Fllanza Hoxha is a highly qualified electrical engineer with over 30 years of experience with the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK) and other institutions in the energy sector. Her experience comprises more than 20 years in senior managerial positions, with oversight of up to 2000 employees. Fllanza was one of the first experts involved in energy-efficiency projects in Kosovo and is a certified auditor on energy efficiency and environmental impact assessment. She was external energy and environmental advisor to the former Kosovo Prime Minister for two years.
In addition, Fllanza has extensive experience as a consultant with various development agencies, including USAID (US Agency for International Development), IFC (International Finance Committee), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), AECOM International Development Inc, DIFID (UK Department for International Development), SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency), and THW (German Federal Agency for Technical Relief).
Being one of the first female electrical engineers in Kosovo’s energy sector, she was directly involved in awareness-raising on gender equality and advancing the position of women in the energy and mining sector. She is the co-founder of Kosovo Women in Energy and Mining.
By Kathy Sole
You started out studying Electrical Engineering, eventually graduating as one of the first women in Kosovo. Please tell us why you made this career choice, and how you came to work in the energy and mining sector?
My family, my mother and my father, had a great influence on my education. I was lucky that thanks to my parents’ education, I grew up with conviction, which grew stronger every day: I am a girl, I am equal to boys. But unfortunately, at that time most other girls didn’t have my luck!
My father told me that I could do all the work that he could do, there are no differences in work and work is not related to gender. But only with work and dedication to work, and only by working will you be successful!
I was at a crossroads when I finished high school, a high school of natural sciences. I was at a crossroads, to fulfil my mother’s wish – to study medicine – or to study technical engineering or engineering. Determinant in my decision was my passion for the subject of mathematics, incorporating STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] and so I decided to continue my studies at the technical faculty, in the branch of electrical energy. After completing my studies, I started to work at the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK; formerly Elekto Ekonomia of Kosovo).
Just to highlight that today KEK is a Kosovo public-owned enterprise that owns and operates lignite mining and electricity generation assets. Part of KEK is its Coal Production Division, responsible for the following activities: coal production, coal transportation, separation, and storage before its transfer to Thermo Power Plants for combustion.
Kosovo is not well-known as a mining country. Please tell us about this industry in your country and some of the challenges that it has faced.
Republic of Kosovo is rich in natural mining resources, among which energy and coloured metal resources represent the most significant potential for overall country development. In this aspect, it is worth to explicitly make note of lignite, lead, zinc, chrome, silver and gold, silicate mines of nickel and cobalt, iron, nickel, bauxite, manganese, and a considerable number of non-metallic minerals, industrial, and construction materials. The geology of Kosovo is varied and has resulted in a wide range of minerals being present in mineable quantities.
I must highlight that Kosovo is home to massive coal reserves. Kosovo has the world’s 5th largest proven reserves of lignite coal, with 12.5 billion tons of lignite. Rational and well-managed use of these resources can provide for rapid and sustainable economic and social development of Kosovo.
However, the mining industry had significant challenges during the ‘90s. Underinvestment, as well as political developments, had a dramatic negative effect on Kosovo’s mining industry and on the number of metals produced throughout the region.
You have had a highly successful career, most recently holding very senior positions in your country’s main energy company, Kosovo Energy Corporation. Please describe your career progression and current role.
Getting into the Kosovo energy sector was hard, but attaining a senior managerial position was harder. “Women in Management” is about women in business in usually male-dominated areas. Besides that, you need a passion for technology and continuous change: once you decide to follow a career in this field, you commit to becoming a lifelong learner and a student of change.
The energy sector is very dynamic: technology and legislation move fast, and you need to be prepared for that. If you can embrace that change and have passion, you can be successful, BUT usually only in middle management positions. Matter of fact is that it is rare to be a woman in a top managerial or executive position, as these positions are usually male-dominated areas.
My path in the energy sector was not easy! Working hard, following technology in this dynamic energy sector, and following motto “YES YOU CAN,” which my parents bequeathed to me, and believing in my leadership abilities, I was motivated. I started to apply for high managerial positions, and eventually for executive director positions.
For all my achievements I would like to thank my husband, Leka, and my two wonderful children, Hana and Agim. I’m so thankful to have such a supportive family.
Below I will give a description of some of my high managerial positions.
As a qualified electrical engineer, I have over 40 years’ experience in KEK and the Kosovo energy sector. The first years were very difficult, but later things changed, of course, as I changed. I became more confident and began to achieve what I believe I deserved. I didn’t wait anymore for someone to notice my capacities and contribution, and then things changed. After almost twenty years of work experience, I started my real career, thus in high level positions.
