Fresh from Everflow being named Retailer of the Year at the Water Industry Awards 2022, its environmental and regulatory affairs manager Clare Galland reflects on language lessons at a French nuclear plant, overcoming social anxiety, and the importance of in-person working.

What was your first job in the utilities sector?

Strategic customer research manager for Northumbrian Water Group – maternity cover then permanent.

What work experience or qualifications did you have before moving into the industry?

Newspaper journalism post grad diploma from Cardiff Uni, Philosophy and English Literature degree from Keele Uni, Market Research Society professional certificates, Diversity and Inclusion Level three certificates – nothing technical at all!

What is the most significant way that today’s utilities sector differs from the one you first joined?

Water retailers have introduced new blood, and unlocked innovation and competition in the water industry which was previously under-serving non household customers.

What is your golden rule for overcoming challenges at work generally?

Persistence. Keep asking why or why not. Revisit things when circumstances change.

How would you describe your creative process in three words?

Challenge assumptions and fly.

What’s the strangest place that working in the utilities sector has taken you?

I once taught English in a nuclear power plant in France so they could speak to their Chinese colleagues – didn’t want to get any of that vocabulary or grammar wrong!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I decided to overcome long term social anxiety (shyness) while working for a consultancy because I hated presenting so much and knew I would need to, to progress. On a friend’s advice, I went to an amazing hypno-therapist and it works wonders to this day. It established good brain pathways and thinking habits that lead to self-confidence and clarity and so self-perpetuate. She also gave me recordings and taught me self-hypnosis so that I was self-sufficient. I went back to her for hypnobirthing though!

Which piece of technology, or app, could you not function without?

Google Calendar on my phone.

What do you think is the key to creating the conditions for innovation within the utilities sector?

Time and headspace – not fire-fighting all the time. And making serendipitous connections with people.

Did you learn anything new about collaborating or innovating as a team or business during the pandemic?

That we all need the hormones created by being physically present with each other. Remote working has its place for focused individual tasks, but we’d be a lot less creative and efficient if all our company was working from home all the time.

Which other industry do you feel that utilities can learn most from when creating the conditions for innovation?

Software development.

Is there a standout innovation or collaboration project that you’ve worked on during your time in utilities – what made it special?

Wait and see.

Is there a standout innovation or collaboration project that you wish you’d had the chance to work on during your time in the sector – what made it special?

I’m not that old yet!

What excites you most about the next 10 years in the utilities sector – any trends, tech or specific innovations?

That we have a finite few years to turn the planet’s course around. I’m very happy to be in my current role, where we can influence government, regulators, employees and customers to reduce consumption. I can look my kids in the eye and tell them that I did what I could.

What do you think will be the defining factor in the UK hitting its net zero targets?

People getting back into a scarcity mindset rather than expecting constant growth. Growth should now come from frugality and reuse rather than new shiny things that have many hidden ecological and social costs.

What is the change you’d most like to see within the utilities industry?

Younger people having greater responsibility and not always bowing to experience and inertia. Our founder directors are mostly in their thirties. They’re truly devoted to creating a better world because they have more stake in it.

How do you feel utilities companies can collaborate more – or more effectively?

Improving the regulatory framework so there is a truly level playing field (competition) between associated and unassociated retailers, wholesalers and other market participants and next to no market frictions.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the utilities sector at present?

Customers being aware of their consumption and it’s impact, and caring enough to reduce it.

Which issues or opportunities within the industry don’t you feel get enough airtime?

Metering – it’s unfair that many customers are still not metered or have broken or long unread ones. Soon they’ll have to be if water trading between regions starts to get traction.

We need a smart meter or logger roll out quickly to help customers understand and reduce their consumption – particularly acting on leaks quickly.

What is the most significant way you think the utilities sector of ten years’ time will differ from the one we see today?

A workforce that is more accustomed to fast change.

Utility Week Innovate, in collaboration with Utility Week Live aims to discover and promote innovative approaches to tackle front line business challenges through case studies, technical/project studies, networking, and live content. Be recognised as a key solution provider and meet your target audience face-to-face at UWL23. Find out more about exhibiting