Giving Power to the People
8 August 2014 at 3:53 pm
After a career in engineering and many years volunteering with under-privileged communities, Alexie Seller has now embarked on a new journey – as the National Manager of Business for the social enterprise – Pollinate Energy. Seller is this week’s Changemaker.
After graduating university with first class honours from a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Arts, Seller went on to work for organisations including AGL and Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
During that time, she volunteered with under-privileged communities, working with orphaned or urban poor children across central America and teaching hip hop in the Christmas Island detention centres with the Australian League of Immigration Volunteers (ALIV).
She also lead the Engineers Without Borders Energy Hub in Sydney.
Last December she joined Pollinate Energy – an Australian social enterprise bringing renewable energy to the urban poor. Pollinate Australia also aims to empower local Indian entrepreneurs to be a positive force for change in India’s urban poor communities.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
We’re about to expand our business in India, to reach up to 100,000 people by the end of next year.
It’s my job to come up with some creative ways to boost our income so that we can meet that target.
At the moment, that ranges from building an online shop to sell solar lights, to wide reaching campaigns to ‘live without lights’ and new program and partnership opportunities so that our Australian volunteers can get a taste of life inside a start-up social enterprise!
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
Officially this is my first job. I volunteered with many other local and international organisations for the past 10 years, but had never been employed by one. It took a while for me to truly take the leap from a career in engineering to this sector but I’ve never really looked back.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The people I meet as a part of my everyday role. I feel very lucky that it is my job to actively seek out inspired and motivated people to be a part of our organisation’s growth in India through the international programs we offer, and to collaborate with us on our mission to raise awareness about the struggles of people living in urban energy poverty.
What has been the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part would have to be balancing our collective energy to reach our big goals, and the need to delve into the details of running a business.
I overcome this at the moment by trying to stay grounded through friends and family, and constantly giving myself a ‘perspective’ check on issues that come up.
If I treat everything as passionately as I want to, it can be exhausting.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
The knowledge that we have the freedom and the ability to make a huge change in today’s world.
Being part of a small but high performing team all working together on a common goal is exhilarating, and something I was never able to experience in my previous roles.
I’m always being asked …
How I got into this! It’s the number one question, and I completely understand because before I was here I would have asked the same question.
I’m not sure if I’m meant to answer it, but I honestly believe that if you open yourself up and look out for new opportunities, they will come. The question is whether or not you’re ready to take it.
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I just read a historical fiction novel about Charles Lindbergh’s wife – The Aviator’s Wife.
I like to read books that let me step out of my world completely, and across a wide range of settings, cultures and historical events. Working in this industry can be draining, so I often use reading to make myself switch off for a while, it’s incredibly refreshing!
School taught me …
How to study. I was exceptionally good at studying, which is why I chose a career in Engineering – it was highly technical.
It wasn’t until I took on various leadership roles through volunteering and work that I started to discover my more innate skills, and that I am much better at working with people than designing mechanical brackets.
I now feel much more connected in my current role (and I apologise if my professors and ex-employers are reading this!)