"Be an owl, not a fox" says REA CEO Nina Skorupska

Published: 07 Dec 2016 By Grace Kimberley

Energy Jobline interviews with Nina Skorupska, Top 50 ranker in WES’ “Influential Women In Engineering List 2016” and CEO of the Renewable Energy Association on ‘taking the jump’ into a new role and why engineers and in particular, females are so doubtful to voice their career wants.

Nina REA

Unfortunately, its human nature to fear change in our lives. Some of us are more comfortable with change than others and might even embrace the fear. But don’t let that fool you.

Its natural instinct to cower away from the unknown. One of the changes we fear most, is of course a change in the workplace, where you spend roughly 80% of your time.

“You may be frightened of change in the organisation, but that’s usually when incredible opportunities appear.” Says Ms Skorupska.

“You can’t be a sheep. I’ve attended a senior women’s program where we learnt about organisational politics and how people behave in organisations can be attributed to an animal “type”. This simple model really hit home for me as to whether people where behaving more like a fox, a sheep, an owl or as a donkey.”  Most women believe that if you want to get ahead you have to be a Fox – cunning, sneaky etc.

“I say to people, ‘What are you?’. If you’re considering putting yourself forward in an organisation and asking for jobs or asking for a fair salary, but you fear that voicing this could damage you, or people (or worse), you feel selfish.. that you are being a fox! – It’s not! You are actually being an owl because I bet you will ask for something that is fair and that you will help the organisation to succeed”

The second fear, which comes hand-in-hand with asking your superiors for a change in your role is the fear of rejection. Yet, when we are children, our parents tell us no all the time. “No, you can’t have more sweets.” “No, you mustn’t pick your nose” “No, you can’t touch Mummy’s make-up.”

Whether we understand it or not, we do fear rejection. But as we are also told as children, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

“All you’re doing is valuing you and what you have to offer.” Nina continues.

“Somehow, as women and as engineers we tend to think we’re worth less and that’s completely wrong. Be ‘owly’, not ‘foxy’. Be wise. Do your homework, plan your chat with your boss and negotiate.”

“I had to discover my “power” once.  In my career, I “negotiated” with my husband that I wanted to go and work on a power station. I worked hard not to disrupt his career, but we had to move home to Kent because Power Stations don’t move to you, of course.”

“After two years – our negotiated period, I could tell that my husband was becoming very jaded with the amount of travel that he had to do because of the M25 roadworks it was taking him 2 hours on average to get to work when we had originally thought it wold be only 1!. Things had to change. So, I went to find out what kind of “personal power” I had to attracting serious senior role offers before I voiced this “need to change” internally. I applied for a Power Station Manager Job with another Energy Company.”

“I said to my boss ‘I need to change my job. I unfortunately can’t live in Kent any longer and I need to move.’ He replied with, ‘Nina – You can’t leave! I didn’t know you were interested in being a Manager of another Power Station.’ And within 3 months, I was Station Manager at one of their power stations at Didcot.”

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