26 December 2019
Q&A with EnergyLab Programs Manager, Milly Young
Learn more about the work going on behind the scenes
Milly Young is the Programs Manager at EnergyLab. Prior to working with EnergyLab, she worked as a management consultant at Nous Group, completed a Master of Environmental Engineering and founded a medtech startup. She is a strong advocate for diversity in entrepreneurship and loves to support women crush their self-doubt, face their fears and see their ideas make a positive impact.

Outside of EnergyLab, Milly is an avid rock climber and adventurer and is passionate about supporting more women in pursuit of adventure. Learn more about Milly below.

EnergyLab Programs Manager,
Milly Young
The EnergyLab team
Tell us more about your role. What inspires you about your position as EnergyLab's Programs Manager?

My role at EnergyLab is to design and deliver programs that help early-stage entrepreneurs take their first steps towards launching successful clean energy startups. I manage two programs to support entrepreneurs across the country, these are:
  • Pre-Acceleration Program in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney
  • The Women in Clean Energy Fellowship (WICEF), which ran as a pilot this year in Melbourne and will expand to Brisbane and Sydney next year

Broadly, what this means is that I design, coordinate and deliver each of these programs to help early-stage entrepreneurs build skills and map out a path to turn their ideas into viable startups.

Another big part of my role is to build a network of energy startups across Australia and internationally and support those startups who are interested in applying for EnergyLab's programs and our Cleantech Angel Group.

At EnergyLab, no day is the same. You'll find me creating webs of sticky notes as I design a session for our Women in Clean Energy Fellowship, facilitating a workshop to help entrepreneurs validate their riskiest assumptions or catching up with an entrepreneur to talk about how we can best support them.

What inspires me about my role is seeing passionate individuals turn their ideas into impactful businesses that are driving the energy transition.
Tell us more about the Women in Clean Energy Program you ran this year as a pilot in Melbourne. How did it go? What did you learn and observe?

The Women in Clean Energy Fellowship was designed to inspire, educate and support more women to start clean energy startups. Early in 2019, we engaged in a co-design process with mentors, entrepreneurs and 'end-users' to plan a program that provides both a space for inspiration and personal growth and a comprehensive overview of the process and skills needed to start a startup. The result of this co-design process was a three-month program which we piloted in Melbourne between August and November. Eleven talented women were selected from a large pool of applicants to participate in the program.

We packed a lot of learning and growth into the three-month fellowship. A wide range of material was covered including; how to hatch an idea, accounting and legal for startups, how to pitch, how to secure investment and sessions on values, resilience and overcoming fear and self-doubt. We also had two delicious dinners with incredible female founders Renate Egan and Emma Jenkin who spoke to their own experiences, challenges and advice for our fellows.

It was hugely successful! We had an incredible group of women whose connections grew stronger and spirits grew fiercer week by week. It was amazing to see this group of women grow and thrive over the course of three months. Each of them left the program more confident in themselves and their ability to start their own company, and with a bunch of new passionate, badass friends. I am so proud to say that, of the eleven who participated in the fellowship, five women have gone on to start their own startups. That is really incredible, five more women entrepreneurs in Australia!

My main learning was that there is simply no stopping a group of powerful, motivated women! I can't wait to see what's next for these ladies.

What can we expect in 2020?

In 2020 we are expanding the WICEF to Brisbane and Sydney! That means the fellowship will run in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney between March and May. We've engaged in a comprehensive feedback process with our recent graduates and mentors and have iterated on the program to make WICEF 2.0 better than ever!

What can we expect? We can expect to see women uprising! In 2019 I saw the power of bringing eleven strong, talented women into a room to talk values, fears and clean energy startup ideas. This group went from strength to strength as the fellowship progressed. In 2020 we'll expand this network of women founders to Brisbane and Sydney. I'm excited to see what comes from a network of clean energy women warriors spread across Australia.
Milly with the EnergyLab WICEF 2019 Cohort
What makes EnergyLab Women in Clean Energy Fellowship program special?

The WICEF is made great by the participants and mentors that are a part of it. At the kick-off evening for the 2019 program I told the fellows that, 'the most value will come from the relationships and bonds that you build with others in this room.' I think this has held true. The connection that is fostered among the women in the cohort is very special. We spend a lot of time in the initial weeks getting to know each other and cultivating an environment of trust and support. The greatest learning happens when we embrace vulnerability and do things that make us uncomfortable. There is a lot of this kind of learning happening in the WICEF; the material we cover is new for most people and there are times when fellows are pushed outside of their comfort zones (for example, pitching their startup idea). In this environment it's important that people trust each other and feel supported. We've worked hard to make sure this is the case in the WICEF. One of our recent graduates commented that, 'it was my happy place,' another said, 'I feel like I've never been more in the right place,' which made me so happy!
Why is it so critical for Australia to support female cleantech future entrepreneurs?

Diversity in all its forms is essential for optimal and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. We need diverse backgrounds, diverse skill sets and diverse lived experiences to imagine and create the energy system of the future. One pathway to increase diversity in cleantech is to support more women founders. But you can't be what you can't see; entrepreneurship and energy are historically male-dominated spaces. That's why it's essential that we support more women cleantech entrepreneurs to forge the path and be role models for other women to enter this arena in the future.

Plus it's a great investment decision; many studies show that women-led businesses perform better!

To date, you have supported almost 50 entrepreneurs at EnergyLab. What has been your most memorable experience?

My role is full of memorable moments. I get to help passionate people bring their ideas to life; that is pure joy! I really enjoy watching ideas take shape over the course of a program as well as observing the personal growth that takes place.

One example is the journey of our fellowship participants over the course of the Women in Clean Energy Fellowship. Watching this group learn, connect, grow and then graduate from the fellowship with a whole lot more confidence and trust in themselves was a beautiful thing.

What is your advice to female entrepreneurs who have a bold idea for a new business?

After each WICEF session, I ask each panellist/mentor/expert this question: 'what is your one piece of advice for future women founders?' If I can bring all that advice together to form a sentence it's this: Back yourself and don't be afraid of failure. With failure comes the greatest learning. I love a good quote, so here's one from Bruce Lee: "Don't fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail."

My second piece of advice is to reach out. I'm always happy to help out in any way that I can. And apply to join the Women in Clean Energy Fellowship 2020!

Applications close Tuesday 21 January. If you have any questions, email Milly at [email protected] .