CEO Louise Wapshare joins the #WUNcareerstories podcast

Louise Wapshare, CEO SEBL appeared as a special guest on the WUN4ALL podcast hosted by the Women Utilities Network (WUN). In this blog Louise recaps the key themes covered in the #WUNcareerstories podcast, sharing her insights on career transitions and leadership.

I recently joined Sabrina Polito from the WUN for a podcast to share my learnings over the course of my career spanning a number of business sectors. We talked about the transition into general management roles and my leadership experience in my most recent appointment as CEO of SmartestEnergy Business.  

As a brief overview of my career journey to date, once I graduated from university I started in accountancy, studying for my ACA qualification and after around two years in practice, I decided to move across to industry. I've spent the majority of my career in roles that cover a wide spectrum of finance from audit and control to commercial finance and treasury and tax, with the overarching goal to move into senior finance. I'm now CEO of SmartestEnergy Business, which looks after over 26,000 SME business electricity customers. 

Sabrina was really interested in the transitions I'd made throughout my career from leaving my private practice role earlier in my career, where I worked with a wide range of business sectors, to moving into the automotive industry, then IT and finally landing in the energy industry. I made the transition from practice to industry because I wanted to be a real part of a company, part of the decision-making process and involved in the long-term strategic direction. I made the decision to move into the energy sector because I wanted to work in an industry that would continually keep me on my toes and learning and could offer some real challenges around the technical side of accounting. 

In my first leadership role at Centrica, I was in the Home Repairs team as the finance director and although I was in the team as the finance expert, I really enjoyed having that strategic oversight across all areas of the business and being involved in discussions that weren't only finance-related but also covered commercial and operational activities. After 9 years at Centrica, my next move was into SmartestEnergy as VP of Finance with the aim to eventually step into a general management role. The important thing about that move for me was moving from a role within a small business unit to a role that oversaw the whole finance function for the entire company. After 3 years a new opportunity at SmartestEnergy came up as VP of I&C where I gained first-hand experience in the commercial and operational side of the business. I then decided to do an Executive MBA alongside this role to further develop myself professionally. Doing the MBA at this late stage in my career I found very valuable as I was able to reflect on my own personal experiences and also apply them to my current role and I feel I gained so much more than I would have done had I studied earlier in my career. After the acquisition of Dual Energy, rebranded as SmartestEnergy Business, I was then offered the opportunity to step into the CEO role last April.  

I shared with Sabrina how I consciously (and on some occasions unconsciously) pushed myself as I transitioned through the roles, despite occasionally having some element of doubt before I took on these new opportunities. I believe the key to success is to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself which has driven me to where I am today.           

In our discussion around leadership, especially for women in leadership, we covered the importance of being authentic and staying true to yourself. We also talked about the challenges of moving from a specialist role into general management and how having a great team around you is so important. 

To conclude this blog I'd like to share a couple of the tips and advice Sabrina and I came up with for any aspiring leaders, whether that be overcoming diversity in the workplace or learning soft management skills to get ahead on your career path. The energy sector can often be male dominant, so finding techniques to make yourself more present and using body language as cues to enter the conversation can be really effective. As a manager, learning and understanding that everyone is different will help you lead and empower the individuals on your team.       

To hear more about my career path to date and also how I’ve found moving from working remotely to more recently collaborating in the office, you can listen to the podcast on all the major podcast apps or via the WUN website here.  

SmartestEnergy has been a member of the WUN since last Summer and we look forward to future collaborative opportunities with them to celebrate women in the energy sector.