Faces of Energy: Maura Clark of Direct Energy
As President for Direct Energy Business at Direct Energy, what advice do you have for women in the energy sector, one that has the reputation of being dominated by men?
Work and live as if it doesn't matter – because it doesn't! Just be really good at what you do, work hard, be confident and always be ready and willing to take on the next challenge.Do you see things changing for women in this sector? Are there more opportunities and paths for advancement?
I think gradually the corporate world is embracing diversity at every level. While the energy sector might have traditionally been viewed as a bit of an "old boy's club" energy is now a pretty edgy industry to be a part of and that makes a huge difference in terms of the talent that we are able to attract. You were once a director of banking services at Goldman Sachs and also an M& A consultant for a number of energy companies. What is the most striking thing you see happening in energy today that you might not have predicted years ago?
It's been fascinating to see the industry evolve. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me is the growth in the "green" movement. Having worked for an oil refining company in the past where one of our primary products was gasoline, I would not have predicted the momentum around hybrids and electric vehicles specifically! While much of the innovation around "green" is not yet commercially viable, it has been great to see the innovation around products and services in response to this trend and I am hopeful that it takes hold. How would you rate the potential for Pittsburgh to be one of the nation's energy centers? Where are we today?
We already enjoy a strong position as one of the nation's energy centers with many great energy companies who have chosen to make Pittsburgh their headquarters. And of course PA is getting a lot of attention around the "shale gale". In terms of potential we need to ensure that we continue to grow the talent pool to support the growth in our industry. We have great universities here, and Pittsburgh is a great place to live and work so we should be able to attract and keep the best talent in the industry. What advice do you have for students interested in going into energy today?
Do it! Energy is a large, dynamic and global business – there is plenty of opportunity and there are many ways to be a part of this great industry. I think it is important to get a good grounding in the fundamentals of the energy "value chain" and then choose your entry point based on your interests and skills. Whether you are an engineer or an entrepreneur (they are not mutually exclusive) you can have a great career in this business. I would encourage students interested in energy to find mentors or internships to get an insider's view of the business – there are lots of these sorts of opportunities here in Pittsburgh. And of course there are lots of ways, even just as a consumer, to stay on top of emerging technologies and trends. We have a number of home grown organizations in the area that sponsor excellent energy events (i.e. Pittsburgh Technology Council, Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University, The Allegheny Conference, etc)
You are a chartered accountant in the energy field with an impressive track record. If you were entering the workforce today, what job would you be after?
I love what I'm doing today and am very pleased with the opportunities I've had in my career. If I were really starting over today, I would probably try to join one of the major strategy consultancy firms – it's a great foundation for a business career with plenty of variety and exposure to different companies and industries.
What are you most curious about?
I am most curious about what makes people tick.
What's the most recent book you read that you would highly recommend?Freedom
by Jonathon Franzen – it is not for everyone but it is fresh and a bit quirky. I am looking forward to starting Onward
by Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame. If you could wave a magic wand to enact change in the region to help this sector, what would you want?
I'll be a little bit selfish here – as part of a company involved in competitive energy retail, I would hope for more fully deregulated markets similar to what we have in Texas.
Note to those in the energy field: Direct Energy is hiring.Photographs copyright Brian Cohen