Women in Energy Story Telling: The Story of the Newcomer

I am currently employed as audit expert in the Tariffs Department of the Austrian energy regulator. Describing what I do and where I work to those unfamiliar with the energy business has always been a challenge. I usually say, in my department we calculate the tariffs, even though the work hidden behind this statement is a complex process that attempts to balance the interests of consumers and the interests of network distribution companies. Since I only started working at the Austrian energy regulator less than a year ago, my story will be that of a newcomer.

October 2013: I remember it was my first accounting lecture at Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, I entered a classroom, looked around and one thing caught my attention, there were almost only women present in the classroom. Being curious about the matter, I started counting and found that out of 30 people attending the class, 23 were women. This astonishing figure made me reanalyze some of my earlier experiences, such as my first energy management lecture at the University of Vienna, which I attended just about a year before. Back then I did not count the people, but now I am quite certain that of about 50 students in the classroom—more than 70 percent— were men.

October 2015: After I obtained my master’s in finance and accounting, I started working at a huge auditing company where I was in charge of auditing energy and utility companies in particular. During this time I had the opportunity to learn a lot and, most importantly, to find out what I really enjoy doing. The actual moment of realization happened when I was auditing one of the biggest DSOs in Vienna. I got so involved with the work that I realized I should focus on the energy sector as much as possible. However, at the time it was very tough to leave financial auditing and completely change career goals.

January 2017: My first audit in the role of the energy regulator was very exciting. I was visiting a small DSO south of Vienna. I entered the conference room where the meeting took place and, somewhat surprisingly, I was the only woman there. All the executives of the DSO were staring at me when I started introducing myself. Maybe they did not take me very seriously at that moment, but by the end of the meeting they were more than surprised and I was able to get all the answers I needed for my audit. My first audit as part of the Austrian energy regulator made me realize how important communication skills are. As a regulator, one should be able to negotiate, to demand information, and at the same time to get the best out of each situation. Since I am a foreigner working for the Austrian energy regulator this has not always been easy for me, but I am constantly working on improving my cultural and communication skills.

Today: I still count myself as a newcomer at the Austrian energy regulator. I have a long and exciting path in front of me, but I will commit my efforts and I will work with the goal of enriching my knowledge.

Work-life balance: In this early stage of my career in energy regulation I have to devote a lot of my time to working, reading, and improving my knowledge of the market and the technical aspects of the business. Time management is extremely important in this case. Until now I have been able to organize my time so that I work hard but still have time for my friends and family. Living abroad does not make this easier, as in order to see my family I need to fly 1,000 kilometers, hence planning is essential, but I know that all my loved ones support me and understand that what I do is very important for my future and for my happiness.

My success: I have always had my 5-year plans. The first one started when I was in high school. My goal was that five years later, I would speak German well and would live in a German-speaking country. I achieved both.

The second 5-year plan started when I had already moved to Austria. The plan was to be done with my studies and to have stable job in five years’ time. I achieved this as well.

My new 5-year plan is to become an expert in the energy field and build my future family. Well, I have five years to achieve this and I will do my best, so that in five years I can look back and I can say: ACHIEVED.

My mentors and inspiration:

During the last years I have met many inspiring people and I have learned a lot. At the beginning of my career, as a part of the world of accounting and auditing, I developed precision and attention to detail and gained a lot of professional knowledge. However, I must say I am very grateful I was able to enter the world of energy, as the people I met on the way not only taught me about technical and energy-specific matters, but also gave me very valuable insights for my personal growth and development.

A couple of months ago I attended a regulation seminar where I met a girl from Madagascar doing her PhD in electrical engineering in France. When she introduced herself in the auditorium she said that she felt insecure about her future career opportunities in energy, even though in my opinion she was one of the most prominent attendees in the whole seminar. My advice to her and to all young women who pursue a career in energy is not to be afraid. Energy regulation is changing very quickly and there are many strong women who are leaders in the market. They prove that energy is no longer exclusively a man’s world, as we all work for a common goal contributing the best of each of us, regardless of gender. Therefore, to succeed, make achievable short-term plans, commit yourself, and achieve them.

Silviya Deyanova started her career as financial accountant and auditor. Only a year ago she joined the Austrian regulator and currently works in the Tariffs Department as audit expert for gas and electricity distribution system operators. Originally from Bulgaria, she has lived in Austria for six years. Silviya holds two master’s degrees: one in finance and accounting from Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration and one in energy management from the University of Vienna.