Thanks for giving H2 View your time. We’re celebrating the women working in hydrogen this International Women’s Day. So, what first sparked your interest in hydrogen and working in this industry?
Felicity Underhill (FU): I have spent pretty much my whole career in energy, with the first twenty years more focused on upstream oil and gas. I was starting to feel conflicted about the disconnect between my career and my social conscience, so in 2018, when I had the opportunity to lead Origin Energy’s hydrogen strategy, I jumped at the chance to leave the dark side behind and work on the side of angels.
What’s something that has surprised you about your chosen career path?
FU: It has definitely gone in a different direction than I thought it would when I was completing my studies in International Relations and Conflict Resolution (though those skills are always helpful!) – the main thing for me has been to learn how to be comfortable with changing direction.
What are the challenges facing women in hydrogen today, especially the next generation?
FU: We have an opportunity to build a whole new industry and it is vital to me that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the ends justify the means. Let’s learn from all that has gone before us in order to give green hydrogen the best chance at changing the way forward on climate change.
That means not doing things the way our old school origins might have done things, in oil and gas or mining. That means working collaboratively across sectors, public and private, and across the value chain in order to build this.
Tell us about one woman who has positively impacted you in your career? What lesson did she teach you?
FU: I’m extremely lucky to have developed a network of incredible, intelligent, purpose-driven women who are great friends, coaches, cheer squad and mentors. They include the amazing Maia Schweizer who has recently joined me at Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), leading Australia West; the incomparable Ruth Allen, who genuinely makes me want to be a better person, currently Chief People Officer at NewsCorp Australia, the courageous and outrageous Carla Wilson, currently in Brazil with BHP. The list goes on – Cecile Wake at Arrow, Tracey Boyes at Cleanaway, Emma Covacevich at ClaytonUtz, Fiona Simon at the Australian Hydrogen Council, Julie Shuttleworth and countless others at FFI.
They have taught me that we are stronger together, that we learn by lifting each other up, and that there is always, always time for a laugh.