The Innovators podcast: An engineer’s party of one

More than once signs have pointed Nada Kalam in another direction.

There was the careers advisor at high school who told her that “girls don’t do engineering” and the lecturer on her first day of university who said that by the end of their degree only 30 percent of the class would graduate – and most wouldn’t be female.

Not to mention the assumptions she’s stared down since becoming an electrical engineer, correcting people that yes, the project engineer is a she, and that yes, she has ideas worth listening to.

And in the world of energy, where it’s estimated women make up only 20 percent of the workforce and only 6 percent of its leaders, it can often feel like she’s in a pretty select group. Sometimes a group not much bigger than one.

“I’ve always been doing things that others have not wanted to do, and I’ve always been trying to make changes that others have not wanted to make,” the Telstra Energy engineer says.

“Patriarchal society is alive and kicking anywhere we go and I think that it needs to change. If that needs to change in an industry that is very much needing female perspective, then so be it, I want to be part of that change.”

Telstra Nada Kalam with ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht on the panel at the launch of the Business of Renewables report
Telstra Energy’s Nada Kalam on the panel at the launch of the Business of Renewables report. IMAGE: ARENA

This episode of The Innovators explores a recognised issue within the energy sector: women’s representation. Earlier this year, ARENA signed up to a Women in Renewables leadership pledge which acknowledges more work is needed to ensure greater numbers of women in powerful positions within the industry.

The 28-year-old Kalam speaks eloquently about her experiences pushing past roadblocks as she’s pursued a career in engineering and, as an energy systems engineer with Telstra, we also get an insight into how one of Australia’s largest energy consumers is using renewable technology to fortify its assets and reduce energy costs.

Corporate renewables is an emerging issue, one we’ve written about before, and Kalam says Telstra will be looking more into power purchase agreements like the one it signed with RES Australia earlier this year.

Listen to the full episode of The Innovators for this insightful conversation, hosted by Adam Morton.

Episode one, featuring PowerLedger co-founder Jemma Green, can be found here, episode two, with the Melbourne academics who invented a hyrdogen-generating solar paint is here, episode three, with social entrepreneur and Clean Energy Innovation Fund manager Katerina Kimmorley is here while episode four, with GreenSync’s Bruce Thompson, is here.

This article was originally written by Dewi Cooke, Writer.