Inspirational Woman: Grace Rothery | Head of Legal & Regulation, Gazprom Energy

Grace Rothery

Grace Rothery is head of legal and regulations at Gazprom Energy based in Manchester.

Grace has been in the industry for 10 years and has long had a passion for in-house.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Head of Legal and Regulation at Gazprom Energy, Gazprom’s European energy retailer selling to businesses large and small. Based at First Street in central Manchester I manage the company’s Legal and Regulation teams in all our markets. This includes three lawyers in Manchester and Paris and two Regulation advisers.

My own role and that of my team is really twofold: on the Legal side we’re there to obviously ensure compliance but also to demystify some of the complexities of the industry for our internal team and customers; on the Regulation side we’re very much the company’s interface with the industry – responsible for understanding and applying the Regulatory changes affecting the energy sector.

I’m also part of the leadership group within Gazprom Energy – an internal team of around 12 colleagues who are responsible for guiding the company to achieve its three year business plan.

I studied law at Leeds University from 2001 to 2004 and then went on to do my legal practice training at Chester College of Law. Upon completion I secured a training contract at Addleshaw Goddard, where I qualified as a solicitor in 2007 and spent almost six years getting a great grounding. But while many lawyers choose to work in practice, I was drawn to an in-house position, spurred on by a couple of client secondments – including one at Astra Zeneca. Rather than deal in one area I really wanted to see how legal practice could be applied fully to a business, in order to help it achieve and exceed its goals. This was the reason I moved to Gazprom Energy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I decided to study Law at university as I recognised it would be a valuable degree even if I didn’t pursue a career in Law. My studies cemented my interest, and I gained a bit of work experience at various types of practice before deciding to pursue my training contract at a full-service corporate law firm. Even when training, I wasn’t really sure which area I wanted to specialise in, so I decided to quality in a Commercial role as it enabled me to practise a wide range of legal areas, rather than becoming too narrowly focussed. This proved to be a good decision as this breadth of experience stood me in good stead for moving to an in-house generalist role.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

I’ve of course had the “usual” challenges of uncompromising pressure in the face of tough deadlines, demanding clients and long hours. But aside from this, and very honestly, I think some of the challenges I’ve come across have been put up by myself, and have been for me to break down. At various stages of my career I’ve had the odd case of “imposter syndrome” – a phenomenon which I’ve no doubt is more common in women than men! At times like this I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can do and nobody is saying otherwise. Generally I’m very determined and have a clear focus; overcoming challenges is just part of the journey which has brought me to today.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

Although there is no typical day in terms of the matters I’m working on, I do try to maintain some routine in terms of how the day is structured. I’m usually in the office around 8am and try to spend half an hour planning the day ahead and preparing for any meetings.

I’ll probably have a scheduled 1-1 with one of my team at some point in the day, either in person or other the phone if they are in another office.

I always try to step outside the office at lunchtime – even if to just nip across the road to get a sandwich (and of course only if the Manchester weather is being kind). I think it is really important to stretch the legs and get some fresh air during the day, and I find it makes me more productive in the afternoon.

After what will usually have been a very varied day dealing with whatever is thrown at me, I try to leave the office no later than 6 to get to the gym or go for a run, before heading home. That’s if I’m not sampling the latest on the Manchester restaurant scene with my friends.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I’ve really benefited from mentoring throughout my career. I’ve been mentored, and provided mentoring, both through formal mentoring programmes and through more informal channels. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really inspiring individuals who I’ve learned from in progressing my career, but without necessarily under the formal banner of “mentoring”. In turn, I find it hugely rewarding to mentor others; supporting them in progressing their own careers and providing insight from my own experiences along the way. I’m currently mentoring others both in my own organisation, and outside it.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

It seems really obvious, but I’d just love to see more women in senior corporate positions, to provide inspiration to future generations. I know that we’ve made great strides in this area already, but in everyday life when I look across the businesses I come across there is still a lot to be done. Hopefully the brilliant initiatives of groups like We Are The City will help to move this forward.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

In a professional context, it is probably leading my team to be rated highest in peer-to-peer feedback surveys across my company. The fact that our colleagues recognise the value that we bring to their activities is incredibly fulfilling. I’m not sure that there are many Legal teams who could boast such an accolade, and it certain breaks the traditional stereotype of the Legal team being the “business prevention department”.

Outside of work, it would be completing my first half marathon last year. Given that I could barely run around the block around 5 years ago, I’m immensely proud of this.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m the sort of person who likes to be constantly challenged and stretched – I’m not very comfortable in my comfort zone. I want to continue to build on everything I’ve learned through my Legal career, and apply my skills across my organisation and to others through non-executive roles. I also want to make sure that my teams keep pace with all the technological developments which are helping Legal professionals evolve, and provide real value to their organisations.

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