A Conversation with Mavis Anagboso
Updated: Aug 25
Following our relaunch of the Role Models series, we are delighted to share Mavis’ insights and experiences on her 'career pivot' from the civil service into energy, the importance of mentoring and sponsorship and how intersectionality can affect women in the energy industry.
Mavis grew up in the oil city of Warri in Nigeria and studied Economics and Statistics before moving to the UK to further her education with MScs in International Economics, Banking and Finance and Policy Analysis and Evaluation.
Mavis started her career in the UK Civil Service in various economics leadership roles supporting macroeconomic policy. She spent 10 years in the Office for National Statistics working with high profile stakeholders including the Ministry of Defence, HMT the Bank of England and the devolved governments of the United Kingdom.
She moved into Oil and Gas in 2013 first as a Petroleum Economist and then in various roles supporting client relations, supply chain operations as well as data analysis for the NSTA.
She founded her own Executive Coaching and DEI Consultancy in 2020 and co-founded The Africulture Network, a charity working to improve cultural diversity in Scotland by providing a forum for Africans and non-Africans to learn about the rich history and culture of the African continent.
She now works for Harbour Energy as the Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
You transferred into the energy industry from the ONS into a role as an economist. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I still consider myself a recovering economist. The first ten years of my career was spent as a civil servant in the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was a significant point in my career as my mindset shifted from theoretical to applied macroeconomics that informed policy making at the highest level of government. From very early on in my career I was exposed to strategic decision making which was scary and exciting in equal measure. I felt like a fraud most of the time and it took ‘finding my tribe’ for me to slowly develop the confidence to be more confident in various roles I had. My support network (or tribe) included four colleagues that started at roughly the same time as me and two managers that believed in me more than I believed in myself. I experienced a lot of failure, and also lots of successes. The highlight of my time in the ONS was attending the pre-monetary policy committee meetings at the Bank of England and meeting people like Mervyn King (Bank of England Governor) and others. I was also proud to be responsible for producing economic analysis that was regularly cited in the BBC and other media outlets following the publication of key releases like the Inflation Index or quarterly GDP report.
The current economic environment may give opportunities for others to ‘Career Pivot’ into the energy industry. What advice would you give companies considering recruiting people outside energy?
I would say look beyond energy as there are people outside the energy industry with transferrable skills relevant to the sector. Additionally, having a questioning mindset is required if we are to challenge ways of working and work towards net zero. Innovation thrives where we have diversity of thought and experiences. Coming into oil and gas, I expected to see zero bureaucracy/waste because I was transitioning to a profit-making environment and was I wrong! The unit operating cost in the industry was at an unsustainably high level back in 2013 and there was a culture of excess in the industry. I’m pleased to see that there has been a cultural shift across the industry, with most companies now focused on a more sustainable cost-efficient models.
For individuals considering a ‘career pivot’ what guidance would you give to ensure it’s a successful move, in particular for senior leaders looking to make an impact?
I would suggest investing time in getting to understand how the industry works. It’s easy to take knowledge for granted when you have worked in an industry for all your professional life. When I transitioned to the industry, I did not understand the difference between gas and condensates and so spent the first year attending the same courses as graduates despite being an experienced hire. I would also recommend tapping into your network to connect with people already in the industry for an unfiltered view of what it’s like working in the industry.
You often talk passionately about the importance of mentorship within the energy industry. How important do you think mentoring is to help develop the energy workforce? Any advice you would give?
Mentorship is understated but vital to a successful careers. With a few exceptions, most successful people in the corporate world have had mentors guiding them like an invisible hand at critical moments in their career. The best part about mentorship is it doesn’t have to be formal. What is more important is being intentional about nurturing a working relationship so you have a safe space to share mistakes, anxieties and also get advice from someone more experienced.
With your experience in mentoring; do you think sponsorship also has a role to play in supporting women in the industry? Maybe you have experienced great sponsorship from someone?
Starting a new job is like getting in a car in a strange city and not knowing where you’re going to. Mentors are like a sat-nav that can help with guidance, but sometimes we still end up getting lost even with google maps. Having a sponsor feels like having someone clear out obstacles you may encounter along the way. For instance, a massive log obstructing your path (that other people may not encounter). That log may be the fact that you are a woman in a male-dominated environment, neurodiverse, a disability or from an underrepresented ethnic group etc. Google maps can only get you so far, as some unique experiences require a bit more than the standard operating model. Sponsors advocate for you in ways a mentor cannot, and I will argue that every male leader in the industry should actively sponsor a female or an individual from an underrepresented group. If every leader did this, we would see more diversity in leadership roles.
Considering how senior your role is, do you find it challenging to maintain a good work life balance and how do you go about achieving this?
I used to be fixated on achieving balance, but the older I get, the more I realise that happiness comes from doing things that spark joy in your life. My joy is sparked by prioritising exercise about four times a week, spending 1-2-1 time with my two children and my husband. My joy is also sparked by what I do, as I also enjoy seeing the impact a focus on DE&I is having on the company culture in Harbour Energy. Sometimes this means I work longer hours than average, but other times, I work less hours. Balance for me is sticking as close as possible to routines I’ve put in place to maintain a healthy physical and mental fitness.
What have you found most rewarding in your career to date?
My current role. It’s hard to pinpoint a single thing as I’ve had lots of rewarding experiences. Being responsible for the global DE&I strategy for a FTSE100 company is not something I imagined I would do as a young 24yr old graduate starting her first job in the civil service.
What’s the number one thing you think companies should consider when considering diversity and inclusion initiatives?
A credible plan with tracked outcomes. We do this for business strategy, so why not for DE&I?
How do you think intersectionality affects women in the energy industry?
Very significantly, as every woman has an intersection of identities and experiences. We are all uniquely different from one another and gender is only one aspect of our identities. However, we unfortunately fixate on just gender and this could sometimes lead to some females with other identities not being carried along in gender advancement conversations. For instance, how many senior female talent do we see from ethnically diverse backgrounds or openly identify as neurodiverse, with a disability, or from the LGBTQ+ community. Whenever we highlight the underrepresentation of women in the industry, I want us to spare a thought for women from minoritized backgrounds who are excluded from the picture entirely. In any serious conversation about gender diversity, consideration also must be given to the intersectionality of other identities.
Do you have any advice for other seeking to forward their careers in the energy industry?
There are a lot of opportunities in the industry, particularly for people who think differently. The energy transition agenda requires talent across all disciplines, and I would encourage people to consider a pivot to the industry to develop new skills. Don’t be afraid to try out new opportunities, even if you feel grossly underqualified to do them. We are always more prepared than we think we are.