Sandra Šlihte

Sandra in numbers

team colleagues
homes in planned district heating schemes
years dancing

About Sandra Šlihte

Sandra studied heat, gas and water technology engineering at Riga Technical University in her native Latvia, received an internship to Riga City District Heating Company in 2010 and has been working in district heating ever since.

“Since joining Vattenfall two years ago I’ve rediscovered my passion for engineering!

District heating is quite new in the UK so to be so closely involved in developing projects to help local residents go fossil free and reduce emissions is very rewarding. Vattenfall’s heat business in the UK has grown quickly but we are still a small team and in many ways we operate like a start-up which is exciting and rewarding, but hard work!

One of the reasons I was attracted to Vattenfall is the fact it is such an international organisation. I talk to colleagues across Europe all the time and if I have a technical question I know I can reach out to more than 200 other engineers.

Committed to diversity

Being so well-connected with other engineers means you can innovate and share ideas, as well as learn from mistakes to develop the best possible projects. Vattenfall is very committed to diversity in its workforce which is also important to me. I was a founding member of the ‘Women in District Heating Group’, a UK networking group for women in the industry. I’m also a mentor for The Girls’ Network which aims to inspire and help young women to pursue their ambitions.

If I hadn’t become an engineer my back-up plan was to be a professional hip-hop dancer! I’ve been dancing since I was five and used to own a dance studio in Latvia.”

Sandra works within:

District heatingExplore

Career path

The growth of the business has led to a proper engineering function being established which I was appointed to lead. We are now working on four schemes which could eventually provide heat to 50,000 homes. I really feel I have a purpose in my job as the work we are doing will have a direct impact on the lives of many thousands of people and contribute to sustainability.
When I joined Vattenfall the heat business in the UK had only just been launched and there were just six of us on the team. But I loved the fact that I had the opportunity to work with engineers from other countries including the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. Being able to build projects from scratch was also very exciting and we were able to look at putting into practice the many lessons learned from operating schemes across Europe.
My partner (who is now my husband) was from England and I wanted to travel and experience new places so I moved to the UK. It was quite a culture shock at first. In Latvia everyone in the industry knows each other but in the UK I had to start from the beginning. But by working for a small company I quickly gained experience across many different areas. I then went to work as a Lead Mechanical Design Engineer for SSE Enterprise Utilities, working on district heating and cooling design management projects.
I come from a family of engineers so it was a career I was always interested in. I began working on district heating schemes in Latvia where they have been in use for decades. My work included analyzing opportunities for modernisation of parts of the system and I was also project engineer for a number of biomass CHP plants.