As part of a series of interviews with women in the geothermal energy sector in cooperation with WING, we spoke with Umut Destegul Solaroglu, Business Development Manager for Enther Enerji and WING ambassador in Turkey.

Women in Geothermal (WING) is a fantastic effort by women in the geothermal energy industry globally that was founded to promote the education, professional development, and advancement of women in the geothermal community. Open to anyone who is interested in supporting and engaging with women in the geothermal industry – current WING members, those interested in joining WING (its free to join), friends of WINGs, and an incredible energetic support crew out there (yes that means WINGmen too!).

In an effort to spread the word and introduce the group, ThinkGeoEnergy in cooperation with WING will be doing a series of interviews women in the geothermal sector, starting with “Ambassadors” of WING in various countries of this world.

So we are very pleased to start off this series with an interview with Umut Destegul Solaroglu from Turkey.

Umut Destegül Solaroğlu is the Business Development Manager for Enther Enerji Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. in Istanbul. Her career started in Turkey, where the Kocaeli and Duzce earthquake inspired an academic pursuit of geodynamics and natural hazards. She recieved a scholarship to continue studies in Holland, and then an internship that became a full-time position in the United States specializing in disaster management research. Her next move was southward to New Zealand where she was a Hazard Impact Modeling Engineer with the GNS. She met her future husband, and decided to return to Turkey to support his career. Throughout the years in Turkey’s geothermal sector, she also tested the waters of geothermal exploration consulting, and became more interested in and took on more leadership roles through her positions with BM Holding, Transmark Services, and Enther Enerji.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I loved science, space and beyond, also enjoyed discussions about philosophy, I think my parents especially my father’s interest in Science led me to the topic and when I entered geophysics, I felt not so much like an alien.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for women in the geothermal sector?

Prejudice, where many investors (in Turkey) think that if you are a man who has 10+ years experience in the government institutes then you have a say. Actually, geothermal needs both experience and visionary approach especially in technical matters, I think sector needs to see that we need more dynamic people just like geothermal’s nature.

Why do you think it is important for women in geothermal to join forces?

There is no question that there is an inequality, therefore we need to address it. If we do not, there will be no change in the circumstances, which will affect us all.

What is the best advice for your career you have ever been given?

At ESRI, my mentor and manager Mike Da Luz, used to visit me in the cubicle and would start writing on the white board “Who, what, where, when, how, who pays and in big letters SO WHAT?”. I think his guidance was invaluable to me and have a dear place in my heart. I still try to follow his guidance.

If you had one piece of advice to give for your younger self what would it be?

Don’t let your professional development get in the way of enjoying other things in life, focus more on getting the motto “Work hard, play hard”.

Do you have any additional thoughts on work/life balance or examples of work/life balance in your life?

I can say that I was working hard and had several hobbies to follow in general, but lately creating a big family and living in several cities at the same time (Umut and her husband used to live in different cities in Turkey) did create much less of a social life, it was another compromise to secure our planned future. Although, this concept of living in different cities is getting more and more common, I think it is important to avoid such measures if possible. Overall, I would say that work- life balance may be achieved if the environment is is setup convenient to it, for example one of the important things to balance is it to create time by having a less commute, which is a big step towards it!

You are the WING Ambassador for Turkey. How much have women made inroads into your national geothermal industry?

Our very first meeting of WING will be this weekend in Kusadas?, a retreat sponsored by Nalco, where we will gather 20+ women and men to start up this organization. Also, it’s very fortunate to have Ms Abbie Dean the New Zealand Ambassador attending to the event, surely she will lead us to the right direction on our first steps. I think the 20+ attendance is an impressive number for our industry and country. We do have several women who are actively working in geothermal thus, this meetings’ first step is also to understand how much exposure we have and where we stand in general.

Umut may be contacted regarding WinG and her activities in Turkey or internationally by email: udestegul@enther.com.tr 

We would like to think Laura Garchar a WING member in the U.S. and Staff Geoscientist with Geologica Geothermal Group Inc. who helped make this interview possible.

Interview with Umut Destegul Solaroglu of Enther Enerji, WING Ambassador in Turkey