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Once upon a time and not that long ago, homes were cold in the winter, hot in the summer and dark come dusk. We now live in more comfort that not even kings and queens enjoyed.
However, it’s easy to overlook those who keep us warm and cozy through the coldest, darkest nights and cool on the hottest of days. So it’s good to know that energy, gas utility and workers are repaid with purposeful lives, career security, abundant advancement opportunities, bountiful bennies and solid salaries.
Meet some woman engineers who are energized by the work they do in this sector.
FirstEnergy’s Moss Relies on the Strength of Teamwork to Lead
Linda Moss was not an unusual student. In her engineering classes, some concepts came easy and others proved more challenging. When she struggled, she looked to her classmates for insight. Where she excelled, she offered a hand up.
As she began her career in utility operations, she continued using collaboration and teamwork to overcome obstacles. Her struggles shifted from mastering engineering curriculum to the real-world task of reaching and restoring downed power lines in storms, which often happened at night on snow-choked roads.
Now that she’s president of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania operations and has reached the rarified air of corner offices and even the governor’s office, where marble and mahogany gleam, you might think that she’s proudest of her ascendency, but you’d be wrong. Having worked for decades to keep wires humming and homes lit, she understands how FirstEnergy serves the most distant hollow.
Says Moss, “When I think about driving up to our more rural territories where the homes are modest, and the effort it takes to get power to them, it hits home how vital our work is. I feel such pride knowing we deliver service 99.99 percent of the time.”
For her, living a life of profound purpose matters most.
“I’ve led a meaningful life. If power is lost and that part of a state is cold and dark and then the lights and warmth are returned, you feel so proud to be a part of this industry.”
The way Moss cares for FirstEnergy’s customers is the way she also cares for her employees. “Some of my proudest moments are when we get to celebrate success in our industry. We’re becoming a safer and safer industry, and celebrating that is such a proud, sweet moment for us.”
Working in the utility sector and at Akron, OH-based FirstEnergy is a viable option for many engineers, due to retirements, industry-wide transformation and the perpetually growing need for energy.
“We will need to backfill those retired positions,” Moss points out. “We’re interested in hiring a diverse group of individuals that are interested in providing outstanding service to our customers while working safely to deliver these results. The energy sector is also experiencing growth and technological advances that will likely transform the way we generate and deliver electricity over the next 10 years and beyond.”
Unlike many sectors where you’ll have to move from company to company and state to state, the utility sector lets you sink deep roots. “We see parents encouraging their children to come work for us because they recognize the benefits of working here. You can’t offshore the utility industry. The infrastructure is all here and we need people here maintaining it.”
If you select this sector, then you’ll thrive by doing your best work, whatever your role, notes Moss. “You will receive more recognition for delivering results in your current capacity than just focusing on your next promotion.”
Moss achieved the presidency by practicing what she preaches. “I was asked to lead a major project at one point in my career that was completely outside of my comfort zone. When I was first approached, I seriously doubted that I possessed the skill set to be successful, but the leadership team provided me with great support, so I embraced it. It was a $52 million project and it helped me to be considered for larger leadership roles.”
Accepting a role outside your comfort zone is key to your career, maintains Moss. “Embrace that stretch assignment. That’s where growth happens.”
It’s not only growth that happens, but the moment to prove to yourself and others what you can achieve.
“Any person who’s put into a leadership role has to prove themselves. They gave me a fair shot and that’s all anyone should expect. Be prepared to earn their respect. You might have to go over and above because you’re a woman, but you can do that,” concludes Moss.
Find firstenergycorp.com/careers.html for FirstEnergy career opportunities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company with 10 electric distribution companies that form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems. It operates 24,000-plus miles of transmission lines and serves customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York.
Find more at firstenergycorp.com.
Collaboration Helps Hernandez Ascend at NextEra
Helena Hernandez, vice president, central maintenance, power generation division, oversees planning and execution of scheduled maintenance and projects for all of the company’s wind, solar and fossil plants across the U.S., Canada and Spain. It’s a mighty big job, but Hernandez has 400 technicians, engineers, planners and business services specialists on her team.
As a vice president who has hired many people, what qualities does she seek?
“Our company values continuous improvement, so if you have a strategic mindset and you’re always looking for ways to make things better, then you’ll fit right in. Our culture is also very inclusive and team-oriented, and we recognize that communication and people skills are just as important.”
