Mozambique is quickly positioning itself as a globally competitive producer and exporter of natural gas. The country boasts the presence of several energy majors such as ExxonMobil, all of which have played a central role in driving large-scale gas developments. ExxonMobil’s Public and Governance Affairs Advisor Lecticia Sepulvede has a vision to support Mozambicans achieve their full potential in this area. Sepulvede is featured on the African Energy Chamber’s (http://www.EnergyChamber.org) list of 25 Under 40 Energy Women Rising Stars.
Please share a brief overview of your journey in the energy industry that led to your current role? What are some key achievements or milestones that you are particularly proud of?
I have been working in the industry since 2018, following the conclusion of a Masters in Petroleum, Energy, Economics and Finance from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, UK with a full Chevening scholarship in partnership with Shell. The vision has always been to support Mozambicans to achieve their full potential and successfully explore the natural resources of the country in a sustainable manner. During the five years that I have worked for ExxonMobil in the Public and Government Affairs department, I have been working with all the stakeholders to successfully manage expectations and maintain good working relations with the community, government and the general public. I am most proud of the work I have done to support the thousands of displaced individuals caused by the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. I managed to work with government, civil society, other IOCs and community implementing partners to ensure that thousands of internally displaced Mozambicans had meals and family kits. As a note – supported areas that even the most notable NGOs like the UN did not support due to security considerations. I was even awarded a Global Excellence award within ExxonMobil for going above and beyond.
I do want to stress the level of cooperation I have promoted between the IOCs in Mozambique to support collaboration and information sharing to the extent possible where it will support the progression of the projects as well as the improvement of lives of those who have been negatively impacted by the insurgency. I have advocated that the communities do not care who is helping and it is a much better look for the different IOCs operating in the region and the governments to show a unified front and identify solutions for all.
The energy industry is known for its complexities. What were some significant challenges you faced along the way, and how did you navigate through them to achieve your goals?
The past couple of years have been uniquely challenging with the effects of the pandemic and its economic consequences felt throughout the world. Furthermore, the insurgency in Northern Mozambique caused even more delays to the development of existing resources. The general public and government sentiment have really pushed the industry in Mozambique to do more, faster. As a public and government affairs advisor for ExxonMobil, I am naturally part of the team (of three) that interfaces with the general public, government and media. I have successfully engaged these stakeholders to manage expectations and continue to demonstrate our commitment to Mozambique. Communication and transparency have been my greatest assets to navigate all these challenges. Education the communities to understand the various challenges that we face and how to tackle them. I am also natural at bringing people together to identify solutions for the best outcome. My biggest asset remains to be my communications capacity – in speaking multiple languages, I feel I can easily navigate through different cultures and really promote a feeling of comfort and trust.
What advice would you give to young females aspiring to excel in the energy sector? Are there any specific strategies or mindsets that helped you overcome obstacles and reach your current position?
My advice to young women would be:
- Speak up and show up. Let yourself and your brilliant ideas be heard. You bring something to the table – whether it’s your unique perspective, your ideas and/or other tools you may have at your disposal – leverage them!
- Ask questions and be curious – growing up I was told “the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask”. Knowledge management has You don’t know everything, so don’t feel ashamed to ask (just assess the situation or find a moment where you can get further clarifications)
- Find mentors and champions – identify someone who can help you in this male dominated industry to help you achieve your objectives through support and mentorship.
A career in energy can be demanding. Could you describe a typical day in your life?
In my role I am fortunate to support the whole business in some way shape or form. For the department, I support with internal and external communications: which include press releases, engagement with media, event designing and management, conference coordination and internal communications designed to create unison and sense of belonging within the organization. I am equally responsible for identifying and implementing initiatives that support the communities in which we operate and I support with government engagements as required with our exploration blocks and public consultation meetings – showing a unified front with government and openness to meet with interested parties. As you can imagine, all of this can only be done with a lot of planning, a lot of understanding and learning about the business and a lot of engagements with our stakeholders which is what consumes my day to day. ensuring the various processes are followed and respected to successfully employ all the tasks under my purview.
Looking ahead, what changes or advancements do you hope to see in the energy sector, and how do you envision your role in shaping that future?
I am an advocate for women in leadership positions within the industry and for governments to be armed with the right policies to successfully reap the benefits of these resources in benefit of their communities.
More involvement of women in the industry and their career progression into leadership positions within the industry. It is still difficult to find women that young girls can look up to and aspire to be as most seats in leadership are still occupied by men. Gender balance in this area is a passion of mine. To achieve this:
- I am supporting young girls, through my community initiatives in Mozambique by supporting public schools, students, and orphans through the continuous distribution of IT resources, STEM and Robotics training and scholarships and ultimately debunk the misconception in Mozambique that STEM is for boys. I believe that by helping girls reach their full academic potential, I am enabling them to thrive in this and any industry and ultimately contribute to the development of Mozambique.
- I am equally implementing the Power Play in Mozambique each year and now in Cape Town to promote mid-career individuals with their peers and seniors for networking and growth. My vision is to help women find each other and have champions and mentors to see that it is possible and that we have to support each other vs competing with each other.
- I also engage governments continuously to provide project updates and work hand in hand to identify policies and solutions that will support both sides to ideally reach mutual agreements in support of the people – for example local content initiatives.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Chamber.