Please tell us about yourself

Jaz Rabadia is the Senior Manager of Energy & Initiatives at coffee chain Starbucks. She studied Mechanical Engineering at university, but it was her experience working on the checkouts in a supermarket that kickstarted her career in energy.

What made you want to study engineering at university?

Like most students, I had no idea of what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’.  I chose engineering mainly because I knew it wasn’t the typical subject for a girl to be studying, but it turned heads and I quite liked being different. From a young age I was inquisitive and creative; engineering provided me with the opportunity to continue this.

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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 & Mathematics) skills in the UK, plus I wanted to keep my career options open.

How did you get into an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career such as energy management?

Whilst studying for my Mechanical Engineering degree at City University London, I worked part time as a checkout assistant in my local Sainsbury’s store. In the second year of my degree I had to select two additional modules. I chose 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. When it was time to start writing my dissertation, rather than take on the project title I was given, 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.

What does your job as an energy manager involve?

As Senior Manager of Energy & Initiatives at Starbucks, I’m responsible for reducing the electricity used to power the stores, the gas used to heat the stores and the water used for washing and cleaning across our Europe, Middle East and African region.

My role involves 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, setting accurate budgets, developing environmental colleague engagement tools and making sure the business complies with all environmental legislation.

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 opportunities throughout the organisation with baristas, store managers and our leadership team too.

Why is it so important for large companies like Starbucks to employ people to manage their energy usage?

Energy specialists are employed to help companies achieve their environmental and sustainability ambitions. Alongside this, energy can form a large proportion of company’s costs and there are often lots of opportunities to build in efficiency through use of technology, procurement strategies and behaviour change.

These roles are becoming more and more common as companies are being driven by the corporate responsibility agendas, changes in energy legislations as well as customer expectations.

In a global business like Starbucks which has a growing presence in over 65 markets across the world, it is crucial for us to listen the experiences and knowledge our partners in stores to learn and apply key energy lessons.

Last year you were awarded EY Energy UK Young Energy Professional 2014. Has receiving this award opened up any new opportunities to you?

Receiving this award was an amazing and humbling experience. More than anything it’s given me confidence in my abilities and my achievements to date, whilst raising the profile of what I do across a very diverse energy industry. It’s great to be recognised by my peers for my contribution to the energy sector.

Is your role creative?

For me a career in engineering is less about what you do and more about how you think. It’s about being able to find solutions, get creative, have a logical approach and work in partnership with people. I love working in energy engineering as I see instantly the difference I am making to energy and water bills. The work that I do not only saves organizations costs, but also makes them more environmentally responsible. My role requires me to have a creative approach to energy saving solutions in a retail customer focused environment.

Throughout your career so far, what has been your greatest inspiration?

In the last 10 years of my career there have been some inspiring advances in engineering and technology that have helped to connect the world and make it a healthier, safer and exciting place. Engineering is all around us, the food we eat, the roads we travel and the jobs we do. I draw inspiration from everything that people take for granted; because I know somewhere an engineer was involved in making it happen!

Do you have any exciting plans for the future or particular ambitions within engineering?

I’m quite new to my role here at Starbucks and am very excited about what the future holds. The beauty of studying engineering is that it can take you anywhere! The skills you pick up are very transferable and particularly sought after. One thing I’d like to focus on in the next year is raising awareness of the opportunities within energy and inspiring the next generation of energy professionals.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in engineering?

Engineering is not just hammers, spanners and boiler suits. If problem solving, team work and creativity are what you want out of a career then engineering is for you. Particularly for young females, with less than 10% of engineers being women, there is a real gap to be filled. The UK has recognised the shortage of women in engineering roles and these businesses are crying out for good female engineers. The opportunities to get a job, grow and make a difference within engineering and energy are endless.

To find about more about where roles in energy can take you, check out the hashtag #MyDayInEnergy on  twitter. And for those working in energy, don’t forget to share with the world what your job involves using the hashtag, it may help to inspire the next wave of energy professionals.