Given that Juno Beach, FL-based NextEra Energy, Inc. is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, a “strategic mindset” is essential, according to Hernandez. If hired, then you’re likely to share her pride in the company’s purpose.
“We’re changing the world and we’re making clean energy efficient and affordable. I think that’s something all of us are proud to be a part of,” she says.
Hernandez is also proud of her company’s culture: “I’ve worked here since 1999 and I’ve always felt like I had a voice. Our leaders want to hear everyone’s ideas. Our company is so inclusive and collaborative.”
Being collaborative means someone always has your back. “I think what’s helped me the most is being humble. I know I don’t have all the answers, so I don’t worry about always being the hero. If I need help, then I’ll ask my team, peers, or call the person who did the job before me,” she shares.
Through all of the challenges, Hernandez enjoys the ride.
“There was a time in college when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I explored a few different options, including international relations,” she recalls. “But to me, engineering is about problem-solving and making the world a better place, so that’s ultimately why I chose it. I don’t think I realized how much fun I would have.”
If you want this vice president to hire you, then what should you do?
“Even if you’re an engineer, it’s still important to understand finance and how business works. It doesn’t have to be your major, but take advantage of the resources available and work on your commercial skills. It will play a big role in your career,” Hernandez advises.
And if you’re hired, then get your hand in the air!
“Be the one to raise your hand. You never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet. Also don’t overlook the people part. Do the right thing and take care of the people around you. It will impact your professional and personal life. When you do right by people, it fosters collaboration and creates a strong team,” states Hernandez.
Examine jobs.nexteraenergy.com for NextEra Energy job opportunities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
NextEra Energy, Inc. is a clean energy company with approximately 45,900 megawatts of generating capacity, which includes megawatts associated with non-controlling interests related to NextEra Energy Partners, LP. It employees approximately 14,700 employees in 30 states and Canada as of year-end 2016.
Explore more at nexteraenergy.com.
Con Ed’s White Enjoys Working Together on Solutions
New York City is called the Big Apple, but from space, it looks like the Big, Bright Light. That’s because there are so many New Yorkers, who, when they collectively flick their light switches, make one part of the Earth blaze into the night.
Bianca White, a project engineer in Consolidated Edison’s (Con Edison, or Con Ed as it’s also known) central engineering department, is one of the reasons New York blazes so brightly. In her family White was a trailblazer, being the first to graduate from a four-year college. As such, she didn’t have an older sibling or parent she could solicit for advice. At times she had to rely upon strangers to light her way, but today White returns the favor many times, lighting the New York night for so many strangers.
Her work is often overlooked: How many of us contemplate the source of the energy that lights our homes and workplaces? Producing that energy reliably and safely requires an attention to detail that’s beyond most of us. Her work is esoteric too, such as when she and her colleagues monitor the purity of the water that goes into the steam engines, thus enabling them operate efficiently. It’s essential work that she also enjoys, in large part because she and her colleagues enjoy each other.
“I like the people I work with. The challenges we have here are solved by creative collaboration. We all have different backgrounds and our diverse skill sets make the collaboration exciting,” she says.
The on-going chances to enhance her skill set are also exciting: “I love that I’m always learning here. There’s always an opportunity to learn something new.”
One of 13,000 employees, White encourages her fellow engineers to continuously learn something new and advance their careers.
“When you volunteer for opportunities outside of your normal workload, you make yourself visible to upper management. Speak up. Step up. Take control of your career. If there’s a class you want to take or another degree to acquire, then do that,” White counsels.
“The work we’re doing is so important. Not everyone can do it. You have to have the background and expertise and that’s a point of pride for me even if most people haven’t heard of it or considered it. We power New York City. It’s a global city and one of the most important cities in the world.”
Check apps.coned.com/careers for Con Ed careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.
Con Ed’s Spark
Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc., which is among the nation's largest investor-owned energy companies. It provides electric, gas and steam service to more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, NY.
Glean more at conedison.com.
Walker Ascends & Learns with Each New Role at SoCalGas
To paraphrase William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Jennifer Walker, director, pipeline safety and compliance at Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), works in “a brave, new world” that will have wonders in it.
“In the future our pipelines will be decarbonized, meaning that in addition to traditional fossil gas, we’ll be bringing in renewable natural gas from anaerobic digesters and perhaps even using power-to-gas technology to store solar and wind power,” states Walker.
She heads a team of 40 people, who focus on pipeline compliance-related investigations, analytics, tracking and risk reduction. In short, she keeps the houses lit and communities safe, and enjoys doing so.
