GWNET brings you the 4th instalment of the “Meet the Women in the Energy Transition” series which celebrates the work and achievements of the women who are part of GWNET’s 2/2019 Mentoring Programme. This mentoring programme contains 22 mentee-mentor tandems, with mentees from over 15 countries. Meet GWNET mentee, Agata Rostrán. Agata is an electrical engineer from Nicaragua with extensive knowledge on the operation and application of renewable energy, with a focus on geothermal energy.
1) Tell us a little about yourself. What do you love most about what you do?
I am a young professional woman and an electrical engineer with a master’s degree in renewable energy and 6 years of experience in the energy sector. Currently, I work as a consultant, where little by little I am overcoming barriers and becoming a key person in the Central American region, disseminating information and training people about the direct uses of geothermal energy. It fills me with great satisfaction to know that I am supporting the development of sustainable energy in developing countries such as my own.
2) What were your goals when you started working in sustainable energy? Have these evolved?
When I began studying for my bachelor’s degree, my goals were focused on energy sustainability. After finishing my electrical engineering bachelor’s degree, I wanted to build my own company offering the service of designing energy-efficient buildings, but later, I started working at the ministry of energy in Nicaragua where I broadened my vision. As the ministry is focused on changing the energy mix, I got involved with renewable energy projects in the country. After 2 years of working at the ministry, I decided to study a masters degree in Renewable Energy in Germany to enrich my knowledge on the subject. At this stage of my life, my goal is to become a key person in the development of geothermal energy in Central America.
3) What are the opportunities for sustainable energy growth in your country?
Nicaragua is a developing country, which offers a wide spectrum of opportunities in the energy sector. Thanks to its rich natural resources, the country has a potential of 4,500 MW for the generation of renewable energy, distributed between geothermal, hydroelectric, wind energy, solar and biomass. Moreover, the development of renewable energy projects enjoys prerogative in energy procurement and attractive fiscal incentives. At the end of 2017, 56 per cent of the energy produced was from renewables sources. For the midterm period, it is expected that the country’s energy generation mix will be transformed, reducing the generation of energy from thermal or non-renewable sources to 26 per cent.
4) What challenges have you faced in the sector? Can you tell us how you overcame (or are overcoming) these challenges?
My first challenge began when I entered university. I was one out of five women in a class of 50. In addition, some teachers did not listen to the comments or contributions from the women students. In order to overcome this, I decided to get the highest grades on tests to get their attention, which worked for some but not for others. When I started working at the ministry of energy of Nicaragua there were no women in my work unit and I felt like an outsider, and after I talked to my boss and expressed my discontent he implemented a weekly meeting where we could give each other feedback. This did not solve the problem entirely but it gave me space to provide my feedback to the working group. Currently, I am working as a Consultant in the Nicaraguan Electricity company where the director of the unit is a woman, and in the unit, there are more women than men. She is a good leader and I would say that she is a role model for many of the women working there, including myself.
5) Why did you join the GWNET Mentorship Programme? What do you hope to achieve?
I joined this programme to seek guidance, leadership, and maybe a little reassurance to start up my project. I thought that through my mentor’s experience I could gain courage and inspiration to achieve my goals. That is, my mentor could guide me to find answers to my questions and help me dispel my fears. Since I will not get this kind of mentorship experience locally, I got excited when I heard about this programme and later joined it.
6) What advice would you give to women hoping to join the sustainable energy sector?
In order to be part of this sector, one has to be brave and have a lot of courage, since it is still a sector dominated by men. I come from and live in a developing country, which in my perspective is a hard society to live in. It’s not just job opportunities, it’s facing established cultural challenges in our society. If someone wants to develop the sustainable energy sector, it has to be clear that to accomplish this, women have to play a role. The more diverse the boardrooms and work teams are, the better the ideas that they will come up with together. In addition, once you join the sustainable energy sector, always try to move up into more senior positions, that way you will become a mentor and role model for future generations.
If you are interested in knowing more about GWNET’s mentoring programmes, this comprehensive article outlines our work in this area.