Interview with Ogutu Okudo

Ogutu Okudo talks about women-only awards, the dark side of mentorship and more

In preparation for South Africa’s Women’s Day this month, we sat down with rising star Ogutu Okudo, whose current roles include being Country Manager for SpringRock Group and Founder of WEX Africa (Women in Extractives)
Could you tell us a bit more about your own journey into the oil and gas industry?
I delved into the oil and gas industry at a point in my life where I was at a crossroad of wanting to challenge myself, but at the very same time, very comfortable in my comfort zone. I had just completed my first degree in Foreign Policy and Diplomacy, but wanted more, I missed the more technical side and felt I had been pushed into the Arts involuntarily. It was in the lead up towards 2012 (the year Kenya discovered oil) and I recall always hearing in the news about exploration and fantasizing about joining an industry so new, untouched and enticing. That excitement was instantaneously dampened when news shifted to the Niger Delta in Nigeria where an oil spill had occurred and seeing the devastating effects of this ‘black gold’. It made me realize it was important to enter this industry but work towards also investing in the human side of it; the rural communities. That was the influence behind starting Women in Energy and Extractives Africa (WEX Africa) in 2012. The rest is history.
Did you have a mentor at the start of your career? Do you think senior executives have a responsibility to mentor new talent in the industry?
Its good you ask about mentorship. My personal experience is what aided me to create the WEX Mentorship Program. I recall entering the industry and searching far and wide for a mentor. People were either uninterested, too busy, some even unavailable to hear you out and I had to tread alone. The closest I got to mentorship was by a group of women who ended up exploiting me and in the subsequent intellectual theft of my organization which I had fought hard to create. I was crushed. However, I picked myself up and continued to think about the lives of the people we were connecting. Women need to do a better job mentoring other women, no woman is an island and we must work towards sustainably developing more women in the STEM careers if we want to achieve gender parity sooner rather than later.
In that case, do you see women-only awards within the oil and gas industry as meaningful? There has been significant debate around this recently!
Absolutely, in a male dominated industry where women seldom get recognition for their hard work and efforts, it is so important. It inspires the younger generation to have role models in these STEM careers and demystifies the dirty, patriarchal mentality around some jobs.
We’ve seen that you’ve won several of these awards this year. How does that feel?
The proudest moment of my career so far was probably receiving the Woman of the Year Award at the Upstream Oil and Gas Awards in Kenya. I was nominated amongst phenomenal women exceling in the oil and gas industry individually. When I heard my name, I was numb. All the hard work, sleepless nights, calls to TV at 6am to shed light on current events in energy to Kenyans. It is a calling and I have answered.
We keep up with you on social media, and sometimes wonder how you manage to fit everything in! Could you tell us a bit more about what you’re hoping to get out of your participation in the AOWomen initiative this year at Africa Oil Week?
You can expect candid, straight conversations. Creating a narrative that is not the usual contextual conference panel, but more interactive engaging what women have done between last year and today. It is important to take stock of what we are doing, done and plan to do. Collective responsibility with action.
Lastly, could you tell us some more about any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment?
Right now is a monumental time for Kenya as we work towards First Oil expected in 2022/2023. Being part and parcel of the entire value chain is remarkable. Lots of exciting things are happening that I unfortunately cannot share yet!
I have also joined the Board of Directors for BBOXX (an off-grid utility solutions provider). We have been lighting up rural communities around East Africa, namely Rwanda, Congo and Kenya. We just launched BBOXX Cook in Rwanda that is changing the lives of millions of women who have had detrimental effects on the quality of their lives from the prolonged use of unclean energy for cooking. It is absolutely remarkable, lighting up homes around the world and making it affordable, clean, sustainable and accessible to people of all walks of life.
Ogutu Okudo will be participating in this year's AOWomen, find out more below. 
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