Engineering is all about solving problems and optimizing, so that the whole system works at its absolute best. It’s like solving a puzzle, and it seems Jenny Mackay is a master at puzzles.
She’s used her engineering skills not just as a leader at global sustainable distributed energy producer, EDL, but to also fit her career together with her values, and her family commitments too.
And the picture she’s pieced together is so masterful, we had to share it.
A snapshot of her career
Jenny came to EDL three years ago with a solid career already established in the oil and gas sector.
Her initial posts exposed her to a breadth of operational processes.
“My earlier work, as a graduate and then as a fully-fledged chemical engineer gave me insights to work across all levels of an organization, and the realities of making physical and organizational changes.”
But, she says, it took a few years and a major incident at the company of one of her earlier roles for the career coin to truly drop.
“Process Safety became my new passion, and I completed post-graduate studies in Safety to build my skills.
“I loved the combination of the technical aspect and the human dimensions necessary to keep people safe.
“Almost all parts of a company need to work well to manage technical safety risks across so many roles and departments and across all the lifecycle phases of an asset, from design, through the build, operation, maintenance, and change phases and, finally, the decommission process.”
This career shift put Jenny in connection with a range of new approaches which expanded significantly on her initial training in engineering.
“I began to have an interest in how to affect change across more of the organization,” she explains.
“Further postgraduate studies in change management helped me better develop my own leadership style as well as that of others; an understanding of organizational design and of change management practices.”
A brief period as an independent consultant followed, during which Jenny felt she was missing the team aspect she sought.
She went searching for a leadership role at an organization where, she says, her values were aligned with the business mission and culture.
“I found the right combination at EDL.”
She is now General Manager of Technical Services, which means she is overseeing EDL’s vast global technical team in three continents and across almost 100 sites.
Finding a company that works for its employees
Jenny knew pretty early on EDL was the right choice for her.
“There wasn’t one specific moment, there was just a growing sense over several months that EDL was a company where I could bring more of my authentic self to work: care, curiosity, humor, and drive to improve things for others in a place without ego driven behaviors.”
Jenny says the value of teamwork is also shared with the people she works with every day.
“The strength of the relationships with, and between, my leadership team is centered on trust. We trust each other to ask for help, solve problems together, and give feedback to each other.
“With trust we can create and sustain effective communication up, down, across, and between our teams and be great problem solvers for EDL.”
Part of this mutual trust and the sense of sharing the load is, says Jenny, due to EDL’s culture of diversity and inclusion.
“As a woman, I’m proud of the different approach I bring to problem-solving and communicating. I think I’m quite attuned to encouraging diversity of perspective and can also build consensus for a plan for action.
“My presence in this industry everyday shows women and men that there are lots of ways to be an engineer, a manager, a leader, and a parent.”
Jenny tells us that EDL has been keen to implement gender-diverse programs and to encourage more women to enter what has been traditionally a male-dominated industry. This includes recruitment programs to encourage women to consider a career in Engineering and IT.
She credits the company for supporting her to reach for a leadership role.
“EDL believed in me to take on roles that stretched me. Stretching not just my technical, financial, and commercial acumen, but also in terms of my leadership and ability to work across the many industries we partner with.”
Piecing together work and family
The confidence EDL has shown, Jenny says, is a clear reflection of wider attitudes and changing views on career and life balance.
“Keys to our success with diversity, flexibility, and inclusion at EDL are our company policies, our team culture, and all our line managers — who demonstrate empathy and curiosity to support people across EDL to have balanced lives and their best careers.
“This ensures there is support for parents, for instance, to work flexibly beyond a few months of parental leave, so as to reach across the many years it takes to raise a child.”
She adds that she and her partner have coped well with the dual responsibilities of their individual careers and their family.
“The part of my career I am most proud of is being able to work outside of home, part-time, or even not work at all, for 14 years while maintaining fulfilling roles in which I have continued to learn and evolve my career in areas I’m passionate about.
Jenny shares that her partner has also worked part-time (and even not at all for periods) to enable them to coparent in a way that has allowed them to be available for their children.
“I’m also grateful that we had my family’s support to make this possible when the kids were young.”
Lessons to takeaway
Jenny is aware she is a role model for young women coming into the industry and she is keen to pass on what she has learned:
“I’ll reshare advice I heard during my career: Careers have chapters and it’s ok not to have it all at the same time.
“Don’t lose sight of your leadership aspirations and recognize that leadership development happens during many different experiences and roles.
“You grow by putting yourself into new situations. It may be uncomfortable but that is where the gold is.”
And in the energy and resource industry as in life, finding what is precious (and sustainable ways to keep it), is surely the point.