Octopus Energy is made up of 3,000+ fantastic people working on stuff you'd never expect, all pushing hard towards a shared goal: driving the global green energy revolution. In our Spotlight series, we'll introduce you to some of the brilliant people behind the scenes. (Fancy joining them? Browse Octopus jobs.)
Meet Vania, she’s part of Alex Schoch’s flexibility team, working on smart green energy products that put power back into the hands of the people.
She started her Octopus career directly supporting customers in our Operations team, and now she is the lead on one of our newest products ‘Power Ups’, providing free energy to customers at specific times. I had the chance to sit down with her to discuss her awesome career journey and the cool products that prove why flexibility is the key to a green energy future.
Samsam: Hi Vania, so what do you do at Octopus?
Vania: So, I am a delivery coordinator within the flexibility team which means I help bring cool new flexible products to different markets in the UK.
Samsam: Can you tell me a little bit more about your career trajectory?
Vania: Sure, I studied chemistry at undergrad, and I did a masters in green chemistry, which focused on energy and the environment. I was really searching for a green energy related role but it was super difficult as I had no experience. I found out about Octopus through a bus ad in Camden and I applied to be an energy specialist. After directly supporting customers for about two years, I joined the internship team and got to properly know all the different departments at Octopus. I started supporting Alex Schoch and the flexibility team with little side projects, and within a couple of months they hired me for a full-time role.
Samsam: What exactly is energy flexibility?
Vania: Flexibility is the concept of working with the electricity grid to balance the energy supply coming in and out. As we move towards creating a 100% renewable energy grid, we know it’s important that the generation and supply match so we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels when the demand gets higher than we can generate.
A good analogy I heard about grid balancing is that it’s like a motorway with a certain number of cars, which are speeding by quite quickly. When it’s rush hour, and the cars on that same route triple or quadruple, you’re going to get traffic. That’s when you need a better system or a bridge to minimise the traffic.
That’s what flexibility is: we’re the bridge that helps you keep the system running when it’s overloaded.
Samsam: Cool! And what is Octopus doing in this space?
Vania: So, our job is to look at different types of smart tech solutions to balance the demand and supply system. That can be anything from Electric Vehicles as batteries to store energy, smart tariffs or community campaigns like ‘the big dirty turn down’ and ‘savings sessions’.
A lot of our work requires that we work closely together with customers as balancing the grid is a real team-effort. We want to get customers excited to have more control of their usage, to exercise their power and ultimately, save money on their bills.
People-powered flexibility is the future
Samsam: Amazing! What has your first year in the flexibility team been like?
Vania: Luckily, I already knew the team and had good relationships with some of them. It’s been really great working with people with all different types of expertise, from so many different types of backgrounds; it makes for an amazingly collaborative environment.
We’re working on new stuff, and it's awesome to have so many people and different perspectives working on this.
Personally, it’s been a massive year of growth and learning. I had a vague idea of what flexibility was when I first joined the team, but I quickly learned I knew nothing so it’s been super exciting delving into the world of energy and flexibility.
Everyone is super friendly, helpful and easy to work with. I love the collaborative aspect more than anything
Samsam: What are you currently working on?
Vania: My role is to talk to the companies that manage the energy networks and convince them to work with Octopus to try new, flexible energy projects with homes in their area. It's great for the businesses because it helps them manage supply and demand more smartly, and customers benefit too. Usually with a reward like free energy or money off their bill for using more/less energy during certain times.
I’m also currently leading on a cool project called ‘Power ups’ which is our newest product where we are offering totally free electricity at certain locations and times so customers can benefit from times of high green electricity generation.
It’s still a very niche service and we are one of the few on the market which is very exciting. The most fun job of my part is definitely finding new opportunities to enter into this brand new market, and collaborating with different parts of the business to bring this to life.
Samsam: What does your day to day look like?
Vania: Every day is different; but we’re always focused on finding great new ways for customers and businesses to benefit from the smart grid. Lately, I’ve been working on marketing the products we have in specific area so customers know all about the great deals available to them.
Samsam: What's the most interesting day you've had at work?
Vania: I am also part of the Octopus Equality internship team, which was set up to offer internships to BAME young people, and help diversify our industry. My best day at work was when all the interns came into the office last year. The internship has been such interesting and fulfilling work and getting to know all the interns was a joy. I’d never worked on a project like this before so it felt like we were all figuring things out as we went. I’m really proud to be part of a team that’s created something really impactful, with so many people across different parts of the business involved. All taking time out of their very busy days to work on this with so much commitment; it feels incredible.
Working with Suraj, Joanna, Sai and the entire Internship team has been so fun!
Samsam: What other cool projects have you been able to work on?
Vania: Recently, Octopus sent me on a community energy apprenticeship with ‘Repowering London’ which was amazing. They are an incredible charity that work closely with community energy groups to support marginalised communities to access green energy. I helped them install solar panels on the rooftops of community centres and schools. I got to climb the rooftops alongside the engineers and get amazing first-hand insight into the entire process.
They also train and support young people to gain different green industry skills and I got to help them analyse their financial and data analysis. They work with Octopus closely on other projects so I absolutely loved getting a chance to work with them directly.
I really love the concept of community energy and crowdfunding, as it’s the community coming together to help each other
Samsam: What special thing does Octopus bring to the energy market?
Vania: Not to be cliche, but we’re unique because we have our tentacles in so many different places. We are a supplier with a customer base that is not just large, but super passionate which is rare and really sets us apart. We’re also unique because we have immediate access to all the different teams within Octopus to bring our innovative ideas to fruition, from the renewables team in generation to the tech team working on Kraken.
Samsam: Why is your work so important?
Flexibility is crucial because we need a massive energy and societal shift in the way we use energy, if we ever want to reach NetZero. Flexibility is the key to that, and we have the ability to use our assets, products, tariffs and connection with the community to drive this change. Eventually, almost everyone will have an electric car, heat pump and/or solar so it matters that we’re using them in the best possible way. For customers, this includes a lot more control over their energy and appliances.
As more and more green energy products hit the market, the amount of people needing renewable energy is going to get much bigger; and we need as many smart solutions for that as possible.
We're all doing our bit towards contributing towards a smarter grid, that contributes towards greener electricity and the ultimate aim of NetZero
Samsam: What's the coolest thing coming soon to the flexibility industry?
Vania: Batteries on Intelligent Octopus. This will give customers the ability to optimise their battery and allow them to charge or use their energy at the best (cheapest) times. Check out our next Octopus Flux tariff to get the most out of your solar and battery.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
Your favourite Octopus memory?
Our first post- internship party
Your favourite artist?
I also got free tickets to a Beyonce concert recently, and the way she fills up a stadium is surreal.
Your favourite film?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Your favourite place in the world?
Eritrea. It’s where my mom is from and it was an incredible experience visiting home
One thing you really want to do this year?
Learn how to rollerskate backwards