Gill is currently the Vice President Operations, Business Area Markets. In this role she is leading a Business Unit enabling Vattenfall’s asset optimisation and trading activities through the provision of IT, ETRM, Analysis and Project Management services.
Originally published March 2013
In her previous role Gill managed both the Market and Credit Risk teams covering all activities of Vattenfall, including the three trading locations. Gill has previously worked in senior Commodities Risk management roles at both Nuon and Scottish Power.
In your view what were the influencing factors in your successful transition to senior management?
Certainly for me the most important skill I have had to hone in order to carry out a managerial role is the ability to delegate. I’m a self-confessed control freak, and it took me a while to learn to conduct the orchestra rather than try to play all of the instruments. Delegating is of course made easier when you are surrounded by a strong team and I have been fortunate enough to have been able to rely on extremely competent colleagues throughout my career. A successful manager is an indication of a very good team.
What advice would you give to women trying to reach senior management in commodity risk management?
Don’t under-estimate your own ability and over-estimate that of others. I think women tend to focus on their weaknesses rather than emphasising their strengths. If something doesn’t go so well I think women have a tendency to look for their own failings, whereas when something goes well they don’t link the success directly to their actions in the same way. I think commodity risk management is the same as any male-dominated environment; you have to be strong and willing to speak your mind in order to progress.
What were your key drivers in pursuing an international opportunity?
I guess the opportunity came along at the right time. My kids were very young so we didn’t have to worry about changing schools or them feeling they were moving away from friends. I was already travelling a fair bit internationally for work between Scotland and the US – sometimes being away from Monday to Friday, which wasn’t ideal with a young family to consider. Moving to the Netherlands was a good fit both personally and professionally. It offered us the chance as a family to experience a different culture as well as me the chance to broaden my scope. At the time the opportunity arose I had a good understanding of the UK energy markets and to a lesser extent the US markets, but had little exposure to the continental energy markets.
What qualities do you look for in individuals you hire?
Obviously there are certain requirements on skill set, for example numeracy, that are a pre-requisite. Taking that as a given then the most important things I look for are personality, team fit and the ability to communicate. I work on the premise that you can teach someone technical skills, but you can’t do much about their personality. Prospective candidates should always meet the team they will be working with – typically we organise a lunch so that the candidate and the team get the chance to find out about each other. In our role clear communication is essential – you need to be unambiguous and to the point.
Do you feel there are additional challenges for women when building a career within CRM?
No more so than in any male-dominated environment. The trading world is full of very self-confident, strong-willed characters. As a risk manager you need to have a strong back-bone and speak out even when you are the lone dissenting voice.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I don’t think it’s that different to when I started. One of the biggest challenges is likely to be the attitude of those around you. When I was first appointed to a managerial role one of my male colleagues and rival for the post put my success entirely down to my gender. I remember him congratulating me, but at the same time telling me he realised he would only have had a chance if he had shaved his legs and worn a skirt.
Nowadays that kind of non-PC comment wouldn’t be so blatant, but I’m not so sure that the same rationalisation process wouldn’t happen. Being in the minority shouldn’t always be seen as a drawback. People assume if you are in this industry you must be a man – I get lots of mail addressed to Graham Gill! The upside is that you stand out from the crowd so you should see that as an advantage.