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Karen Moses is a key player in one of the toughest sectors in business today: energy. Energy is also a word that friends and colleagues use to describe Moses, who is executive director of finance at Origin Energy, an energy retailer, generator and exploration company valued at $14.7 billion on the Australian Securities Exchange.
“I am amazed at what she is able to do,” Fiona McLeod, Victoria’s energy and water ombudsman, says of Moses, who is on her board. “She holds one of the most senior roles in an Australian corporation, she is also on the board of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and she does a lot of work in New Zealand as well because Origin Energy is part-owner of businesses there. I am amazed at the energy she has for such diverse activities.” Origin holds 51.4 per cent of New Zealand’s largest energy retailer, Contact Energy.
Moses is one of just four women on the 2011 BRW Executive Rich list and has forged her way to the second-most powerful job at Origin with a direct, robust style of questioning that is also described by those on the receiving end, such as McLeod, as supportive. After 25 years in the energy sector, Moses also knows her stuff. Kate Spargo, who has been on the board of AEMO with Moses but is leaving due to other commitments, says: “Karen is really impressive. She has had a long career in the energy business and that comes across. Karen knows the industry backwards.”
Moses worked with Exxon Group soon after graduating with degrees in economics and education at Sydney University. She was there when Exxon Valdez spilled as much as 750,000 barrels of crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska in March 1989. When asked about the professional and personal impact of that experience, Moses answers: “Every time you see an unexpected event play out, those who shine are those who are prepared to be authentic, express their emotions and take responsibility for their actions. I have been inspired by some I have seen in the wake of Christchurch, in the wake of the Queensland floods and in the wake of the Victorian fires.”
Moses is a Sydneysider, born on the northern beaches. She attributes her ascent less to ambition than good fortune. “I have been fortunate to work with people who have seen the potential in me and been prepared to support and promote me without my knowledge or concurrence.” In particular, Moses says, Grant King, the chief executive of Origin Energy is a mentor, as are many of her connections with many “fabulous women who inspire and support one another”.
Colleagues say Moses is funny – even hilarious. An avid reader, Moses recently attended a literary festival in Jaipur, India, with a friend and colleague, Naseema Sparks, the president of peak body Chief Executive Women.
“Karen is one of the most balanced, approachable and thoughtful senior people I know, not just among women,” Sparks says. “She is very down to earth, not a lot of airs and graces. Her people respect and admire that.”
Moses values curiosity. When asked how she recovers from mistakes, Moses says: “Be curious. The first step is to admit the mistake to yourself and to declare it to whoever needs to know or can help you learn from it.”