ZOE ROBERTS: OCEANOGRAPHER AND STORM CHASER

UK A fascination for physical phenomena in nature led to a unique role in Vattenfall’s offshore wind projects. Zoe Roberts' metocean analyses are vital in design and construction planning.

In News from Vattenfall article series on women in the energy sector, today we meet Senior Metocean Analyst Zoe Roberts. She supports Vattenfall’s offshore wind projects in implementing their metocean strategy, ensuring each project has the correct metocean information – that is, information on wind, waves, currents and water levels, at each phase of a project.

Such information is used in the design of the offshore structures and construction planning. Zoe Roberts says:

“Understanding of metocean conditions is required to guarantee survivability of the structures and assess anticipated downtime so that we can improve the accuracy of the installation schedule. My day-to-day tasks include arranging numerical modelling studies, measurement campaigns and offshore forecasting, analysing data and developing standardised tools and procedures that can be implemented across projects.”

From early childhood she was fascinated by physical phenomena – tornadoes, volcanoes, lightning and earthquakes.

“I was fortunate to have brilliant teachers who encouraged me along a scientific path and I chose to pursue a degree in Meteorology, followed by a PhD in Physical Oceanography. I subsequently worked for four years as a consultant in metocean services and environmental software, before being approached by Vattenfall for a role in the East Anglia Offshore Wind joint venture.”

Most oceanographers remain in academia and Zoe Roberts belongs to a minority to hold a role in industry.

“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to use my expertise in an applied way. I love being able to put my specialist knowledge to good use in supporting my colleagues. I rarely get asked the same question twice, which means I am continually being challenged and always learning.”

What do you think Vattenfall should do to increase the proportion of women at your workplace?

“Looking around the London office, we are pretty equally split. The issue in Vattenfall is more apparent at managerial levels – this is a problem across many different businesses and industries. In order to overcome this, Vattenfall must make sure that the development of their female employees enables them to compete better against men when applying for promotion, by addressing imbalances such as those highlighted in Susan Colantuono’s TED Talk*.”

“We must firstly admit that the current approach to training and development across most businesses is inherently sexist. Men are taught to strategise, to understand the business and the risks it faces, while women focus on ‘softer’ skills, such as communication and organisation. Identifying female talent and providing women with the right mentoring and encouragement to pursue senior roles is key to attaining equality at all levels, and this would hopefully become self-perpetuating.”

* Susan Colantuono’s TED Talk

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