Susan Robson, Principal Consultant Internal Consulting , National Grid
Susan Robson's career journey has been largely unplanned which has proved to be a good approach. A love of science at school led to a BSc in Medical Microbiology and a MSc in Forensic Science. After leaving university Susan took a graduate role with a large Management Consultancy in London. Since joining National Grid Susan has held several positions in the support and corporate functions and is also chair of the Women’s Employee Resource Group. Her contribution to gender equality was recognised when she was listed No 1 Future Leader in the Financial Times & HERoes Champions of Women in Business 2018.
"The energy industry surely must be one of the most exciting places to work and influence now and this is why it is so important to make sure we stay ahead, with diverse thinking and people who can work at their best."
What do you do and where do you do it?
As part of its Business Excellence division, National Grid has a global Internal Consultancy which has been set up to internally resource strategic design work across our business. The team is Global, but I work out of the Warwick office, with some travel to the London and Boston offices. I also chair our Women’s Employee Resource Group, where I lead on driving the company’s gender equality agenda. This is a voluntary role.
Both my substantive role in internal consulting and my role in leading Women in National Grid use the same analysis, problem solving and communication skills. Both roles also lead to tangible outcomes that have clear lines of sight to value for our business and individuals, making them enormously satisfying.
Tell us about your journey from graduation to your current role at National Grid
My career journey has been largely unplanned, but this has worked out to be a good approach for me. I enjoyed science at school which led me to a BSc. in Medical Microbiology and a MSc. in Forensic Science. The skills in data analysis, problem solving and communication that I developed on these degrees enabled me to get a fantastic graduate job in one of the biggest Management Consultancies in London. The learning curve was steep, but I thrived on project work that involved a lot of travel – I can’t think of another job that would have given me exposure to so many companies in so many industries as that one. It was hard, but I learnt a lot, met some amazing people and had a lot of fun.
After the birth of my second child and moving to the Midlands, I sought a job that was less reliant on international travel, and this led me to working at National Grid. I have had several roles across the support and corporate functions, which again has served me well in terms of building a broad network and understanding our business.
I volunteered to work with the Women’s ERG because I wanted to positively influence on gender equality in the workplace. We focus on skills and learning: promoting STEM for a better pipeline, ensuring that our employees feel included and able to develop professionally at work, and sharing best practice and success.
"Diversity of thought has been proven to drive the most innovative outcomes and decisions, so making sure our workforce attracts and includes everyone means we can run our business more efficiently, effectively and innovatively."
Why is your role important? Why is it important to the company/ the people of the UK/ the UK economy?
To ensure our company is successful both now and, in the future, we need to make sure we have access to the best talent. If we are not representative of the population in terms of any minority in our pipeline, we are just picking from a smaller and less-talented pool.
We also need to make sure that everyone who already works here can work at their best and is supported in reaching their full potential. People can only do this if they feel included, ensuing that women feel included as professionals is what our employee resource group focuses on. And as well as making good business sense, it is doing the right thing by society.
Diversity of thought also has been proven to drive the most innovative outcomes and decisions, so making sure our workforce attracts and includes everyone means we can run our business more efficiently, effectively and innovatively. This means our customers are getting better value, services and products which, when you maintain and operate the energy system in the UK, is significant to the UK economy and society.
"Ten years ago, the utility industry was viewed as a behemoth: established, traditional and moving along at a steady pace. Now we are on the verge of revolutionising technologies and business models, and of disruptive thinking and solutions. Energy is at the heart of everything and the enabler of exciting changes."
Which parts of the job do you enjoy most/ find most rewarding?
As our employee network is quite mature in its approach and thinking, we have paid special attention to sharing what we do with other organisations to amplify value we deliver through others, and this is one of my favourite parts of the ERG chair role. I love meeting new networks of people and sharing ideas – if we can help someone else on their Inclusion and Diversity journey then so much the better.
What attracted you to join the energy and utilities sector?
The role not the industry was the attractor to National Grid as I didn’t have much knowledge about the energy industry when I joined. Ten years ago, the utility industry was viewed as a behemoth: established, traditional and moving along at a steady pace. Now we are on the verge of revolutionising technologies and business models, and of disruptive thinking and solutions. Energy is at the heart of everything and the enabler of exciting changes.
The energy industry surely must be one of the most exciting places to work and influence now and this is why it is so important to make sure we stay ahead, with diverse thinking and people who can work at their best.
Would you recommend your job to a friend and why?
Consulting is a fantastic role because of the fast-paced project environment. I work in a very talented team of people from various backgrounds, so there’s a lot to learn from colleagues which I love.
I would wholly recommend volunteering to everyone, either inside or outside of work. I do both, and it has given me both professional development and an enormous sense of satisfaction. Serving your community is a core value for me, and as someone who has been very lucky in life it is a privilege to be able to give back.
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