“You will never find a company with nicer people. We love to collaborate and share ideas. Our people really want to see that everyone succeeds, and the environment is open and friendly. We love humor and enjoy working with one another,” the engineer points out.
Walker’s first full-time job at SoCalGas, a regulated subsidiary of San Diego, CA-based Sempra Energy, was in the corrosion engineering group. She was offered an operational position assisting the cathodic protection supervisor.
“I was extremely excited as engineers were not typically given these types of opportunities and only people who had done the work in the field had been previously selected,” Walker recollects.
However, three months into her new role, her supervisor took another position and management turned to Walker.
“It was suggested that I apply for his job,” she remembers. “I was highly concerned as I did not have supervisory experience. I took a deep breath and started doing a lot of reading on leadership. I worked long hours and made mistakes, but I also had many successes; both mistakes and successes helped me grow quickly. It took time, but eventually found my rhythm, and I can say that that one position changed my life and my direction.”
Being offered a new role is the norm at SoCalGas, she says. “In my 18 years with SoCalGas, I’ve held 14 different positions. The skills you learn moving into different teams are indispensable.”
Walker has a degree in biochemical engineering. Coming out of college, she thought she might work for a pet food manufacturer or a pharmaceutical company. But when SoCalGas called, she never looked back.
“I was hooked on the culture, the work and the people. I could not imagine working anywhere else!” Walker enthuses.
And though she’s in her 14th role, it might be the best yet: “I feel like my entire career thus far has prepared me with the required skill sets needed for my current role. I love to analyze processes, investigate issues and find ways to improve our company. I’ve been in just about every area of our operations and experienced the challenges on the front line. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to have an epiphany about a problem and then help people achieve that change.”
Walker embodies this truth: energy companies promote engineers. “Many companies love to have engineers in leadership positions and especially utilities,” she underscores.
Search socalgas.com/careers, sdge.com/careers and sempra.com/careers respectively for SoCalGas, SDG&E and Sempra career paths. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.
SoCalGas’ & SDG&E’s Spark
SoCalGas serves more than 21.6 million consumers across 20,000 square miles throughout central and southern California. SDG&E serves 3.6 million consumers in San Diego and Southern Orange Counties. Both are subsidiaries of Sempra Energy, which serves 32 million-plus consumers worldwide.
See more at socalgas.com, sdge.com and sempra.com.
Southwestern Energy’s Frederick Seizes Every Opportunity to Grow
In 2009 the U.S surpassed Russia to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and Forbes predicts that natural gas demand will steadily rise.
As such, Southwestern Energy, currently the nation’s third largest producer of natural gas in the lower 48 states, is well-positioned to take advantage of growing demand. And like Houston, TX-based Southwestern Energy, Erica Frederick, a staff reservoir engineer for the utility, is well-positioned in her career.
The engineer does many things to facilitate the exploration and development of natural gas, such as determining how the subsurface plays into well performance and assessing the controllable mechanisms that can help determine the outcome of a particular well or field. She thrills to the chase.
“My job is always a challenge. I love knowing there are a magnitude of different topics [toward which I can] direct my technical focus, and that with the assets we have, there are many opportunities to develop and optimize with each new piece of technology,” says Frederick.
And she embraces opportunities to learn from mistakes.
“A couple years ago I analyzed a data set and advocated for a change. At the time early data suggested this was an appropriate move and we invested in this idea,” relates Frederick. “As new results came in and we increased our understanding, it became apparent our line of thinking was incorrect. This was a highly visible change and a pivotal point in my career. I’ve since focused on building from the learnings as a result of this experience.”
Frederick encourages you, too, to be bold and accelerate your learning: “A wise mentor shared advice they had received years ago about their career path: ‘Don’t take a job that doesn’t challenge you and test your skill set.’ Each new role should be a challenge and move you out of your comfort zone. When you’re out of your comfort zone, it’s the prime opportunity to grow as an individual and a professional. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to expand your skill set and vocalize your aspirations early so your mentors/manager/boss know how to help you get there.”
And don’t wait to put yourself out there, Frederick adds.
“Seek opportunities to get involved in the industry as early as you can to start developing your network. Whether it’s a formal internship or a job or volunteering position, in a close-knit community like the oil and gas industry, those developed relationships could pay dividends.”
