work placementsFor three weeks in August 2022, we  – Morgane, Iva and Jasmina – joined the Vattenfall Heat UK team on a green work placement programme in collaboration with Catalyse Change.

This unique opportunity allowed us to have one-on-one calls with different team members to discover the fascinating work that goes into heat networks, from engineering, project management to diversity and inclusion, and be included in group meetings. Thanks to the warm welcome from the team, we were able to learn about the technical side of heat networks, how an energy company works in such a pressing context, and also research our own project on the side, “Responding to the Ecological Emergency: the Opportunity of Heat Networks”, which we presented to the leadership team and detailed in a report.

Why did we get involved with this work placement opportunity?

We are all determined to pursue a career in solving environmental issues and saw the energy sector as a dynamic and inclusive place to get a firsthand experience of what it looks like to have a real impact.

Why Vattenfall Heat UK?

Within the energy sector, Vattenfall stands out because of its ambitious goals of achieving « fossil free living within one generation ». This sense of urgency absolutely lined up with our own perception of the climate emergency.

As young women, we know that today’s actions will have a direct impact on our future. We share the belief that it is imperative to be surrounded by people who also feel and act upon this urgency.

We worked within Vattenfall Heat UK, which is currently growing at a very fast pace, and we hugely benefited from its dynamic and startup-like atmosphere. District heat networks when combined with renewable heat production are a less known solution to decarbonising energy. Many inspiring people with varied experiences and skills take part in turning these complex systems into functional and deliverable projects.

What not only struck us about the team was its dynamic and ambitious culture, but also its approach to diversity. Heat networks are growing at a fast pace and it is evident that having diversity and representation is key to future successes by including a wider range of talents. We are particularly appreciative of all the time we were given with different employees, to talk about their background, their day-to-day work in heat networks, their views on sustainability and all of their advice on our own path towards green careers.

work placements in office

Beyond the learning and shadowing, what did you do?
  • The most obvious environmental benefit of renewable-electricity driven district heat networks is their contribution to decarbonising energy and achieving net-zero.
  • So the three of us led a project on the ecological emergency as another issue to consider when delivering energy infrastructures. Our approach was to take a current heat network project as a case study, and imagine and recommend pro-biodiversity solutions. We thought of how they could fit them into the business’ activity and contribute to preserving and restoring biodiversity, whilst being critical to their plausible applications.
  • We were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet with the people who are actually working on energy projects and have their insight on questions of sustainability. For example, we were delighted that our supervisor organised a call with Vattenfall UK wind’s Environment & Sustainability specialist who went through the sustainability reporting and initiatives in wind farms. We were able to consider these real-life projects which helped guide our research about biodiversity measures within district heating.
  • We also considered social impact and community engagement as crucial goals in the decision making and implementation phases of our proposed solutions.
  • We had the great opportunity of presenting our findings to the Vattenfall Heat UK Leadership Team and wrote a 30-page report summarising our research and conclusions.
What are your main takeaways?

Morgane: “Getting to know Vattenfall Heat was a very exciting opportunity, and heat networks are truly fascinating. It was very valuable to work as a team of three towards our project and getting to deliver it and receive feedback for it was wonderful. It reaffirmed my desire to work in environmental policy, and I would love to continue focusing on energy solutions within the climate emergency.”

Jasmina: “I learnt that there still is a shortage in materials with lower embedded carbon in an industrial scale for projects like this, and I’m looking forward to continuing my Chemistry degree to change this.”

Iva: “This three-week work shadowing with Vattenfall Heat UK was invaluable for me. It was really inspiring to learn about a company that is genuinely invested in building a better future as well as meeting the hard-working team that is driving that journey. This experience has enabled me to learn a lot more about the energy sector and think about how I could approach this sector with a chemistry background in the future.”

Tips and insight for future Catalysts

How was it working as a team of three? And how was communicating with Vattenfall employees?

We didn’t really know each other before starting this experience but after a couple of Teams calls and lunches next to tall buildings in central London we became really close, especially because we had so many shared values when it comes to sustainability. Brainstorming together our ideas for our project, planning, delivering and then presenting them to lead engineers, senior managers and partners was definitely a new experience for all of us, and it helped us develop our confidence and communication skills.

All Vattenfall employees were particularly welcoming, and took some time out of their busy schedules to introduce us to their work, such as going through the technical side of heat networks. We were even given the opportunity to do a mock job interview with Meike Imberg, the team’s Diversity & Inclusion Lead, which was incredibly helpful. Being included in the team’s social events was a great way of having informal chats about the various backgrounds of the employees and their personal insights into the energy sector.

As a university student, you have a limited exposure to larger corporations such as Vattenfall so we didn’t really know what to expect. We discovered that everyone was so kind and always available for a chat and offered to help whenever possible!

green work experience

Tips for other Catalysts

It was a fun, exciting and insightful learning experience that we would highly recommend doing a green work placement. Even if you are not sure about the sector you want to work in, it is so valuable to be able to learn so much in such a short period of time, especially in a game-changing company like Vattenfall.


Three weeks actually go past really fast. Take the time to learn all there is to know about the company and their activities online beforehand, so the time spent at the company is about going deeper into details and the connections.


As young women with little to no experience in the sector, we were constantly learning and growing. Sometimes, it is best to ignore the self-doubt and shyness, and go for the questions that you hesitate asking about. If an organisation or individual takes the time and resources to offer such an opportunity, they will be more than happy to answer and help you learn and grow. That’s the whole point!

Morgane Mayoux, Jasmina Silmemaj and Iva Prestwich

To register your interest in our work placement programme email Traci Lewis