Spotlight on: Simay Akar, an IEEE PES recognized leader, entrepreneur, and mentor blazes her own trail in power and energy, and life
Inspired by her older brother to become a renewable energy professional, IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) Young Professionals Chair, Simay Akar, has already made quite the mark on the power and energy field and was recently recognized for her contributions by being awarded the Women in New Energy (WINE) Leadership Awards Entrepreneur of The Year 2022, and the Global Women in Leadership Award 2022 by GCPIT.
A specialist in the solar and renewable energy industry since 2012, Simay earned industry experience following university in China and Turkey where she honed her skills in international commercial activities including communications, marketing, sales, investment management, and business development.
She is currently the Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Innoses., a company she helped found that focuses on battery storage technologies for renewable energy and electric vehicles, and where she oversees global marketing and business development initiatives.
Simay’s previous professional titles include Sales & Marketing Director at EkoRE Renewable Energy, Business Development & Marketing Director at GoodWe Solar, Head of the International Marketing Department at Talesun Solar, Business Development & Sales Manager at CSUN Eurasia, Marketing Communication at Schneider Electric, and Corporate Communication at Arcelik (BEKO).
IEEE has played a major role in her career choices as well, and even had a role in helping her choose power and energy as her focus.
“I started volunteering in the very first days of university life for my IEEE student branch and IEEE PES student chapter. My branch was very active and offered many opportunities just like any other IEEE society in technical interest fields,” she explained. “It was during those years that I discovered my passion for power and energy, and it was a natural path for me.”
Simay joined IEEE as a Student Member in 2007 and graduated from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Today, she is an IEEE Senior Member, IEEE VOLT Graduate (2019), Certified Soft Skills Trainer (since 2008), and IEEE TISP Champion.
When asked why her involvement with IEEE PES is so important to her, especially amid her active career, Simay responded, “I like the diversity. Through my various volunteer activities, I can see different perspectives. Every single person you meet brings you knowledge and inspires you in different ways. My involvement has been active from the very beginning, from my student years, so you feel like you are growing inside a family. I have a busy schedule, all of us do, but when I volunteer, I feel more efficient in life and work and my own business.”
Her volunteer IEEE PES activities also helped influence her decision to launch Innoses.
“It was quite a transition to go from a large-scale industry position to a startup,” she said. “There was a lot learning in that first year, but I was able to apply all the knowledge I had gleaned from IEEE over the years, especially from my time as chair of the IEEE Region 10(APAC) Entrepreneurship Committee. It is still a journey, and the journey continues.”
And while the percentage of women in engineering is still skewed overall, in Simay’s field(s), she sees women growing in number.
“In emerging technologies especially, at least in our areas, women play a very important role and bring diversity and inclusion to the field. Energy is in transition, and transition brings new opportunities, and in those new opportunities female technologists and scientists play a very important role,” she said. “We are changing together and making the field more diverse and beautiful. I do believe that in the power industry, we are seeing an increase in women.”
She made note of a recent program, She4Her, that is making an impact by mentoring women in the field that came out of PES’s Young Professionals Committee, of which she is chair.
“Both the mentors and mentees are involved in one-on-one mentoring, and it’s truly spectacular,” she said.
When she learned she had been awarded the 2022 IEEE PES Robert P. Noberini Distinguished Contributions to Engineering Professionalism Award for contributions and leadership to IEEE and PES professional activities in support of student members, young professionals, and women in engineering, she said words couldn’t describe how she felt.
“That was so enormous, it’s hard to put into words,” she said. “You’re simply working hard and enjoying your career and giving back to society, and to find out you’re being recognized in such a way. I wasn’t even aware I was nominated for such an important award, and I am extremely grateful and looking forward to giving back even more.”
She4Her is a one-to-one mentor-mentee pilot program initiated by IEEE Power & Energy Society Young Professionals Affinity Group for providing an opportunity to female professionals in developing their technical, managerial, leadership and soft skills. The program aims to bring leading experts from the various domains of Power & Energy to upskill young female engineers, motivate and encourage them to excel in their career.