Myrtle Dawes, Chartered Chemical Engineer, Centrica
Myrtle Dawes shares the secrets of her success. Hear how she has thrived in the energy sector!
"I accepted a challenge in a role that no one understood and no one wanted."
What do you do and where do you do it?
As a Director of Planning and Dispatch in UK Field Operations, I lead a team of over 1,200 people accountable for the full spectrum of strategic and operational planning. My primary location is Stockport, Cheshire.
Why is your role important?
My team successfully complete around 11 million customer visits each year - from boiler breakdowns, fitting Smart meters to Hive installations. I also help drive digital transformation for this area with the aim of improving customer outcomes and reducing cost-to-serve by automation, utilising technology, and advanced analytics of big data.
What path did you use to get to the position you hold today?
I am courageous enough to thrive by being myself. I have always felt able to be me, and Centrica has been supportive in helping me do that. Another positive force that has helped me get to where I am today, must be my teachers at school. Only CSE’s were being offered at my school but my teachers tutored me after school so that I could do my O-Levels.” After A levels I was accepted at Imperial College London, where I studied MEng, Chemical Engineering & Chemical Technology. My first role after university was as a Petroleum Engineer for British Petroleum. I joined Centrica in 2009 as a Project Team Leader and it wasn’t always easy. I accepted a challenge with a posting to Norway in a role that no one understood and no one wanted, building a project team from scratch and responsible for billions of pounds’ worth of potential oil and gas production. I said I’d go, without too much idea of what I was in for — which was 15-hour days, being incredibly versatile and hiring a full team as well as learning about Norway’s culture, food and — yes — its drink. I stretched myself, and it certainly paid dividends.”
"For a girl that hates flying, travelling by helicopter to offshore oil and gas platforms was challenging. You also had to do a survival test every four years so that you’d know what to do in an emergency. You’d get into a survival suit, into a helicopter and into a swimming pool, before being turned upside down several times and find your escape route through the window. This was not my idea of a good time…but key to being able to do my role!”
What first attracted you to join the energy and utilities sector?
I’ve always had a soft spot for those who work in public service. But it also showed me the benefits of seeing beyond my own goals, which is why I now volunteer as a STEM ambassador. I want to inspire young women to become the engineers of the future.”
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career, so far?
At the end of my time at mining company BHP Billiton, I was in a comfortable job, with two young children. Life was good — but unsatisfying in terms of career prospects and challenges. I made a deliberate choice not to be comfortable, but to reach out for the unknown and test myself. Obviously, it could have gone badly wrong — but I took that chance, and fortunately I got lucky!
What about a career highlight?
In 2017 I received recognition for my contribution to business, having featured in Breaking the Glass Ceiling and being selected as one of 100 Women to Watch in the Cranfield FTSE Board Report 2017. Other achievements, include being elected to the Institution of Chemical Engineers Board in 2016 and securing a place in the 2014 Black British Business Awards final. I’m a Member of the Advisory Board Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers which promotes higher achievements in education and engineering particularly among people from black and minority ethnicity (BME) backgrounds.
"I’ve seen some great places in my career - in Norway I saw icebergs floating by as I helped build an ice-strengthened ship and went wildlife-watching in South Australia”
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?
Where you will shine is if you become a team player. No question is too stupid — in fact a non-technical colleague of mine just tested this assertion and found that people who have been in this industry for decades still didn’t know what lay behind the acronyms they were using every day. I laughed — a lot!.