Lucy Yu

CEO, Centre for Net Zero (part of the Octopus Energy Group)

Lucy Yu is CEO at Centre for Net Zero, Octopus Energy Group’s AI and data-driven research unit pioneering research to make a smart and fully sustainable global energy system a reality. She has 20 years of experience building and scaling global consumer-facing and deeptech ventures in artificial intelligence, mobility, smart cities, climate and clean energy, and developing tech policy and regulation for governments around the world. She is a non-executive director and advisor to startups, scale-ups, and innovation led organisations. She studied computational and physical chemistry at Imperial College, and public leadership at Harvard Kennedy School.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

Humility, trust, freedom, growth, creativity, and humour. 

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

People who solve problems rather than just talking about them; people who challenge systems; people who keep going well past the point that others would have given up. I could name some household names, but there are a lot of perfectly ‘ordinary’ people who fit into one or more of these categories –  they’re the drivers of positive change and progress in the world.

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

Get out of your comfort zone – from a Permanent Secretary, when I was a young civil servant. Perhaps not objectively the best piece of advice – but one which has had a profound impact on my career. 

4. What would you tell your younger self?

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Like any marathon, my career has gone through different phases – but perseverance, consistency and tirelessness have been more important factors overall than dazzling people with raw intellect or ability. 

Secondly – and useful when contemplating taking on something difficult or daunting that won’t be achieved quickly – whether you do it or you don’t do it, the time will pass anyway (and it will pass in a seemingly faster and faster fashion the older one gets!). Having this in mind has helped me throw myself into things – but it’s also good advice for anyone prone to procrastination or overthinking.

Thirdly – help others coming up behind you. Because sooner or later it will be their turn, not yours.

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

Leadership is not just about how you behave when things are going well, but how you behave in the tough times too. Oftentimes people I’ve admired in easier times haven’t demonstrated the same values in their behaviours when things changed. 

And, look after yourself. I’m fortunate to have overcome a few health issues in recent years and try not to take good health for granted.