Hannah Heath, Chief Strategy Officer at Nectr, is the recipient of the 2020 Women in Renewables Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Scholarship. We asked Hannah share a bit more about her professional life and provide some insight into why she applied for the scholarship.
From the moment I started learning about the sector it sparked a passion in me that has only grown over time. I’ve started in the energy industry more than 17 years ago and continue to learn something new every day. Energy is this amazing sector where you get to solve technical, engineering problems, overlay economics and environmental drivers; and then build and deliver energy solutions and services that consumers want.
As Chief Strategy Officer with start-up energy retailer Nectr, I’m bringing together all aspects of my experience – across different energy market sectors, business portfolios and perspectives, be it government, regulatory or business (both big and small) – and creating something new that is truly ‘customer and digital first’. At Nectr, we are setting out on our journey to develop and deliver sustainable and clever energy solutions for our consumers.
My portfolio covers a diverse range of business activities: business strategy, risk and compliance, corporate governance, stakeholder engagement, media relations and crisis management. My role drives our business strategy, but also influences the culture of our business.
Here at Nectr, we’ve consciously built a team with diversity of experience, thought and gender to ensure we instil innovative thinking from the outset. Nectr is Australia’s first entech. We’re using technology to enable consumers to take back control of their energy needs. It’s exciting to be part of this team and to be building more than just another energy retailer.
On a personal note, I’ve lived in England, the USA, Canada and now call Australia home. My close friends will describe me as passionate, loyal, tenacious, engaging, inspiring and hardworking. They also all enjoy my home cooking. When I’m not at home cooking, I love being outdoors. Whether it be a bushwalk adventuring with my husband and (nearly) 5-year old or letting my competitive side out racing my laser, Mighty Mouse, on Sydney Harbour, you just can’t beat spending time in nature as a way to recharge and provide perspective.
I believe renewable energy is one of Australia’s greatest energy assets. Whether it be helping set regulatory frameworks to support investment in renewables, finding ways to manage portfolio risks from using intermittent generation, reporting carbon emissions or developing consumer trials for emerging technologies, renewables have been an integral part of my energy experience.
It’s also one of the key reasons I joined Nectr. Australia can be the world’s leader in renewable energy technologies, and Nectr believes every household and business should be able to access clean, affordable energy harvested from the wind, sun and hydro sources – then stored to be used when they need it most.
Additionally, our parent company, Hanwha Energy Australia, is already an investor in solar farms in Australia and their future plans include further boosting our solar and renewable capability.
I considered the CEC Women in Renewables (WiR) AICD scholarship as a launchpad, providing various professional development opportunities.
Leading by example is key. If women cannot see there is a way to progress, a way to make a difference, it can be difficult or intimidating to start in an industry.
It’s also about education. The clean energy sector is more than building solar and wind farms, installing solar and battery systems. There are so many different ways to engage and bring value to the sector. It’s up to us in the industry to share our stories, highlight each of our varied career pathways and, in some ways most importantly, create work environments, set examples and champion organisations that truly value diversity of thought, experience and gender.
Learning how to be true to myself while still being heard could be considered one of the challenges. I’ve spent years being the only women in the room, and in some cases, the youngest by a couple of decades. I’ve experienced the phenomenon of putting forward a recommendation and getting no traction then having a male colleague make the same suggestion, not five minutes later, and get universal support. It can be incredibly frustrating.
In the short term, I recommend reaching out to a coach or mentor to help you find a voice that’s true to you.
Building a peer network is also a great way to bounce ideas off each other, to learn from each other’s experiences. For example, I used to go for lunch monthly with a group of female colleagues where we’d brainstorm, strategise and re-energise.
More critically, though, this is one of the key reasons I joined Nectr – to influence the culture of our business. Diversity within organisations – at all levels – is so important. Organisations need to be open and listen and learn from different points of view and perspectives. Inclusive workplaces that encourage mixed views, opinions, experiences and voices not only create a positive work environment and passionate team culture, but also deliver those companies a real competitive edge.
Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone because you never know what you’re truly capable of until you try. It took me a while to get comfortable with stepping into a new role before I knew how to do everything in it.
For instance, COVID-19 brought forward exponential learning of crisis management preparation. It’s also okay to ask for help, it’s not a sign of weakness.
Also, if you are in a role where you are not feeling supported or being set up for success, then I’d encourage you to be proactive in identifying what is needed to succeed and finding a way to ask for it. Possessing critical analysis is a lifelong skill; and will put you in good stead as you progress through your career.