Susan McDonald is an award-winning Electrical and Mechanical Engineer with over 11 years of experience in designing and overseeing major engineering infrastructure programmes in the power, utilities and renewables sector. She is the Energy Transition Lead within Deloitte‚ Net Zero Transformation Strategy team.
In 2021, Susan was selected as a Top 100 Tech Women UK 2021 Award winner and in 2022, received the WISE campaign (Women in Science and Engineering) Unsung COVID Heroes Community Champion Award for reimagining at-home COVID19 tests to make them more inclusive and accessible.
1. What are you most proud of in your current work/project/life?
Although my principal professional focus is on energy and net zero, I responded to the call to action to apply my engineering and industry knowledge to support the UK government’s response to COVID-19. I am proud to have spearheaded the drive to enhance accessibility and usability of the NHS Test & Trace PCR Home Testing Service and to have worked alongside talented, supportive and collaborative team members and charity partners to improve and innovate the service for all users.
This experience amplified the importance of diversity and lived experiences in the design process and confirmed to me that this must be part of reshaping our future to one that is inclusive, diverse, equitable and sustainable. In addition, it provided useful insights that by using some of the principles and lessons learnt we can combat and adapt to climate change; by being mission-focused; outcome driven; collaborative; and, committed to a co-design model.
2. Please share a few of your personal motivations, everyday life, and daily routines.
I am driven by helping organisations and society transition to a sustainable, net zero economy.
I am people-orientated and have a collaborative leadership style, so I thrive on regular engagement with my team and clients to help evolve and shape their Energy Transition strategies.
I am also passionate about supporting people’s development. I am currently mentoring two students with an interest in sustainability as part of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Oxford Hub community.
I have recently moved from East London to the countryside in Berkshire and enjoying the ability to go on beautiful countryside and forest walks from my front door. I also still play club hockey – although I’m approaching ‘veteran’ status!
3. What is some of the best leadership advice you have been given/seen/read … or that you have to offer personally?
I believe great leadership galvanises others to cooperate within a shared vision and empowers teams to come together to solve complex issues, to innovate and deliver a desired outcome by fostering and demonstrating common values – collaboration, integrity, respect and a “learning” mind-set.
4. What are the key issues in your field that need addressing with visible female leadership?
Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and Engineers have a crucial role in shaping and securing the future of our planet.
Therefore, it is important that we encourage more women to pursue engineering, technology and energy careers to help create an inclusive profession. Diversity and learning from lived experiences lead to more robust solutions, and I believe it is vital that female engineering role models and leaders are at the heart of decision-making in energy policy, low carbon technology innovation and shaping organisations’ Energy Transition strategies. Not only because of the critical action needed to avert climate catastrophe, but also to ensure the energy transition does not burden specific or vulnerable communities.
5. How do you feel that Homeward Bound can help you to become a more effective leader and what are your hopes for your participation?
I look forward to contributing to and learning from the Homeward Bound community, collaborating with accomplished women from diverse backgrounds and being part of a global movement to shape the future of our planet.
I hope that my participation can help amplify the critical role engineers have in shaping the future of our planet to help inspire others to pursue a career in engineering, technology and the energy industry – particularly in the context of decarbonisation and achieving net zero.
1 As reported in June 2021 by Engineering UK
2 As reported in April 2021 by POWERful Women
Words and Video by Susan McDonald
Edited by Yu Xuan Peh