To celebrate International Women's Day, Spencer Ogden wants to challenge stereotypes that limit women within the industries we work in. We caught up with some of the great female talent that we have worked with. Ilana is a Developer at Vestas. Read Ilana’s spotlight interview about IWD.
What does the International Women's Day slogan #EachforEqual mean for you in your work life?
I was the first woman on the Steelhead development team at Vestas, we are now up to three, but for the first four months after I joined, I was the only female on the team. I really appreciate that I work in a supportive and inclusive environment. I was treated the same as any other male co-worker and I felt like each person on the team was mindful of that.
Whether its gender, race, level of seniority – everyone on the team should be looking out for each other to make sure that we are all getting the same opportunities to be involved in exciting projects and have the same opportunities for advancement in our careers.
Why did you choose to become a Developer?
During graduate school in NYC, I had an internship with a Renewable Energy Markets firm, my first role within the renewables industry. From that role, I knew that I wanted to be in this field, but didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, as there are so many routes you can take.
I felt like Development was the best introductory role, as it allowed me to familiarise myself with all facets of renewable energy and stay on top of local policies and regional issues.
Being a developer in renewable energy has allowed me to get involved in the environmental side of the industry to policy and local, state and federal permitting, as well as the origination and marketing of projects.
What started as a way to get my foot in the door in the industry has evolved into a position that I love and that has enabled me to help our country transition to a clean energy future. Especially working for such a large company like Vestas, I feel like I’m part of something bigger that can actually help make a difference.
In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up Development in the near future?
In the places that I have worked and going to industry conferences, it is clear that women are underrepresented in the field. There are definitely more women becoming involved in the development industry, but I think we need to work to get rid of the stigma that development and engineering are geared towards men because that is not the case.
I personally have struggled with feeling confident and speaking up in meetings or sharing my thoughts when I am the only women in the room.
What's the most important piece of advice you'd give to a women thinking of starting a career in Development?
With development, you get to do a variety of activities and play a lot of roles, but it can also be easy to be siloed down a certain path. It is important to think about your longer term goals within the industry.
If possible, reach out to your superiors and make sure you get the experience you want and that you get involved in what interests you the most. Ask to sit in on meetings or listen in on phone calls if you’re not being included in things that interest you. It is important to reach out and steer your own career within development.
Some advice that I got and is helpful is to look at the career paths of people in your network or on LinkedIn that have your dream job and focus on how they got there and any extracurriculars or groups they were involved in to help their success in the industry.
Do you think there's a stereotype attached to female Developers?
A huge part of being a developer is siting projects and spending a lot of your time working with rural landowners, who usually grew up in a different generation and a different lifestyle.
It can often be a challenge when I’m the one that shows up at their door. In one of my first meetings, the rancher said “oh I was expecting an older businessman in a suit.” There are pros and cons to this. It can sometimes be difficult to get people to take me seriously based on the way I look, as people sometimes assume I don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t have enough experience in the field to answer their questions or assuage their concerns. On the other hand, I think it can be refreshing and make landowners feel more comfortable when they can see we’re not necessarily a big, bad corporate company and that I’m just a normal woman working to advance my career in something that I’m passionate about.
On International Women's Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
We are lucky to live during a time where there aren’t limitations to what women can study at school and what we can do with our careers. It is important to focus on what genuinely interests you versus what you think will get you the highest paying job out of college.
People were uncertain about me studying environmental science back in 2010, when it wasn’t looked at as such a pertinent issue at the time. People would hear environmental science and didn’t think it would be possible to build a well-paying, successful career, but it has become such a growing industry in our world today and I’m happy that I have been able to build a career in something that I’m genuinely interested in.