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23 September 2019
Women in Wind Q&A: Tebogo Movundlela (South Africa)
The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program sat down with Tebogo, one of this year’s Mentors, to chat about her pathway into renewable energy and the key issues facing women in the wind sector.
Tebogo is a CEO with over 10 years’ experience across varying sectors including renewable energy, defence and audit and advisory. Her renewable energy experience has included construction, operation & asset management of the West Coast 1 facility in the role of CFO and CEO respectively, playing a pivotal role in the financial close of currently one of the largest renewable projects in South Africa, Kathu Solar Park CSP, and the role of the interim finance lead for Engie Southern Africa. Her commitment to socioeconomic sustainability has informed her involvement in various initiatives – recently SciencePo’s Global Leaders for Africa’s Development Programme and as former Chairperson of the South African Wind Energy Association. Her tenure included being the wind sector lead in the Public-Private Growth Initiative led by the Minister in the Presidency of South Africa, and chairing the wind industry task team responsible for the development of the industry charter. Tebogo is a Chartered Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Business Science honours degree from the University of Cape Town.
How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?
I took on the role of Chief Financial Officer of Aurora Wind Power, Engie’s first renewable project in South Africa during the early stages of the REIPP Programme. I was attracted by the broad scope of the role and to the opportunity to build a company operating in clean power generation from the ground up. As a much younger professional at the time, I was equally excited at the prospect of collaborating with the diverse, intelligent and like-minded individuals to realise this opportunity in an emerging sector for the South Africa.
Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector. How has this business area changed over the course of your career so far? For you, what is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?
As a Chartered Accountant, I am naturally analytical and assess risks and opportunities holistically for a business. This coupled with my inherent thirst for knowledge and passion for the sector has also meant that I take on roles that fall outside of my day-to-day and at 32 years old, was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Aurora Wind Power.
The dialogue around the carbon transition has certainly gained significant momentum since I joined this sector in 2013. I am personally excited about the evolution of business and customer solutions – the challenges are multi-layered, thus making it an interesting problem to solve.
What sort of challenges did you encounter in entering the sector? Can you tell us about an achievement wherein you overcame such a challenge?
It was tricky being the finance lead at 29 years old and being a minority – black and female – in the renewable sector. My first instinct and action was to deep-dive into my work in order to demonstrate my value – because let’s be honest, there are prejudices levelled against you when you have this kind of profile.
Interestingly, now at 34 years, I am still typically the youngest and/or a minority in most professional settings. There is, however, an inner peace that comes with acknowledging one’s achievements and successes. This while taking in the fact that regular self-introspection, personal growth and knowledge accumulation are a lifelong journey for all of us.
If you had to pick one key issue facing women in the wind power sector, what would it be and why?
I perceive that challenges faced by women in the wind power sector are universal. There is a quiet prejudice that exists against women, and the acknowledgement thereof speaks to confronting uncomfortable truths and ugly parts of ourselves – and by ourselves I mean role players including both women and men. There are many examples, but to highlight some: Women are often subconsciously excluded from access and networking opportunities because, by sheer design, these are favoured towards men. And when women show up, they have to navigate the waters of of being perceived as inferior in experience and expertise just by virtue of their gender.
Businesses need to rid themselves of this unproductive culture. One cannot underestimate how this hindrance stifles creativity and competitiveness. According to an article by Jack Zenger, we exist in a context where a company’s average time on the Fortune 500 has dropped from 75 years to 14.5 years. In this time of market change and disruption, companies need inclusive environments that naturally facilitate diversity in thought and contribution.
Finally, what do you hope to achieve as a participant of Women in Wind Global Leadership Program? How will you contribute to the next generation of female leaders in the sector?
Having benefited immensely – and continuing to do so – from the excellent and diverse minds and their insights in my immediate professional environment, I hope to share my perspectives with the future women leaders in wind. I reiterate that the professional and personal growth continue throughout one’s life and we typically encounter similar challenges. I hope that my experiences are enlightening and assist in formulating views on how others can chart their own path.
Let us know your reactions or thoughts on Tebogo’s interview at [email protected]!
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