Feature from Issue 4 of the Hydrogen Standard Magazine, available to download here
Focus: Recruitment Consultancy Specialised in the Renewable Energy Industry and the Hydrogen Sector.
Interview with: George Richardson, Head of Hydrogen; Billy Remmington, Americas Lead; Ciara Willis, European Lead.
Boss Energy is the only recruitment consultancy to be partnered with Hydrogen Europe, and also the sole talent acquisition partner to the Sustainability EnergyCouncil. Here, the company’s Hydrogen Head, alongside the Americas and European Leads, discuss the value of partnerships, and the impact that strategic hiring can have on a growing business.
Tell us about Boss Energy and how it came to be.
“Boss Energy was founded in 2014 by Terry Payne, Ross Bessel, and Michael Johnson, three founding partnerswith a strong background in the energy sector and several years of experience servicing projects globally”, George tells us. “We noticed a rapid acceleration in the energy transition market three to four years ago. As wewere looking for new avenues to develop and remain relevant in the industry, we started to move towards hydrogen.”
While hydrogen is one of the leading portions of their business globally, Boss has evolved into a comprehensive renewable energy business, which aims to provide various solutions to clients across the value chain in the sector.
The parallelism between the maturity of the industry and evolution of employment demand.
“We noticed changes in placement needs as the industry developed,” says George. “For example, when we first joined the space, there was about a 24-month period where businesses across the value chain looked to bring in senior business development executives, to go out, build a presence in the market, and sell products.”
As a result of a long phase of great commercial hires and strong sales throughout the industry, a gap emerged in operations, project management, and delivery teams and engineers. So, the focus organically shifted to the technical side. Where Boss Energy stands out is in the way they approach these needs. While the gap can be filled by new hires, they strive to create synergies. This is why today, they particularly value joint ventures and partnerships to reach new technological heights.”
This is one of our strong suits and distinctive traits. We can connect our clients across the supply chain to create partnerships and make projects happen. In this sense, we’ve contributed to building the industry’s backbone and can now better advise on it,” George confirms.
Boss Energy’s role beyond recruitment.
Boss Energy started as a traditional recruitment agency, recruiting for specific commercial targets and figures. However, over the years, they naturally found themselves in a position where the strategic introductions they could offer directly contributed to creating partnerships. Billy, who heads up BOSS’ Hydrogen function for the Americas, says: “We became part of high-level conversations in board or strategy meetings, which has allowed us to immerse ourselves in the sector to a point where we do not really feel like recruiters anymore. We work a lot on creating links and connections. As nontechnical experts in this sector, we really are in awe of the growth and the impact that it’s having. And this passion that we’ve developed incentivises us to work on several fronts. It’s not about the quick wins or the commissions. It’s more of an intrinsic need to really contribute to this growth and its ensuing positive impact. The aspiration is to be a positive actor in the sector.”
The Boss team sits in on 80% of board meetings with the current partners. As a result, they have first-hand access to the development plan and strategy before it goes to market. They are offered this insight because their partners trust them to work out a placement strategy for them months in advance, so when that goes live, they’ve got the people already there globally to allow that development as quickly and smoothly as possible.
George adds: “It’s been very insightful and rewarding to be part of these processes at the heart of this sector’s growth.”
Another way Boss Energy compellingly contributes to the development of the industry is through their podcast, “Hydrogen in Three.” “Hydrogen in Three” is a platform where they interview some of the most senior executives across the hydrogen sector to shed light on their place on the value chain, their business model, and their vision to enable the net-zero target—technology, services, or international projects.
It’s been a valuable outlet for businesses and a source of information for people in the industry. Some of their partners featured in the podcast were able to create fruitful partnerships because of the exposure. Further, this form of exposure has proven particularly interesting for cross-region collaborations because networking circles are traditionally more local.
An industry’s path to evolution and development.
