Jaz Rabadia MBE is Senior Manager of Energy & Initiatives at Starbucks. A Chartered Energy Manager, Jaz is a degree qualified mechanical engineer with over ten years’ experience in retail energy and sustainability management. In 2015, Jaz was awarded an MBE for services to the energy industry and promoting diversity in STEM.
“…STEM careers can be as boiler room or as boardroom as one likes and everything in between…”
Channelling my energy into STEM
Like most students, I had no idea of what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’. I was always creative, inquisitive and logical in my approach. My favourite subjects at school were maths, design and science.
When deciding what to choose as a degree, I researched engineering and discovered how important it is in bettering the lives of people all around the world. I knew then that by studying engineering, I could also help to make a difference.
It seemed to be the perfect fit as I knew a degree in engineering would impress future employers and that there was a real shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills in the UK. I figured that by studying engineering I could keep my career options open.
From checkout assistant to Head of Energy
Whilst studying mechanical engineering at City, University of London, I worked part time as a checkout assistant in my local Sainsbury’s store. In the second year of my degree, I chose additional modules in energy management and renewable energy and it was then that I saw how engineering could be applied to make a difference for the world’s future energy demands.
For my final year dissertation, I decided to create my own project: The energy utilisation and management at Sainsbury’s. It seemed perfect, applying my engineering principles to a real-life challenge; energy management in the workplace – and above all I could do my dissertation during paid working hours!
Once complete, I presented my findings to Sainsbury’s Head of Energy who saw just how passionate I was – he even included a summary of my project in Sainsbury’s Corporate Responsibility Report. I maintained contact with him and soon after graduating, I received a call from him – offering me a job!
It really was that simple and I’ve never looked back since. I never imagined that my part time job as a Sainsbury’s checkout assistant would result in a role as Group Energy Manager for the company and then go on to land me a role working for the biggest global coffee company, Starbucks.
My role at Starbucks
As Senior Manager of Energy & Initiatives at Starbucks, I’m responsible for reducing the electricity used across our stores and helping to reduce the environmental impact of our operations.
This includes procuring energy from the wholesale markets, negotiating competitive contracts with suppliers, implementing energy efficiency engineering projects across the stores, influencing the sustainable design of new stores and implementing recycling projects to reduce the amount of waste the business produces.
I love that my role takes me all over Europe and allows me to meet new people. There is a great sense of partnership working at Starbucks and I really enjoy discussing energy saving and recycling opportunities throughout the organisation with baristas, store managers and our leadership team too.
I’m currently enjoying some time off on maternity leave, but am excited to see some of my projects come to life over the next few months.
Key priorities in the energy sector at the moment and why engineers play such an important role
Energy literally powers the world. Without it, we would be back in the dark ages. Although you don’t have to be an engineer to work in the world of energy, it is engineers who are at the forefront of new renewable energy technologies and innovations in low energy equipment.
With world population rising steadily, and technology advancing so rapidly, we are not only using the worlds resources to power our lives, we are also emitting pollutants as we do so. Key priorities in the energy sector currently include reducing the amount of energy we use, increasing the amount and types of renewable energy sources we rely on and ensuring we have safe and secure supply of energy to go about our daily lives.
Education and behaviour change
Energy and sustainability management is as much about engineering as it is about engagement with end users.
Saving energy and reducing waste begins with education and behaviour change. It’s really important to understand what motivates and drives people to break bad habits and to do the right thing. Small changes, with clearly communicated benefits, be they financial, environmental or social can often be the most successful.
Being awarded the MBE
In 2015, much to my shock and disbelief, I was awarded the MBE for my services to the energy sector over the years and for promoting diversity in STEM. I was truly humbled to receive such a prestigious award from HRH Prince Charles and it was a very proud and pivotal moment in my career.
Alongside, having great career development opportunities within Starbucks, I’m also encouraged to develop professionally within the energy industry, allowing me to become a subject matter expert. I’ve been serving on the Board of Trustees at the Energy Institute for the past three years and this provides a great platform to shape the way in which the industry is headed and allows me to give back to the industry from which I have got so much.
I also volunteer as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Ambassador, which involves visiting schools, colleges, universities and careers fairs to talk to students about the opportunities working in these fields offers.
It’s these volunteering opportunities that allow me to inspire more into the sector and promote the importance of energy, engineering and STEM careers.
STEM Ambassadors: From boiler room to board room
I would love to see more STEM professionals volunteering as STEM Ambassadors. We are after all the best advocates of our industry and I think it’s our duty to inspire more people, but particularly women into STEM. By raising the profile of just how diverse careers in STEM can be, we can help encourage more into the sector.
STEM careers can be as boiler room or as boardroom as one likes and everything in between. There really is something for everyone. I think it’s important to help people to understand that STEM practitioners are behind all the things we take for granted in life. The roads that we travel, the food that we eat and the technology that we so heavily rely on.
Often it can seem a barrier to be a young BAME woman in a predominately male dominated workplace, being so different to the others, but I’ve actually found the experience to be much more positive.
I’ve embraced the fact that I am different and that I have something else to offer and bring to the table. I let my experience and professional credibility speak for itself rather than let loose the voices in my head. I’ve been very fortunate to have some great champions and sponsors throughout my career and they have been invaluable in giving me the confidence to truly progress within the industry.
A new challenge
The next six to nine months will present me with a completely different challenge. I’m both nervous and excited to enter the wonderful world of parenthood but I’m also unsure what this break may mean for my career progression thereafter. I imagine there will be a whole lot of reusable nappies insight!
You can read more on my thoughts about entering parenthood here.