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The Power of Mentorship: Interview with Bruna Moscol

The Power of Mentorship: Interview with Bruna Moscol

I think this is incredibly important work. We have so many talented women that are graduating schools, or maybe they’re starting their careers, and they want to get somewhere cool and fun, and somewhere that’s necessary. We need more women in the power industry.

Bruna Moscol is a mechanical engineer with a degree from MIT and a Business Development Manager at Camlin Energy. In an interview for Women in Power Systems, Bruna talked about the challenges and highlights of her career, the power of support and mentorship and the importance of encouraging young women to enter the power industry.

Rachel Linke Bruna, what first prompted you to choose MIT, and how did you decide to go into mechanical engineering?

Bruna Moscol As a teenager, I was absolutely in love with natural sciences. I loved physics, I loved biology. I would read Stephen Hawking and he would blow my mind. First I was more into the theoretical side – theoretical mathematics and physics.

But when I got to MIT, I would sit down in classrooms where it was just theoretical mathematicians. Professors would say things like “Prove that the number two is real.” And I would think “Well… it is! I’m not sure what you want me to tell you right now, but it is!” So, after a few classes in theoretical maths, I began to think that actually I had always really enjoyed working with my hands. My parents were blue collar immigrants, and my dad was a contractor. He would put fences up, do carpentry, put shelves up and fix roofs, and I would always help out.

So, to my mind, work meant being physical, moving things around. And when I saw the machine shop at MIT, I just fell in love. I saw all the tools, the robotics, the little controllers and the motors and I just thought “I have to do this!”

RL That is an empowering testimony that touches on one of the goals of Women in Power Systems, which is to encourage young girls to see STEM studies and jobs in technology as an option. We know that female talent has a lot to offer, but there are also challenges in sectors such as engineering. What are some of the challenges that you have come across as a mechanical engineer in the industry?

To my mind, work means being physical. When I saw the machine shop at MIT, I fell in love and I just thought “I have to do this!”

BM I would answer that two-fold. The first half is from a technical perspective and the second half is more of a personal perspective. From the technical perspective, the industry moves quickly because technology moves quickly. That means that you can take hours and days to read white papers, to learn the material, look at the data set, but two years from now, that data is going to be generally outdated. There will be new tools in the market, new frontiers will be pushed and you are going to have to learn it all over again. So, I would say that one of the biggest challenges of being in a technical field such as power, and especially in a company that is really pushing the boundaries of what is possible, like Camlin Power, is that constant learning. It never ends and you cannot get lazy. I would say that you have to have a lot of energy and you have to be really proactive to stay on top of the new developments in the industry.

From a personal perspective, I would say one of the biggest challenges is the fact that the power industry is very largely male dominated – still. Out of ten meetings that I go to, in nine of them I am the only woman. And it happens over and over. It doesn’t matter if it is in California, or in South Dakota, or in Washington, or Wyoming – I will most likely be the only woman in the room. What that means for the woman in the room is that you have to be extraordinarily confident, especially at a young age. Not only are you the youngest person in the room, you are also the only woman in the room, and you can feel like you have more eyes on you. So, you have to be really confident and own it.

RL You mentioned how quickly the industry moves. Camlin is a company that does everything from rail monitoring to transformer monitoring, so the business opportunities and career possibilities are vast. But you chose Camlin and they chose you. Why Camlin?

BM That is an excellent question. Of course, the power industry is very wide in scope. There are many different roles that you can perform with an engineering or sales background, and especially with both.

When it comes to Camlin, one of the things that really attracted me to the company and that I am really proud of is our Research and Development (R&D) Department in Europe. We are one of the world’s leaders in transformer technology and everything that is related to transformer research is done at our center in Ukraine. We have several PhD holders that only focus on niche aspects of transformer monitoring. We have an expert in partial discharge who spent twelve years studying just that. What that allows us to do is to have a relatively small but a very quick team that can create technology at a very fast pace. I would compare that to a big company that has 50,000 employees, and there is a lot of red tape and a lot of different groups. Before something is released onto the market, maybe they have to go through years of research. We go through years of research too, don’t get me wrong. But we can also hear the customer. We have ears on the ground. And once we hear feedback from the customer, we can adapt that feedback and incorporate it very quickly, much quicker than our competitors.

