As a skilled electrician and key contributor to the manufacturing, commissioning, research and development of battery projects with Energy Renaissance, Kristal generously shares with us her journey into the renewable energy industry, what attracted her to it and some priceless advice to women who are thinking of entering the sector.
Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally?
My name is Kristal. Originally from Brisbane, I moved to Newcastle in 2012 to pursue a career as an industrial electrician. I completed my apprenticeship at a smelter and have consistently been involved in heavy industry since. I have a passion for chasing and sharing knowledge so I have completed post trade qualifications and I’m always looking to work in new and challenging environments.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am employed by Energy Renaissance, Australia’s first lithium-ion battery gigafactory in Tomago, NSW. I contribute to the manufacturing, commissioning, research and development of battery projects and I’m proud to be involved in the manufacturing of batteries that are certified Australian made right here in Tomago.
How did you get into the renewable energy industry/what attracted you to the industry?
You can't deny that the times of coal and related industries are coming to a close, it's becoming more and more important to myself and other Australians to proactively look after our environment. I have a young daughter and I do not want our generations negligence to negatively impact hers, and many others' future. It's important for me to play a part in the solution.
What do you like most about your job/the renewable energy industry?
Battery energy storage systems is, for the most part, still largely a developing product. Energy Renaissance will be the first battery cell manufacturer in Australia, which is an amazing opportunity to further my knowledge and career as it has done already. I have had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by some incredibly smart and talented people within the business and in the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). I am incredibly proud of what we do as a team.
What have been the biggest challenges for you as a women working in a male dominated industry?
Flexibility. Most industries start work at 6am and after having my daughter, I found it next to impossible to find flexible work that would allow me to drop my daughter off to day-care at 7am. While employers are happy to hire women in industry, there is a lack of understanding of the unique challenges that women/ mothers experience by generally being the primary care givers. There is an expectation that women will conform to the working conditions that aren’t family friendly if they chose to be in the industry. I would love to see more part-time and flexible positions in our industry available for both women and men, as men also experience the same issues if they are primary caregivers and often do not have the choice to be primary caregivers because their employment conditions would not allow it in their chosen field. Before finding Energy Renaissance and having that flexibility, it looked like I was going to have to give up my career and choose a different path.
What do you think would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector?
Having flexibility as the main reason. The industry being proactive about breaking the bias, getting on the ground level, going to schools, universities, events and exhibits to advocate to get women into the industry. I believe a lot of women don’t see this industry as an option to them and it's time to change that way of thinking.
What advice do you have for women looking to enter the clean energy sector?
If it's something you are passionate about and want to give it a go then go for it. Times are changing and more and more people are realising the value of diversity in the workplace. You CAN do it.
What do you wish you were told when you first started out in our career?
How difficult it would be to juggle a career in industry and have a young family but also how worth it it is, and how accomplished it would make me feel.