Choosing the energy industry: A new era for young professionals

Selma-Penna Utonih's picture
Selma-Penna Utonih, Energy Trader, NamPower
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I’m Selma-Penna Utonih, a young professional in the energy industry. I had the privilege of attending and participating in the Young Gastech Programme that took place alongside the Gastech Exhibition and Conference in Barcelona last year.

Post-baby boomer’s era, the energy industry has struggled in luring Millennials to choose careers within the industry. This could be due to the new era of young professionals, ushered in a new kind of conscientiousness and one that puts emphasis on the preservation of the environment and sustainable use of resources. Specialist events like the Young Gastech programme provide avenues for young professionals to see which direction the energy industry is going and what kind of career options there are in the market specifically for them!

At the Gastech Conference and the Young Gastech event, I got the opportunity to see the major shift and transition happening within the energy industry towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy mix options. I feel this is key in luring more young people to get interested in becoming part of this change. As an Energy Trader who has a background in sustainable energy engineering and climate change issues, it is very interesting being a part of this social shift that has rippled through economies around the world.

Young Gastech also provides young professionals with the platform to network with both experienced individuals as well as fellow young professionals who come from all over the world. This conference provides a place for an exchange of knowledge, culture, values and aspirations. It allows young people to practice and further hone their networking and interpersonal skills in professional environments during the conferences as well as in more relaxed atmospheres during the after-hours networking dinners.

I believe I had a unique experience at the conference, as I got to see the energy industry from three different perspectives:

  1. As a young energy professional
  2. As an African from Namibia
  3. As a woman.

As a young professional, attending many of the talks by industry leaders enhanced my knowledge on the advancements in energy technology. It was interesting varying views on the beliefs that clean energy is the answer to fuelling the fourth industrial revolution based on mass digitalisation; opinions that I share myself. It was also interesting to see the rapid rate at which the energy transition is moving, being fuelled by unprecedented growth in renewable and sustainable energy development.

As an African from Namibia, it was interesting to see the approaches and policy development being undertaken in developed countries. I could see where certain aspects were adopted into my own country’s energy policy reform while simultaneously seeing areas in which developing countries could further improve their policies. At the Gastech Conference, it was great to have seen representation from African countries such as Nigeria and it was informative learning about their progression within the natural gas and oil industries. One of the most interesting panel discussions was the one based on the importance of ethnic diversity within the energy industry. So far in my observations on the industry, there is an under-representation from Africa and in addition to that, the representation there is usually male-dominated. This ties into my experience as an African woman attending energy conferences.

I was really impressed with the Power Play event that was held by ExxonMobil which focused on female inclusivity in the energy industry. It was a great experience having the opportunity to talk to other female energy professionals and hearing about their experiences. I was able to learn more about the barriers women have had to face within what was a mostly male-dominated industry. However, it was still encouraging and motivational hearing about the current push and mobilisation for gender equality within the industry.

I would highly recommend any young professional to attend this conference. It is a great opportunity to open one’s eyes to the many energy companies within the industry. It provides first-hand access to these companies and thus networking opportunities. It also provides young professionals with up-to-date information on current energy market trends and technology advancements.

If you are a student or young professional, find out more about the energy industry and how you can utilise your skills to thrive in this growing global market.