Laurence Mulliez Chairman of the Board Voltalia
You obtained a business degree and an MBA in finance, which obviously sets you up for many different careers - how and why did you pick the energy industry in particular?
It was just by luck - more an elimination of things I definitely did not want to do. I knew that I didn’t want to go into banking, nor did I want to go into consulting. After the MBA, I looked at a number of opportunities and thought "why not?" when considering the energy industry. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay in it, but I ended up liking the people and I found the business interesting.
Would you recommend the Energy Industry to business graduates?
I think it’s much more complex than people think - there are a lot of interesting things that can be done. It’s fascinating, it’s political and you get to make a big impact on the world.
We are seeing more and more people taking business degrees now - what do you recommend young women studying business should do in their spare time to make them stand out to employers?
I think for me the main thing for any graduate is to get experience, and it’s through experience that you find out what you like and what you don’t like. This is absolutely essential, as employers can see that you are trying different things out and have the drive to work. Any experience is good. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, that’s fine – it’s ok to not be sure what you want to do, but try to look at things that are maybe broader and will stretch you a bit.
What challenges have you faced throughout your career?
A lot of challenges - I don’t know where to begin! The good challenges are when you are thrown in at the deep end, where you don’t know what to do and you’re just figuring it out along the way. It is very challenging, don’t get me wrong – you might’ve just landed in a new location, a new country and you have to balance your job and your personal life. But this is good challenging. Bad challenging is when people don’t tell you when you are not doing something right, meaning you don’t have the opportunity to correct what you are doing. Always request help or feedback, so you always have the chance to improve.
I watched your talk on energy in the future and you mentioned that only 18% of the people who work in the energy industry are women - why do you think that this percentage is so small?
The industry is one that is so associated with masculinity that a lot of women want to work in a more ‘feminine’ environment, and flock to businesses like fragrance, consumer products or clothes, or anything to do with marketing and communication, as they are seen as more "feminine". This is a shame, as there is a lot to be done in the energy industry and, yes, there is a lot of men and you need to understand technical issues, but it is easier to stand out when you are a woman amongst a lot of men.
Do you consider yourself to be a feminist, and if not, why?
I think the word ‘feminist’ has been tainted, and it has different meanings for different people. If you mean do I support the progress of women in society and them being allowed to do what they wish to do, then I am a feminist. If the word means I will support quotas at the expense of competence, or I believe all women have to work and shouldn’t be allowed to stay at home and look after their children if they want to, then I am not a feminist.
What is the one piece of advice that you have picked up over your career that you would like to pass on?
The big one is you never know until you’ve tried it and you have to try a lot of things! Basically, for me, it’s just about trying it, even if you are worried or afraid. If you fail then you just pick yourself up and you try again. That’s the one thing to keep in mind, particularly if your gut – not just your brain – tells you to try it. The worst thing that will happen is you fail, and then you can learn from it and start again.
Rouen Business School (Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen)
University of Chicago Booth
MBA in Finance and Strategy
Financial Analyst - Banque Nationale de Paris
Amico (US, Switzerland)
Various positions at BP, including: Head of Strategy and Financial Planning for Gas Power and Renewables, Vice-President PTA and CEO of Castrol Industrial Lubricants and Services
CEO - Eoxis UK Limited
Independent Director – Aperam
Non-Executive Independent Director – SBM Offshore
Non-Executive Director – Green Investment Bank
Chairwoman – Voltalia
What did we learn from Laurence?
Working in the energy industry allows you to make an impact in the world, and Laurence would definitely recommend it for business graduates
Experience is essential, so use your time wisely and try a lot of different jobs - this way you find out what you like and what you don't like so much, which is impressive to employers
Challenges in your career aren't always bad - some of them allow you to step outside of your comfort zone. Bad challenges are where you're not being told where you are going wrong, so always request feedback
"Always request help or feedback, so you always have the chance to improve"
What do you like, what do you not like, what was useful, what should we have asked instead? Please give us your feedback
Eoxis UK Limited - a company that aims to produce energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind, hydro and biomass
Aperam - a company that produces stainless and speciality steel
SBM Offshore - a global group of companies that sell services to the offshore oil and gas industry
Voltalia - a renewable electricity producer in Europe
"It is easier to stand out when you are a woman amongst a lot of men"