Anna and Joël Wagner
Product Manager on parental leave and Technical Director
Anna and Joël Wagner first came into contact with STEAG through power plants. They are now based in Singapore. In this interview they explain how their careers developed in this direction.
It was the testing of an innovative STEAG Energy Services system at another power plant site that brought us to the attention of Joël Wagner (34). His first task at STEAG was then to develop this system further as product manager.
Anna Wagner (33) did a placement at Lünen power plant as part of her degree course. Having completed her Master’s degree, she then applied to STEAG Energy Services.
What brought you to STEAG, and where did you start out?
Joël Wagner: I did my work and study program at RWE Power - an apprenticeship as industrial technician followed by a degree course in mechanical engineering (specializing in energy and power plant engineering). I worked in the boiler and apparatus engineering division at Neurath power plant in between semesters, my aim being to get to know as much as possible about power plant operations and the maintenance and optimization involved. Towards the end of my time at RWE I particularly focused on the qualification of the online system for monitoring highly stressed pipes that was developed by STEAG Energy Services and tested at the Neurath site. When STEAG offered me the chance to develop the system further as a product manager it didn’t take me too long to settle on moving to the Ruhr. What attracted me was the combination of product strategy, technical detail, product marketing and providing consultancy for clients in a national and international context. Travelling to far-off countries appealed to me even then.
Anna Wagner: I did a one-year internship and a placement as part of my degree course at Lünen power plant, and after completing my Masters in mechanical engineering I applied for a job in the System Technologies division at STEAG Energy Services. During my studies I dealt with CFD simulation methods, so an affinity for data and the related optimization of technical issues wasn’t new to me. I found the young team and the open interaction within the Energy Management Systems division very appealing.
You worked for another energy company before joining STEAG. What was the main difference you encountered?
Joël Wagner: The main difference was without doubt the international, customer-oriented alignment of STEAG Energy Services. At RWE, I was mostly tied to Neurath and the Rhineland lignite mining region. The task there was to ensure the safest, most stable and, at the same time, most economical operation possible of the power plant. At STEAG Energy Services, I’ve participated at international events in my capacity as product manager, and have been able to continue the strategic development of the system. Besides a comparatively young and dynamic team, my personal creative scope and the trust placed in me were attractive aspects which prompted my move to the Ruhr.
"Besides a comparatively young and dynamic team, my personal creative scope and the trust placed in me were attractive aspects which prompted my move to the Ruhr."
You’re now at APDP in Singapore, a joint venture between STEAG and Macquarie. What does your day-to-day work consist of?
Here in Singapore we’re a multidisciplinary team in order to be able to cover technical, legal and commercial aspects in the development of energy projects. As Technical Director, I’m responsible for the technical division. Basically, what we do is ensure the best possible technical support in identifying, evaluating and implementing power plant projects. That was a big challenge at first. In the meantime we’ve learned a lot about the focus regions and have built up a good network of partners and advisors. The STEAG Energy Services colleagues also support our activities locally. I don’t really have “day-to-day work”, because the tasks involved in developing projects are very varied and differ depending on the project and the technology. The connecting element is the constant presence of an entrepreneurial mindset and approach. At present we’re concentrating on wind and solar (PV) projects in Vietnam and Indonesia. Vietnam, in particular, is pursuing ambitious goals in terms of expanding renewable energies, which is really interesting. Not only local but also international developers, investors, EPC contractors and service providers have identified Vietnam as a focus in Southeast Asia. It’s important to remember that this is a country with little experience in the development of wind and solar projects, so there’s still a need for real pioneering work here. The open, entrepreneurial mentality of the Vietnamese facilitates our interaction with them. After many trips and discussions on site, I am convinced that we can provide real added value in developing and optimizing energy projects, especially in terms of technology, for example in planning and executing wind measurement campaigns, tendering and selecting wind turbines, or in the technical and economic optimization of solar projects. Battery storage as a supplement to the volatile feed-in of renewables is also an ever more frequent subject of discussion. STEAG has already established itself as a pioneer in this field in Germany.
How did STEAG support you and your family in your move to Asia?
Joël Wagner: The HR management in Essen was on hand to give us very good advice right from the start. They provided support, if need be at very short notice, when we were looking for accommodation, in matters concerning contracts and official necessities, and during my wife’s pregnancy. Ms. Minzlaff always takes time to listen and understands what being abroad means.
What advice do you and your wife have for Germans arriving in Asia?
Anna Wagner: Asia can differ greatly from country to country. We can only speak for Singapore. We connected very quickly with other expats and their children through various Facebook groups for expats in Singapore, playdates for our son and the community in our residential complex. Life in Singapore is very well organized, but it’s also different to in Germany. A lot of things here are organized by cell phone and through various apps. Tips from other expats and a good network are also extremely valuable. Joël Wagner: Right from the start, we knew we needed to be in this adventure as a family. It’s brilliant that my wife managed to connect here so quickly. Luckily she understands what Asian working hours are like, and does all she can to ease the burden on me. I’m well aware that that can by no means be taken for granted. So my advice to anyone facing a similar situation would be to talk about what you want and what your interests are beforehand, and to keep on talking about them. Our time here has brought us closer together as a family. Anyone who is open to foreign cultures (and Singapore is a real “melting pot” in that respect) will certainly get a lot out of it and expand their horizons immensely, both professionally and personally. I’m very glad to have the opportunity to live and work here.
What would you say is the major difference between the Ruhr area and Singapore?
Besides gliding, which you can’t do here because of the climate and the associated lack of thermal current, we both also miss being close to nature. A spontaneous weekend in Holland cycling through the countryside in mild temperatures is not easily done here. We’ve had fascinating trips to China and Japan instead.