by Sarah Taylor

Elegance in energy

Interview with Judi Nwokedi – Consultant for Areva

Judi Nwokedi, a consultant for Areva, the French nuclear energy company is also a member of the IWFSA

Women, have for centuries been overshadowed by their very gender. However, in the 21st century, the business landscape for women has improved substantially as businesses have started to acknowledge women as imperative to the success, growth and sustainability of their daily operations.

In South Africa in particular, women are being recognised for the following contributions: skills development, job creation, management styles, ambitiousness and go-getter attitudes – especially in previously underperforming sectors of the economy.

Dr Vuyo Mahlati is passionate and committed to empowering women by raising the profiles of various women who have stood out in South Africa. Mahlati, head of the International Women’s Forum of South Africa (IWFSA) has identified specific industries to focus on. 

She chose women who shone the brightest and who are an example to others in industries such as financial services, energy, construction, mining and health. 

Submitted into the energy category was energy giant, Areva’s vice president, Judi Nwokedi, whose initial introduction into business was in the telecommunications sector, but whose role is firmly placed in infrastructure today.

As the only black female who completed both a science and social science degree at the University of Cape Town, Nwokedi chose to focus on the science side of her degrees and started her career in telecommunications.

“I was country executive for Motorola sub-Saharan Africa and also a senior executive at the SABC – both roles were closely connected because the one was shifting broadcasting from telecommunications and the other shifting broadcasting from analogue to convergent outplay.” 

After some time, Nwokedi felt her passion lay more in the future of technology and the development of the telecommunication infrastructure.

“I decided to look into a new area that we call a ‘tech-tonic change’ in science, so think about the old days when you would make use of phone calls saying ‘nommer asseblief’ to what we have today,where you can do just about anything, anywhere on a little device. I found myself moving from a fixed line to mobility, which complements tech-tonic shifts and tech-tonic change in the world of technology.

"I found myself looking for a sector that was on the verge of a tech-tonic shift and that’s how I found myself in energy because the industry was heading towards a revolution in terms of how things are done."

The French energy company Areva noted her progressive attitude and recruited her into its ranks as vice president in 2008. Currently she consults in nuclear energy for the company.“France is a highly industrialised country because of their political decision to development a nuclear capability”, she noted.

Nokwedi muses that while she was at university – before she knew anything of Areva – she found out years later, that the company was heavily involved in the Koeberg nuclear plant, a few kilometers away from where she lived and studied. 

Never having had electricity growing up, Nokwedi finds the situation of her working for an energy company ironic, but feels that it was her destiny to be part of energy developments. Her involvement with the IWFSA is still a fairly new one. “I was on their radar because of my success as a public broadcaster.

"I had turned my platform around from loss leading to record breaking revenue earning. It was my track record in broadcasting at the SABC and my success at rolling out telecommunications across Africa which paved the way for me. I was appointed to the IWFSA board in 2011 and was nominated to become a member of IWFSA two years before that." 

The IWFSA is an organisation for pre-eminent women who have achieved and are at the top of their game: Women have been admitted to the bar, to the judiciary, become CEOs, senior vice presidents, deans of faculties, and deacons of the church but the one condition for all of us, is that we have to be committed to social transformation and must have a history of working in a community, as well as being committed to developing the next generation of female leaders who will follow in our footsteps, if they choose.”   

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Issue 39