Scout www.swn.com/careers/pages/default.aspx for Southwestern Energy job paths. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Southwestern Energy’s Spark
Southwestern Energy Company is a growing independent energy company primarily engaged in natural gas and crude oil exploration, development and production, and focused on creating and capturing additional value via it natural gas gathering and marketing businesses, called Midstream Services.
Seek more at www.swn.com.
Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone Pays Off for Encana’s Cavens
Jessica Cavens, director, midstream at Encana, parlayed her engineering degree into a leadership role. She currently has six reports, but has had as many as 50.
As the director of U.S. midstream, she ensures gas is gathered from the wellhead, processed and delivered to a point of sales. In short, she keeps us toasty in the winter and cool in the summer! Our homes’ heat comes from her willingness to take the heat of challenges and she keeps cool under pressure.
“Many times in my career, I’ve been presented with an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and learn a new discipline. It can often be overwhelming and terrifying to expose yourself to an area in which you know very little,” explains Cavens.
“However, I’ve found that with dedication and commitment to the new opportunity, the growth and development that arises far outweighs the risk. I’ve never regretted taking on a new challenge and broadening my knowledge base.”
Even though stepping up can be intimidating, the learning that comes from it is what Cavens loves about her career.
“I enjoy the ability to continuously learn something new. Whether it’s related to the newest technology, scientific ideas or an entirely new discipline within the field, the ability to relentlessly learn and develop has driven my success and enjoyment of my career.”
At Encana, whose U.S. headquarters are in Denver, CO and global headquarters are in Calgary, Canada, you’re not just exposed to new technology. You develop it.
“The opportunity to generate or influence a breakthrough technology or innovative idea is available to everyone at every level here,” she notes.
Being a mover and shaker might require you to step up when it’s easier to say, “No,” according to Cavens.
“When opportunities are presented, try not to say, ‘No.’ While this is not always practical given personal situations, be open and ensure that the reason you’re declining the opportunity is not based on a fear of failure or change. Change is healthy,” she encourages.
“Also, be willing to raise your hand for the job that no one else wants to do. You’ll be surprised how much you learn, and it’ll be noticed by those around you. Your willingness to take on the tough projects will help you stand out among the pack.”
If stepping up appeals to you, then Cavens offers some insider insight: “Encana values innovation, excellence, a drive to relentlessly improve and, above all, the ability to work on a highly functional team with agility and drive.”
Explore encana.com/careers for Encana career possibilities. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Encana Corporation is a North American energy producer focused on developing its strong portfolio of resource plays, held directly and indirectly via its subsidiaries, producing natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs).
Eye more at encana.com.
Guerra Is Proud of Her Renewable Energy Work at SCE
A renewable integration engineer and analyst at Rosemead, CA-based Southern California Edison (SCE), Alexsandra Guerra works on research and demonstration projects in renewable energy integration and grid modernization. She’s proud of her work.
“I love that my job is innovative and important. The way we deliver electricity on power lines to customers is revolutionizing in the face of environmental and technological change,” says Guerra.
“Society has to figure out a way to produce clean, reliable, safe power in a sustainable and advanced way. Advancement in technology like big data and communication will allow us to improve the grid by being more efficient and conserving energy, and thus reducing the amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The engineers that I work with are focused on harnessing current technologies to seize these opportunities.”
One of approximately 12,400 employees and approximately 400 engineers at SCE, an Edison International company, Guerra didn’t take the easiest path to her current work.
“It was difficult for me when I first started working for the utility company as a research engineer because I had little experience in electrical engineering,” she remembers.
“I had many years of research in chemical and mechanical engineering, but not electrical. It made the work seem daunting and scary. I decided to take it day by day, learning what I could on my own, as well as engaging experts in conversation, learning from them. Reaching out to people for help is incredible because the vast majority of people are more than willing to share what they know and help someone else appreciate their work.”
Guerra pays it forward, sharing what she’s gleaned.
“Learn about the history of your company. Get to know its people. Understand the company culture and values. Do this by looking at your company website and understand the structure of how the company works, by talking with veterans in the company about their work and what they’ve experienced at the company,” she urges.
“It’s important to understand the history and context in order for you to navigate waters and discover how you will add to the team as a whole, as well as contribute in a unique way as an individual.”
At SCE you find that the individuals who comprise the workforce make for fun, innovative days, according to Guerra. “The people here have a lot of flair and character, and I enjoy being both creative and analytical. We use what we know about today to discover new and creative solutions for tomorrow.”
See edison.com/home/careers.html for SCE jobs. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
An Edison International company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.
Seek more at sce.com and edison.com.
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