Inez is a Grid Connections Engineer, who at the time of this interview was working in the RES AU Grid Team. She works in negotiations with Network Service Providers and AEMO to help renewable projects get through the connection application process, amongst other things. Inez shares with us her journey so far and her experiences working in a male-dominated industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally?
I’m a devoted Power Systems Engineer forever fascinated by beautiful things in life like mathematics (not including tax returns) and am currently trying to learn film photography on a Canon AE-1.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I work in the RES AU Grid Team as a Grid Connections Engineer. I play a part in the Generator Performance Standards (GPS) negotiation with Network Service Providers and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)for our renewable projects going through the connection application process. I also help with strategic initiatives such as investigating hybrid and grid forming technologies and what this means in terms of the National Electricity Rules (NER) for future projects. There's also internal advisory required on grid curtailment, system strength and connection options for sites going through development.
How did you get into the renewable energy industry/what attracted you to the industry?
When I was about 5, I spent a whole week building a Lego recycling truck for my Year 1 sustainability share and tell. It’s always been a focus of mine since then to be involved with anything green. Naturally, the energy sector, being a prime contributor to carbon emissions, was my calling.
What do you like most about your job/the renewable energy industry?
From a meta perspective what we’re doing in the industry means positive change and real change to people’s lives. It makes the world a better place. Specifically, about my job, I love it when I get to put abstract ideas and maths doodles from a screen into context and see it being realised into a wind turbine or battery or solar panels (or whatever else that will come in the future)!
What have been the biggest challenges for you as a women working in a male dominated industry?
I've been lucky that I've never faced anything terribly sexist so far in my short career span. For me, gaining trust and credibility is the biggest challenge. Being an 'odd one out' in most situations attract a lot more doubt from both men and women whom I've worked with. It has definitely been testing and at times it does affect my confidence, and I start to wonder "what's wrong with me?" and "why am I different?" or "am I capable?"
What do you think would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector?
My answers are general, but I would like to call out that we need more focus on motivating women in STEM to join renewables. In no particular order, I feel these are what I found most inspiring and attractive in a job:
What advice do you have for women looking to enter the clean energy sector?
Continuing from the last dot point from the previous question, don't be scared of failing! Always reach out for help because there's plenty of kind people out there who will gladly spread their wisdom. The clean energy industry is fairly young and there's a lot of momentum behind all sorts of change to bring in new things and making the world better piece by piece. It's absolutely rewarding when you know you're making a real impact. A lot of our work is also very public, so it's always good to keep up with industry news, AEMO consultations or the versions of the NER (up to v186 at my time of writing). It will give you good insight and help you navigate across the quantum of moving jigsaw pieces in the industry.
What do you wish you were told when you first started out in our career?
How important it is to work with an awesome boss and great team. It's a bit of a no brainer but sometimes you can feel entrenched into a certain role or space and find it difficult to move on. RES has been excellent in terms of driving diversity and celebrating culture. The psychological safe space, I cannot overstate enough, provides a huge encouragement and support for me to be in the best mental space and deliver my best. I've come across girlfriends who have experienced "mockery" (to put it lightly) and somehow have concluded it's their fault and that women working in male dominated fields need to be masculine and macho to survive. A sad conclusion because you don't! If there are no supportive processes in place right now to address these issues, there are 100% always better teams who will embrace you. Also, your job doesn't define who you are. The STEM fields are changing so we shouldn't have to tolerate poor working environments.