Pledge 1%’s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. While our featured leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, they are united in their efforts to promote equality for all women in the workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their journey to success, as well as lessons they’ve learned along the way.

What is your name and title?

Samanta Perna, Project Engineer at GE Renewables.

Briefly (1-2 sentences) describe your current role.

I manage engineering aspects of Crudine Ridge Wind Farm project. This includes coordinating with internal and external design teams, construction contractors, and other stakeholders to ensure Wind Turbine and Interface with Balance of Plant (BoP) works are designed, constructed, and commissioned to a high standard.

How did you get here? Please share any quick stories from past work experiences.

I realized I needed to spend time thinking about and developing my personal vision and describing the key components to my ideal job a few years after I started my first job after graduating as a Chemical Engineer. At the time I worked in the oil and gas industry and one thing became clear to me – I wanted to be part of the Renewable Energy sector.

By that time, I had three years of experience and I understood I needed to go back to studying to get more knowledge in my new chosen discipline. This lead me to looking for courses specific to Renewables, and I searched for internship opportunities built into the program. I found one I liked in Australia and enrolled.

After a successful internship, I became part of the company full time. I learned a lot about solar energy, but also how start-up businesses work and build themselves up. It was a very rewarding and unexpected experience.

After a couple of years, I decided to change the focus of my career to technical expertise development. I applied for a few jobs throughout 2020, including a Project Engineer position for wind farms. Although at the time I was not sure my qualifications matched the skillset needed, my application was successful. I am now part of an organization that, I believe, will help me develop in the field of wind energy. Having switched sectors two times, I am grateful for the knowledge those experiences gave me and I am excited to start once again on a new path.

In your opinion, what’s the #1 decision or move you’ve made that has helped advance your career?

Earlier in my career I worked in Oil and Gas. I really enjoyed the technical aspects of my job, but I felt my contribution towards a clean energy transition was not being fulfilled. I chose to quit my job in Argentina and enrolled in a Masters Degree in Renewable Energy Systems at Monash University in Australia. I moved countries and completed the one-year course.

I chose this course because it had a specific unit for internships within your chosen field. I joined Energy Terrain as an intern for 6 weeks. This later became my entrance ticket to the Renewable Energy space through Solar Energy. I worked there for two years until Feb 2021. It has enabled me to better understand the energy market and the solar industry in Australia. I was exposed to a diverse range of professional experiences because I was part of a small company, which helped me develop a wide range of soft skills in project management, relationship building and even capital raising and finance.

Today, I am starting a new position at General Electrics in Wind Energy and I believe that my previous experience has given me the confidence and ability to face new challenges while enjoying the journey and always ask for help or guidance when I need it.

It all started with an industry change that was more aligned with my personal vision, and it has resulted in an exciting path I did not fully anticipate. Making career decisions based on your beliefs and personal values is, in my opinion, a crucial step towards developing lasting relationships within the Australian renewable energy industry.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned this past year?

It is really important to always try to understand the different contexts of others who are living the same situation as you. As an Argentinian citizen in Australia, I got to experience COVID-19 in two completely different ways. I saw the pandemic spread from different perspective and it further developed both my empathy skills and my relationships at work. I think that we can learn a lot from looking at problems and situations from different perspectives. The best approach is to ask others to tell us about their view.

What’s the number one challenge you face as a woman in your industry?

Not having close women in leadership positions to reach out to for specific situations. I have always had a great relationship with my managers. However, as women, we sometimes lack the opportunity to exchange work experiences with other women. Having said that, Australia is looking for ways to connect more of us every day.

Do you have any mentors? What does mentorship mean to you?

Yes, I am currently part of the Clean Energy Council – Women in Renewables Mentorship Program. It is my first experience having an assigned mentor. I think it is crucial to develop long-term relationships with people in leadership position so that you can reach out to them for help when you feel stuck. A fresh set of eyes and experience can help you solve a problem in one very short phone call.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

I would say that they should always ask themselves what they want to achieve. One of the questions that helped me shape my job search throughout 2020 was asked to me during an interview by a female manager. She asked me what were the three daily activities I wanted to be doing in my dream job, and three I did not want to do. This helped me break my career goals down to day-to-day tasks.

What is one thing companies can do, big or small, to help create an environment that advances women into leadership positions?

Work to bring women within their companies together by introducing women to other women they know in leadership positions.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in the next year?

I hope to achieve a work-life balance in my new position that enables me to develop my career while enjoying spare time with my friends and family. I also hope to travel back to Argentina when it is possible again.

Is there a cause that is particularly close to you? If so, why this cause and how did you get involved?

I started getting really interested in supporting women in engineering. Currently, I am doing research to understand how we got here (see book recommendations) and building my network to participate more actively later in the year. I hope to be able to devote 1% of my time to promoting women in renewable space – especially in developing countries.

What do you like to do outside of the office? Any interesting (or unique) habits or interests?

I have taken up riding my bike into work (15km) as a new habit, and it has definitely had an impact in my start-of-day mood. It has been a long process to get there – I start riding outside last year, doing shorter rides first and then taking on the challenge on longer paths. I think work-life balance is a key skill to develop in order to have the right mindset during working hours.

Are you reading/listening to anything interesting at the moment? Please share your most recent favorite book or podcast!

I am reading a Spanish book called “Mal Educadas” by the female author Maria Florencia Freijo that is about the education women have received throughout history and how it’s impact can be traced to current day. I highly recommend it to women who would like to understand how we got here a bit better.

My favorite book of 2020 was “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.

What’s been the one (or two!) things that have helped you navigate this past year? Any tips or tricks to dealing with remote work?

Communication in the work space has been vital. I have always reached out to my coworkers to talk about non-work related matters and just check in on how they are doing. My manager at Energy Terrain introduced a joke-per-day scheme at the end of our stand up meetings, which really helped us smile no matter how bad the joke was and brought us closer together in a different way.

The second tip is being able to realize when we need a break. At one point I saw myself become a lot less effective with my tasks and I understood I needed to take some time off. My original plan was to wait until the borders were opened, which did not happen. Finally, I asked my manager for some days off. After that period, I was able to go back to my more effective self.