So, I really enjoyed that part about Camlin and coming from a technological background like the one at my university and the other companies I had worked at, I was really excited about Camlin and how quick they were at incorporating new advancements and technology into our products.

In nine out of ten meetings, not only are you the youngest person in the room, you are also the only woman in the room. So, you have to be extraordinarily confident and own it!

RL You mentioned the idea of credibility when you go into a room or pick up the phone and talk with another engineer from a company that you are trying to sell a product to. Could you give us an insight into that relationship?

BM I think that is the biggest issue that we encounter as business development managers and people on the ground. A lot of times I will pick up the phone and hear on the other end of the line “Who are you again? I’ve never heard from you before.” The very first thing that I say is “Hi, my name is Bruna. I’m an engineer here with Camlin Power.” They can hear my voice; they can hear I’m female. So, talking about credibility, unfortunately it is still the case that before the person gets to know you, the technical degree carries more weight. The reason I start off by saying that I’m an engineer is that, at the very least, their reaction is “Okay, this is not just a telemarketer, right? This is somebody who understands what I do.”

I thoroughly research every person before I call them, because I want to make sure that the person has something of value to gain from talking to Camlin. Depending on their title and my research, I will ask them, for example: “You do substation maintenance engineering for the entire western region of Washington State. Is that something that you’re still involved in? What aspect of that do you oversee?” And as soon as I ask that, I can almost hear them thinking “She definitely knows what my role is about, and she has an understanding of what this role could potentially entail across different companies.” So, as you ask more informed questions, you can hear people’s disbelief beginning to disappear, and they begin to trust you more and more.

I have had phenomenal mentors all my career and I think it’s important to have the sort of mentorship that is not micromanagement but is providing a resource for you to make sure that you grow into the professional that you could be.

RL Leveraging your engineering background is brilliant and shows that engineers are problem solvers. We talked about the challenges you came across, but there is a more positive side to the story as well. What kind of support and encouragement have you had on your journey as a woman in the power system industry? How has that affected you?

BM I would say that I have been extraordinarily lucky. I have had excellent mentors pretty much from the very start. I started in the power industry around the age of 20 at Entergy in Texas. Until I came to Camlin, that was the only job where I had a woman in a technical role in the team, another engineer. But I had phenomenal mentors in the Woodlands in Texas, outside of Houston. My next role was at Sun Edison where, again, I had a phenomenal mentor. He was a vice president of engineering, and he was just excellent. That was the case at every company that I have been in, and especially here at Camlin, which has a complete mentorship program. So, when I joined in, they paired me up with a mentor, one on one, and he was fantastic. He had some 20 years of experience over me, so I had a lot to learn from him. We met one-on-one for an hour on a weekly basis. Every Friday, we would be on the phone and go through all of my deals and everything that happened over the week. That type of mentorship is not like a helicopter hovering above you. It is not micromanagement, but it is providing a resource for you to make sure that you grow into the professional that you could be. I have been very lucky to have excellent mentors, managers and bosses who truly believed in me pretty much through my entire career, and definitely at Camlin.

RL You just wonderfully emphasized what we knew when we were starting Women
in Power Systems – there is female talent already in the industry, and there is
much more potential in girls and women interested in these fields, but they
need support and empowerment. What we want is collaboration between men
and women that is mutually beneficial, and an inter-generational dialogue. We
believe that women have a lot to offer in different positions, not only leadership
ones. Your story shows how an engineering background brings credibility, but
also that the true credibility is who you are as a woman.

BM Thank you! I just want to end by saying: I think this is incredibly important work. We have so many talented women who are graduating schools, or maybe they are starting their careers, and they want to get somewhere cool and fun, and somewhere that is necessary. We don’t have the Internet if we don’t have power. Literally everything depends on the power industry. I am very happy about the efforts of Women in Power Systems. We need more women in the power industry, so thank you for what you do.

RL Thank you for sharing your story, Bruna, it has been a pleasure.