“The Difference Lies in How You Decide to Take on The Challenge”
Volahasina Rasendramalala, Global Sourcing Manager for Energy, never lets big changes discourage her. This is why she was fueled with passion while working with her team to transfer most European sites to 100% green electricity from renewable energy sources.
Global Sourcing Manager for Energy Volahasina Rasendramalala, Vola for short, is used to big changes, as you’ll be able to conclude from her unique life story. Born in Madagascar, a place she says enjoys 80% endemic flora and fauna, she grew to love and appreciate nature and science. “As a child, I was (and still am) a quiet person. I loved spending time by myself, exploring my surroundings, playing an explorer, researcher or journalist. I studied in an all-girl school until high school. Thanks to that, I do not see gender as an issue. We were allowed to be ourselves, the sky was the limit. I wanted to be a lot of things growing up, but my first choices were either a biologist or something more physics-oriented. I opted for the second choice since I wanted to continue doing mathematics.
After high school, Vola received a scholarship to study in Russia, and although this took her far away from home and to a whole different world, she embraced the opportunity. This is when her gender first became an issue. “I initially signed up to study aeronautics, but my application was declined because I was a girl, and it was a ‘male only’ faculty.” Vola decided to study general and electrical engineering instead. This turn of events may sound upsetting to modern ears, but Vola says that she is actually glad it happened, since she is very happy with how things turned out.
How did such a young woman manage to handle such a considerable change in her life? “The first two years (out of the six I lived in Russia) were difficult,” Vola remembers, “but I noticed people did not mind where I came from as long as I did not mind it. It taught me that everybody is the same, but also that we need to acknowledge the subtle differences in culture and respect them.”
Later on, Vola also found herself studying in France, and she is now based in the Netherlands. But even after years of again and again having to adjust to new cultures and languages, Vola does not feel she has had a particularly hard time: “I do not think there were specific obstacles I had to overcome that others didn’t. The difference lies in how you decide to take on the challenge and if you have a good support system in case you fall down.”
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Vola was first attracted to the field of green energy because of her childhood connection to nature, which she still loves dearly. She started working at ICL Amsterdam in August 2018. At the time, she was doing research on energy regulation and its impact at the University of Delft in the Netherlands, while also working for a French company. She really loved the work environment in the country, so she decided to stay there. As she explains, “ICL happened to have an opening during that time in the site’s energy team, so it was a happy coincidence.”
As part of her new job, Vola became responsible for energy procurement of all kinds — natural gas, fuel, water, etc. — for ICL’s sites in Europe. Recently she has also helped Brazil with their procurement. The role of the energy team is to optimize the energy cost for each site, Vola explains. “Being in the energy field,” she says, “gives me an opportunity to protect nature, indirectly.”
Being a younger woman in an older environment was not an issue for Vola: “I think the work place is attractive to younger people. When I joined ICL, it was a bit daunting, as the average age is more than 35, especially at the sites. But the people are very open. If anything, they are passionate about what the company does. For younger people it is difficult to find this type of meaning in the workplace. The older generation can teach us this.”
Recently Vola has taken a huge enterprise upon herself. She is now working to help transfer most ICL’s sites in Europe to using 100% green electricity from renewable energy, through Guarantees of origin, another daunting task and a big change indeed. But Vola says she wasn’t intimidated by it, as she had much support from the sourcing committee and site managers, as well as from her own managers. “I received a lot of support from my manager, Ery Wormser, and the VPs Heinrich Berger and Dina Gerz on the project,” Vola adds. Vola’s role in the project is to explain the benefits of the move and motivate the teams. “They listened. This is why we were able to make the move,” she says. “This project is the first step in the transition to a more sustainable energy procurement. What is ahead of us is more challenging. I try to educate myself first, so that I can educate others in order to make the best decision for the company.”
Vola reveals that she also gets a lot of support from her family: “Since they cannot do it directly at work, they do it when I am at home. Equality in the household makes a big difference in women’s careers. I am grateful I have that.”
“I think there are many inspiring women and men we can learn from out there. Most importantly, these people do not need to be famous to provide inspiration. They can be your colleagues, parents, friends and family. Everybody you interact with has something to give. It is our role to see how special they are and tell them so.”