A couple of years ago, when Boss Energy joined the industry, there was a lot of hydrogen talk but not so much action. Today people are invested, and ideas are more tangible. Policies are also gradually coming into place. They are a big driver. Most noteworthy activity happens in countries and regions where the legislation pushes in that direction.
This is a big shift in the industry because business strategies follow as these incentives gain momentum from a country to a regional level. This development has been a root cause of the global transition and why companies like Boss need to have an America lead, a Europe lead, and an Asia-Pacific lead.
Over the past decade, a lot of change and development have been achieved in the industry. Yet, catalysers are often the same. For example, another consistently important stimulus is R&D. Research into hydrogen allowed critical components along the value chain to become cheaper and, more importantly, made green hydrogen more accessible. As a result, it democratised green hydrogen; it is now much easier and cheaper to produce.
George says: “This is crucial because while fuel cells are getting ahead in the mobility market, there is still a lot of work to do on the feasibility of green hydrogen. However, over the past six months, we’ve seen a strong move in that direction. We’re increasingly seeing businesses considering megaprojects—larger scale end-to-end hydrogen projects—rather than selling electrolysers or fuel cells.” And Billy adds: “Of course, this also ties in with geopolitical events such as a US administration change or the more recent realisation regarding the pitfalls of heavy dependence on gas, particularly in Europe. As a result, increased research and mediatisation have played a big role in making it clear we need to drive this change and have pushed the green hydrogen agenda further.”
The Swiss army knife analogy, and thoughts on the different applications of hydrogen.
“We’re not blind to the fact that there are a lot of barriers.” Billy explains. He then adds: “We’re not on a quest for hydrogen, we’re on a quest for carbon zero. However, imperfect hydrogen can still positively impact that quest. The challenge lies in how to best utilise it. And that will constantly evolve with time. Terrain and environment also play important roles. Different countries use hydrogen differently. The point is the molecule is everywhere, so if you can extract it in the right way and have the proper infrastructure in place, you can benefit from it. What’s to be valued is the flexibility that other parts of the energy mix probably can’t provide.”
The value of having an international presence and regional specificities.
The team at Boss Energy perceives part of the role as creating a bridge between regions. By means of their global presence, they have access to insight that is not always shared promptly by the media and other networking platforms. As such, they are able to assistcompanies in entering new markets and regions through strategic hires. This is particularly true given that different regions are at different growth stages and have very different needs. One point that stands out from our conversation with the team is that often to keep up with the growth pace, compromise is necessary.
Billy says: “The US is interesting even outside of hydrogen because the job market is booming. Since the Biden administration, this is particularly true for the renewable energies sector. We’ve seen a lot of investments. As a result, the job market is growing, salaries are rising, and demand for talent is very high. Yet, recruitment remains challenging because of the massive push for domestic talent.”
Conversely, the industry is more mature in Europe, and the purely technical phase is ending. Ciara explains: “Companies are now looking to innovate and upgrade their offerings. Some ask for new hires, and many look to acquire new businesses, joint ventures, and partnerships. So, there are a lot of innovative roles. Demand is also very high in Europe, but there isn’t a lot of hydrogen-specific talent, so the approach is shifting toward transferrable skill sets. This is where we come in—to find the best fit.”
Keeping abreast of the energy transition: business remodelling transferrable skills, career conversions.
George asserts: “We’ve seen many oil majors looking to bring in heads of hydrogen. The EPC contractors that were traditionally in the oil and gas sector but understand how to put an end-to-end project together also move across because they’ve seen the shift in investments and industry dynamics. And businesses are trying to put projects together in a localised manner. For example, one of our major partners, which does power-to-X, ventured into a localised model and has proven more cost-efficient.” Billy adds: “The industry is nascent and transitioning, so we see sub-sectors tying together. We work with highly qualified oil and gas specialists with valuable transferrable skillsets. To us, this is a crucial part of the transition. It is primordial to make sure the people aren’t left behind.”
Feature from Issue 4 of the Hydrogen Standard Magazine, available to download here