14.09.2020 | Axpo Bulgaria’s new Managing Director Milena Videnova encourages female colleagues to join the energy industry

"Be brave and follow your dreams"

At the beginning of August 2020, Milena Videnova joined Axpo as new Managing Director of Axpo Bulgaria EAD. Milena is one of the few women holding management positions in the international energy industry. We asked her why she joined the energy industry, what leadership means to her, how the energy industry can attract more women and how gamification can play a key role in employer branding.

Milena, you have been working in the banking, insurance and financial industry for more than 20 years. Now you decided to get to know a new industry: energy. What do you find particularly interesting about the energy industry? 

Milena Videnova: In the financial industry there are many overlaps with the energy industry, especially in the field of energy trading. Big banks are also active in that field. However, I noticed that the biggest difference to the financial industry is that in the energy industry you do not only have energy trading, but also the production and physical delivery of power and gas. That’s what makes it even more interesting.

For sure – and what about your first impressions regarding Axpo in particular?

I am strongly impressed by the scale, growth, speed and sophistication of the international energy commodity trading of Axpo. I find also particularly interesting the innovations of Axpo Group in automation and digitization, the production and asset management in the renewable sector and the power storage solutions. These areas offer a lot of potential for growth in the future.

For sure – and what about your first impressions regarding Axpo in particular?
"Axpo is a great place to work"
What kind of image does Axpo have in Bulgaria, what does the company stand for?

Axpo Group as a whole is a great place to work, and same goes for Axpo Bulgaria. Our business here stands for energy expertise, reliability, best employer and innovations. I would like to communicate this to the market, especially in the context of the local development of the wholesale trading and the fight for finding and retention of talents and employer branding. 

You’ve just been onboard for a couple of weeks now, but do you have any ideas yet about what you will focus on in your position as Managing Director of Axpo Bulgaria?

I will together with my team, and in cooperation with Axpo Group, generate sustainable growth, drive forward cultural change and boost technology and innovation. My immediate priorities are to retain, grow and develop the Axpo Bulgaria team, ensure smooth operations and ongoing improvement of processes, and further develop the local market.

"I want to stimulate a 'can do attitude'"
What’s your style of leadership?

I strongly believe and drive positive performance leadership. This means: to set clear goals and expectations, measure and celebrate success, appreciate agility, establish and maintain trustful relationships, invest in and develop the team, attract and retain new talents. It also means to motivate by passion, positive energy and opportunities and stimulate a positive “can do attitude” and creativity. I want us to learn from challenges and failures and from all sides, do effective crises and cost management.

You are one of the few women who have been holding management positions in the energy industry. What do you think are the difficulties or obstacles that women face in developing their careers within the energy sector?

The biggest challenges are usually inside us, as it’s psychologically proven that a female leader is judged based on her results and achievements while a male leader tends to be rather assessed on his potential. This is valid for all types of industries and not only in the energy sector. I would like to encourage all young female colleagues to be brave and follow their dreams as it is possible to have a family and career. Look at what happened in the finance industry where I’ve spent the largest part of my working life so far: 20 years ago there were very few women in top positions in the finance sector, in the last 5 years their share increased continuously. It is a matter of time to see more women in top positions within the energy sector too.

"No need for artificial quotas"
Do you really think it is possible to increase the number of women holding management positions or being part of the boards of directors in the energy industry?

Yes, it is possible. I am one of the examples, I have a daughter and always managed to have both, a family and a career. There was a very complex selection process in Axpo and a tough competition for the position. I am sure that I was selected for the position as I was the best candidate and not because I am woman. In my over 17 years of leadership I never selected a person based on gender. Every applicant was selected because she or he was the best suitable candidate for the respective position. I would like every employer in the energy industry to create a “pari passu” professional environment and ensure that there are no unconscious biases. I am very inspired by the recently communicated Axpo diversity initiatives. Our role as leaders is to create the right corporate environment. I believe in a free market economy. There is no need of setting artificial quotas. 

How can the education sector encourage women’s vocations in the areas of science, technology, engineering or math?

In order to attract more young women to select to study science, engineering and mathematics, I would create an extra communication strategy and action plans and use gamification strongly. If you combine mathematics, physics, coding with fun, it will make it more attractive.

Sounds very interesting, is there any possibility for Axpo to position itself in this area?

According to various psychological studies, women are more risk averse and less confident – and they will select a vocation in science or respectively a leadership position in energy only if they are 90% sure that they will manage it. Men, in contrast, will jump in if they are at about 50% sure. In cooperation with universities, Axpo could establish an energy innovation academy for women at high schools or universities. Another idea is to organize hackathons for women or an innovation awards for startups in energy with female founders.

Thanks for these interesting insights, Milena, and lots of success in your new role.
About Milena Videnova:

Milena Videnova (47 years old) is an experienced manager with more than 20 years in the banking, insurance and financial industry. She spent a large part of her career working for the German HypoVereinsbank, Bulgaria’s largest bank UniCredit Bulbank and the Austrian HYPO NOE Gruppe Bank. In recent years, she worked as country manager of the Bulgarian branch of the credit insurer Coface SA and as managing director of elevator producer Kone. In addition, she operated her own insurance brokerage company. Since the beginning of August 2020, she works as Managing Director of Axpo Bulgaria EAD. Milena Videnova has a master’s degree in international economic relations from the University of National and World Economics in Sofia.

About Axpo Bulgaria:

Axpo Bulgaria was founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of the Axpo Group with the name EGL Bulgaria. In subsequent years commercial activities in Bulgaria were taken up, with an initial focus on power, and today, with the emerging gas markets in South Eastern Europe, with an additional focus on gas. In 2011, Axpo Bulgaria added a service center that renders Operations and Back-Office services to the Axpo Group. The team based in Sofia consists of 66 employees.

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