And now I can proudly say that I have more than 20 years in a senior managerial position, with oversight of a workforce of about 200 to 2000 staff in KEK. Of this, three years were acting as Commercial Director, responsible for overall commercial activities within KEK’s Divisions, Generation, Mines, Distribution and Supply; two years acting as Corporate Special Adviser, responsible for development of the environmental strategy for KEK and coordination of all environmental activities (Mines Division, Production Division, Distribution Division, and Supply Division); more than three years acting as Executive Director Distribution, responsible for the successful leadership, overall management, and operations of the KEK Distribution Network (KEDS, with more than 500 000 consumers and 17 000 km of high- and medium-voltage distribution power lines). I later served for three years on the KEK Board of Directors, as Director Head of the Audit Committee.
I also spent two years as Adviser for energy and environmental issues to the Kosovo Prime Minister, appointed by a UNDP Capacity Building Fund (CBF) project. I served three years as the Manager of the Project Implementation Unit for the successful privatization of the Kosovo Energy Distribution and Supply Services, with direct responsibility to the Minister of Economic Development in the role of Chairman of the Government Privatization Committee (composed of five Ministers) for managing the bidding and bid-opening processes in line with Kosovo law and international best practice for good governance of such transactions. During this period, the Project Implementation Unit acted as the professional counterpart to the World Bank group member International Finance Committee transaction advisers and as USAID/Deloitte independent strategic adviser.
As a leader in this industry, you have worked with a variety of stakeholders, ranging from the Kosovo Prime Minister as advisor on energy and environmental issues, government ministers, World Bank and International Finance Corporation executives, and as project manager with oversight of technical and operational staff. Please share your leadership philosophy and how you manage diversity in the workplace.
As a high-level manager, I divided my focus between high-level operations and team oversight, offering guidance and structure to the team. I devote my time to establishing goals and pathways for each member of my team. I was very honest will them and this honesty created a fair and open work environment, which reflected as high trust from team for decisions taken from my side. We organised weekly after-hours meetings to discuss how to minimise any problems, and develop new practices and processes to improve the overall work product. I behave with integrity, honesty, and decisiveness—and ask the same from my team.
To manage diversity in my workplaces was not easy. The Kosovo energy sector is one of the sectors with the lowest gender diversity! Years before, most women who were employed in energy sector preferred to work in the office, and only very few working in the field, in areas of operations, maintenance, etc.
Imposter syndrome is something that I have seen far too often with women on my teams: a role they were qualified for would open and, even after I encouraged them, they wouldn’t apply!
It was discouraging to watch. Very often, I advised women not to wait for someone to notice your contributions and just hand you your dream job – you must take the initiative.
It was not easy. In fact, the energy sector has historically been a male-dominated field. I try to build the confidence of young women in my team to a level where they believe in themselves!
When I reached a senior managerial position, I started to communicate gender diversity and inclusivity more intentionally and the reality started to change for the better. This was my goal and I achieved it partially. The number of women in the sector in high- and middle-managerial positions has slowly started to increase nowadays.
What has been the most rewarding professional experience or project of your career?
My most rewarding professional experience has been as acting Kosovo Energy Corporation Director of the Board at the same time as Head of the Audit Committee. I started as an intern and I reached the highest position in the company.
What has been most challenging in your career?
My most challenging professional experience was acting for about three years as Executive Director of the Network Division and as KEK Executive Board Member. I managed around 2000 workers and was responsible for overall management and operations of the Kosovo Electricity Distribution Network.
You are the Co-Founder of Kosovo Women in Energy and Mining. Please tell us what led you to start this organisation, and about its membership and objectives.
Being part of the energy and mining sector, and facing difficulties as a woman in this sector, was the main reason to start and be a part of this organization. Our aim is to encourage women to study and work in this sector by introducing them to job opportunities. Gender diversity and inclusion in energy and mining is very important. There are very few women working in these sectors, especially in mining.
WEM – Kosovo, Women in Energy and Mining, as part of the American Chamber of Kosovo, is a strategic hub of women professionals working to advance gender diversity and inclusion in the energy and mining sector. WEM supporters and membership are growing every day! Women and girls joining a professional women’s organization such as WEM can make a big difference in their career.
WEM aims to Increase women’s participation in decision-making at all levels in the energy and mining sector create a platform for advocacy, professional development, and networking, to empower women and girls, and promote gender diversity and inclusion in policies and programs in the energy and mining sector.
You have been involved in the development and ramp-up of several large projects, supported by considerable international financing. Do you believe that the presence of women in significant project roles influences the ultimate success of a project? Does a more diverse team lead to better or different decisions?
I strongly believe that only a competent and committed team is success of the project. Putting the right team together is essential to delivering any successful project. But also, during my career, I realised that women can make brave and clever decisions as leaders, and a diverse team helps make the team environment less authoritative and more cooperative, bringing a family-like feel to the team. Diverse teams boost teamwork and help to implement a new culture within the business.
Do you have any advice to young women starting out in their careers? What do you wish you’d known when you were 25?
My advice to young women:
- Work and learn hard!
- Believe in yourself just enough!
- Do not wait for someone to notice your contributions and just hand you your dream job: you must take the initiative.
So, know yourself and find what works for you!
Have you any hobbies or pastimes that you would like to tell us about?
I like spending time with my family, reading books, and devoting time in the garden at our family log house by the lake.