Winner of our Young Person in LPG award 2021 talks about the role women play within the LPG industry

Friday 11th March 2022

Hear more from Jess Speed, part of our International Women's Day Interviews.

Jess Speed is Business Development Manager at Continental Product Engineering; she was winner of our Young Person in LPG award in 2021 and feels passionately about the role women play within the LPG industry.

You can find Jess on LinkedIn here

Hi Jess, it’s nice to catch up with you again and share more about your role at Continental and hear about your interesting career path and education.

How long have you been working in the LPG industry?

I have worked within the Gas Industry for just under 4 and a half years and have been in my current role for 11 months.

Where did you study and what was your first role when you graduated?

I left school in 2011 and went on to study Law at the University of Lincoln. Whilst I was there, I joined East Midlands University Officers' Training Corps and 158 Regiment RLC which hugely grew my confidence and led me to find my passion for leadership.

Upon finishing university, I wanted to do something with my newfound passion and independence, and I decided to start up my own company, selling roofing materials as a drop shipping retailer. I ran a successful company for 3 years, which taught me a great deal in terms of motivation, perseverance and in-depth learning as well as taking responsibility for all aspects of a business.

My mistakes and failures during this time showed me just how capable I was to do almost anything I set my mind to. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me, however after 3 years I decided I wanted to invest my time in an already established company, ideally a family company which held the same core values as my company.

I wanted to learn more about a different, ever evolving industry, and have the support above me to teach me all the things I was already teaching myself, but at a slower pace, and this is what led me to Continental.

What does your role involve?

My job role is more than just driving business growth within Continental. It is about developing close working relationships with our clients so we can bring out the full potential in both of us. I spend a lot of my time researching new markets, products and product standards, so I can have various meetings with my clients and ensure we are working to their needs and offering the best support possible.

I am responsible for evaluating current performances and assessing company revenue, which in turn gets me involved in growth strategies whether that is by growing our brands presence, product development, generating leads or expanding into new markets.

I am the main point of contact for both existing and new potential clients, so I work closely with our technical team and other members of our sales team to ensure we provide the best service from the very first email or phone call.

What are your career aspirations and goals?

I have quite a few career goals that I wish to fulfil during my time within this industry. Liquid Gas UK have always recognised women within the LPG industry, however in recent years they have been at the forefront of the campaign for change/growth when it comes to women within the industry. This is something I would love to become involved in, potentially working with Liquid Gas UK and also working with Continental to produce articles and gain coverage on this subject.

I also wish to have a bigger impact than just developing business and generating leads. Although I wish to keep my relationships with my clients, as this is something I love about my job, I also would like to work with my Directors and other parties, to come up with new ideas which would significantly contribute to industry development, such as new products that would improve the lives of both end users and also engineers.

Who is your biggest role model in the industry or outside of the industry?

I would say my biggest role model would be my dad, Mathew. He has always supported me in everything I do, from swimming to horse riding and then onto rugby which I have been involved in since the age of 14.

Throughout my years at university he was always on the end of the phone offering support or guidance, even when he didn’t understand the subjects himself. He always knew just what to say.

He is a company director himself so when I mentioned starting my own company, there was only positive feedback and approval. Throughout my childhood and adult life, he has always guided me to be the very best I can be, and I hope that I make him as proud as he makes me every day. He is the most supportive role model anyone could wish for in their life and I hope in my future, I also can be this kind of role model to people.

What would you like to say to young women coming into the industry? Do you have any tips or advice to share?

Coming into the industry today is very different than coming into the industry even 10 years ago. Each year, we are finding that it is becoming an industry that is no longer male dominated, both in the office and in field-based roles. Women are no longer seen as ‘inferior’ and in fact, women now make up 30% of the staff at Continental, which may not seem like a lot, but it's the highest percentage it has ever been, and many women work within the warehouse which has previously been seen as a male’s role, so we have well and truly broken that barrier.

Another positive is the huge push from Liquid Gas UK to close this divide. The introduction of the Young Person in LPG awards has encouraged companies to recognise new comers more within this specific industry, something that a lot of other industries still do not recognise.

I was lucky enough to win the ‘Young Person in LPG Award’ in 2021 and the feedback I received was amazing. Everyone was very supportive, and I received a lot of comments from people across the industry, and not once have I felt that anyone believed this should have gone to a male instead.

Lastly, upon Continental’s last review, only 1% of women were CEO’s within the gas industry. Although this shows women are currently under-represented in senior roles, I believe this can be seen as a positive for young women coming into the industry. It will inspire and push them to be part of this evolvement where women are being given more opportunities to progress into high level jobs, which over the next few years will see this 1% slowly increasing.

The trade association for the LPG and bioLPG industry in the UK