Guy Chalkey was recently appointed a Non-Executive Director at Reactive Technologies, an energy company which is enabling the global transition to renewable power grids. He is also the Managing Director of Western Power, the Australian energy company and has worked all over the world in sectors ranging from water to duty free.
How is technology affecting your sector?
In the last few years, technology companies have started to offer different, innovative solutions in the energy sector [as well as his role at Reactive, Chalkley is MD of Western Power in Australia]. It’s no longer just “build a substation or build a new power line”. Rather, it’s a much more high-tech approach and makes far greater use of data and tech. Traditional asset suppliers are also moving into more specialist data and analytics. Reactive came off the back of this – it’s trying to resolve an age-old issue in the electricity market. This is that companies have never really been able to really understand what the true losses of power in transmission and distribution are.
Do you find it very different being a non-executive director?
It takes you into the next phase, really. You're not involved in the day-to-day running of the business, but obviously you're trying to put your experience across at a higher level. It’s just a different lens to see the world through, I suppose.
What took you from London to Perth?
I was doing a job reference with an Australian recruiter for an ops director I used to work with at Thames Water. They take references pretty seriously in Australia, so you end up talking on the phone for quite a long time and one thing led to another. The guy phoned me back within a couple of weeks with an offer – and I was ready for a change. Perth is a really interesting place – beautiful climate and good people - but quite a small city compared to Sydney, Melbourne or London.
What sort of advice would you give someone looking for their first non-executive role?
There's nothing worse than taking a role when you're not really passionate about the product or the service that the company is actually providing. I think you can offer much more if it’s something you’re interested in and care about. So take your time and don’t just jump into the first non-executive role that comes along. Really look at what it is you’re getting into.
Do you think the role of non-executives has changed in the last ten years?
From governance and risk perspectives I think the role of all directors has changed enormously. You've got to be really certain that the company that you're joining is right for you and know why you want to join. You can’t just turn up to a non-executive role and enjoy. You've got to be equal to it and you have to be aware of your responsibilities when you go into it.
How do you think the business world is changing?
People are having to reinvent themselves constantly because of the pace of change. Of course, people, technology and systems have been around forever, but I believe things are moving more quickly now. Trying to adapt, plan ahead and make the right decisions quickly has got much harder. If I reflect on what the world was like when I started out in the early 1980s it’s a very different place now and it’s moving at a very, very different pace. One thing that people are really picking up on is that the skills that help us deal with all this are things like emotional intelligence and communication. It’s interesting that the skills which have been around for thousands of years are probably going to be needed even more in the future.
How would you describe your experience with Nurole?
Mine was very refreshing. They seem to be very good at using the data and matching people to jobs. You're not bombarded with things. Obviously I have a strike rate of one out of one, though.
A Few Quick-Fire Questions...
What’s your favourite film?
I like old films – and anything where I can get into a character or learn about history through a story. If I had to pick one, perhaps Bogart’s The African Queen.
Do you have a hobby or pastime?
I collect watches. I think of it as my illness, rather than a hobby, although I always tell myself they’re an investment. I have mainly old 1960s and 70s Heuers.
I gave you £100,000 what would you invest it in?
A Paul Newman Rolex.
Give us one piece of advice.
Take opportunities. If somebody is brave enough to give you an opportunity I think you should be brave enough to take it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like it. When people have said to me do you want to go to Poland or Mexico or wherever, I’ve gone without doing that much thinking. It’s better than realising you’re at the end of your career and finding yourself regretting not taking these chances.
If you are looking for senior executive and non-executive director roles, Nurole's innovative recruitment platform can help.