 2002, I have gained experience in the end-to-end development of renewable projects from initial site investigation, new technologies and acquisition opportunities through to asset management and operations. More recently I tend to find myself on the development side of renewables. I love the challenge of developing a project and making the stars align so that a project can become a reality. Nothing gives me more pride than when I drive past an operating asset generating electricity from the wind or sun, knowing that I was a part of making that happen.

Based in Melbourne, I am the Development Portfolio Manager at Tilt Renewables. Recently acquired by Powering Australian Renewables (PowAR) – we are now the largest owner of wind and solar generation in Australia. In my current role, I lead the development of a large portfolio of renewable and storage projects that involves the coordination of a multifaceted team to deliver the strategic objectives of the business. As part of this role, I communicate with key stakeholders and the wider community on the benefits of renewables projects and advocate both Tilt Renewables and the renewables industry. I work with a highly talented and enthusiastic team of people who are committed to making a difference. We are Gen Tilt; we are people powered and we get it done.

On a more personal note, I live in a house with four adults, with my partner, brother, and sister-in-law – it is a share house of sorts for grown-ups, people often find it strange (or awesome), but for us it works, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We recently made room for one more, our Covid puppy Ricky Baker – the latest addition to our pack. We live in an old terrace house built in the 1870s which gives me endless opportunities to practice my DIY skills, there is always something to fix in an old house and I love its character and history. Pre-Covid I would fill my calendar with travel, good food and live music – I now have a lot of credits which I am hoping to use in 2022. I have a terrible habit of mixing up proverbs, if you are in a meeting or conversation with me, keep an ear out for it as they roll off the tongue with such conviction that you will second-guess yourself. Not intentional – I think it may be a genetic condition.

What was your pathway into the renewable energy industry?

My journey into renewables started a long time ago during my formative university years. When I graduated from high school, I enrolled into university into a Bachelor of Science of degree. Like many graduates of my era, I was full of passion but lacked direction, so I took a gap year to work and backpack around Europe. While travelling abroad, my brother (who was a bit of a hippie at the time… well, he sort of still is) enrolled me into my university subjects, and so in my absence, and the days before electronic communication, he enrolled me into an Environmental Science degree.

A few things happened during those years that would shape the rest of my career. Firstly, I learned for the first time about climate change – in fact I attended an entire first year subject dedicated to the science and politics of climate change. I was wide-eyed and alarmed at the mounting evidence (which at the time I considered to be irrefutable) and realised that this would be one of the greatest challenges that the world would face. I was also full of hope after the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol – which would see countries for the first time, committing to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (well… most countries).

I had started to direct my passion towards climate change and the environment and in doing so, extended my studies to include an Environmental Engineering degree that would satiate my thirst for learning and give me a strong foundation in problem solving. During the last year of my study, I applied for a casual role advertised by a small company that was leading the way in developing utility scale wind farms. That company was called Pacific Hydro and they had just finished construction on the Codrington wind farm, Victoria’s first utility-scale wind farm. That casual role led to a full time role and so on… and the rest they say is history.

What leadership impact do you hope to make with the scholarship?

I have a desire to become an inspirational leader within my organisation and industry-wide to motivate and encourage other women to learn and grow and thrive within a culture of innovation. I seek to not only encourage those in their early careers, but to take my learnings from almost 20 years in the renewables industry and engage with and influence those in more senior roles to create an environment that fosters creativity and learning.

Female leadership within the clean energy sector is still under-represented at Executive and Board levels and it is important that we actively fill that gap to provide not only equal gender representation but role models for future generations of female leaders.

The Executive Ready scholarship is an important component to my career advancement that will provide me with the personal development opportunities and toolkit required to become an effective executive leader. It will not only enhance my leadership skills but will give me the confidence to own my ideas as well as being able to articulate those ideas at an executive level and more broadly.

In addition to experience gained within my current role, this course will prepare me for future senior roles by taking me outside my areas of expertise and challenging me in ways that will improve my leadership agility, problem solving and decision-making skills. I will not only learn how to lead but also how to influence people and drive performance within the wider business and renewables industry.

In a male-dominated industry, what advice or encouragement would you give women who want to work in the clean energy sector?

Seeing the extensive list of recipients for the scholarship I am not only reminded of the female talent the industry has to offer but also the vast array of roles and opportunities that exist within the clean energy sector.

My advice to any woman wanting to enter the clean energy sector would be “go for it”. Even if you don’t think you have the experience or appropriate skillsets – one thing I have learned over the years is that you shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things, and you know a lot more than you think you do. This a sector that is always changing, is exciting and dynamic. We can really lead this country’s transition to clean energy, at a time when the entire world is watching what we do, and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

I have always advocated bringing people into renewables from different backgrounds and other industries, that is how you grow an industry. I am certainly not the only one – so if you have been thinking about starting a career or even changing careers, and you are passionate about clean energy, then we certainly have room for you here in what is such an exciting and fast-growing sector.

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?

I think as females we need to be more confident to speak up and put our hand up… and not be afraid to get out of our comfort zone and jump in the deep end. We need to build our confidence and trust our skills and one of the best ways for us to do this is to provide an environment of support for our female leaders and emerging leaders. This support can be in many forms including formal training, mentoring, and a network of like-minded people with the opportunity to discuss their own personal experience and learn from each other.

I also think that if we are serious about getting true gender diversity within the clean energy sector then we need to accelerate the appointment of female leaders to Executive and Board positions. For this to happen we need other leaders to be brave and lift women into levels where their talent can truly shine – see them for what they could be rather than what they are currently doing. If we continually rely on experience, then we miss the opportunity to have female voices heard where they are needed most.

The programs that the CEC have developed are going a long way to support and mentor women. In particular, scholarships for emerging leaders and executive ready leaders such as this one is a great opportunity for women like me to gain the confidence and skills needed for the next role in the career journey. The Women in Renewables Mentoring Program is another great industry-led initiative to help provide the support for women to grow and thrive within this industry. While we are not there yet, these initiatives go a long way on improving gender diversity at all levels within the clean energy sector.

Further information

If you would like more information on our scholarship opportunities, please click here or email [email protected]

Scholarship Partners

This Scholarship is made possible by the generosity of our partners.

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