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Taken together, the energy, gas and utility fields as one sector are incredibly diverse and offer an endless array of career opportunities. The industry is also growing as the need for gas and energy and reliable utility services is constant.
Here five individuals share how to succeed and fuel up your own career in this critical sector that helps keep lights on, homes warm, businesses running and much more.
Williams Brings Creativity to AEP’s Renewable Energy & Non-Traditional Projects
A constant curiosity serves Jennifer E. Williams well in her role as a project manager in the generation division of Columbus, OH-headquartered American Electric Power (AEP). Williams manages renewable energy projects for the company and non-traditional projects from other departments, projects that don’t involve generating power, but focus on process improvements, system and equipment upgrades, or case studies.
“I enjoy the opportunities I have to be creative in solving complex problems,” says Williams.
“My position as a project manager requires I interface with departments throughout the company. This gives me the opportunity to see things from different perspectives and helps me tailor my approach based on how it may affect those around me.”
For instance, Williams recently worked on a project that reinforced and updated telecommunication equipment throughout the Midwest and Appalachian regions of AEP’s footprint.
“With these upgrades, employees that service power lines in rural or remote areas with previously poor connections are now able to better communicate on radios, cellular service and Wi-Fi,” explains Williams.
“This improves safety in case of an emergency and increases productivity with the opportunity to update work in the field, rather than taking notes and updating when they return to the office.”
Prior to working at AEP, Williams knew nothing about the company aside from paying her monthly electric bill. With the company for a little more than four years, what makes AEP is a great place to work is the innumerable opportunities it offers.
“There are a multitude of career options in a wide array of cities, in-person and online training to broaden your knowledge base, support and resources for mental and physical health, and countless ways to give back to the communities we serve through volunteerism. There are also employee resource groups and opportunities to lead them,” cites Williams, who serves as co-chair of the company’s African-American employee resource group.
“If you find there are limited opportunities or no opportunities in the things that interest you, then our leadership encourages you to seek the right people to help you create those opportunities.”
To succeed professionally, Williams offers advice she received in her own career: “Bloom where you’re planted.”
She continues: “Sometimes career moves are not everything you were hoping they would be. Rather than adopting a negative mindset and destructive behavior, try to soak in all you can in that position until the right opportunity for you comes along. Often you’ll find the skills you honed while you weren’t in your ideal position will prove to be an asset to any new position.”
Find career opportunities with AEP at aep.com/careers. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Reliability Is Key to Hinton’s Success at WEC Energy Group
Torrence Hinton’s goal is to ensure the reliable delivery of natural gas for Milwaukee, WI-headquartered WEC Energy Group around the Midwest. As the company’s director of gas storage, Hinton directs and coordinates gas storage operations across multiple utilities and state jurisdictions to ensure public and employee safety, regulatory compliance, the reliable delivery of natural gas, and financial discipline.
He’s also responsible for the development and implementation of operational strategies and business plans for WEC’s natural gas storage assets.
With both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Hinton found himself attracted to energy concepts during his engineering studies; thermodynamics and heat transfer were, in fact, two of his favorite college subjects.
With the company for more than 20 years, he was drawn to WEC for his first job and has remained with the company thanks to the opportunities he’s been provided to use his skills and grow professionally. He also appreciates that he gets to work with talented, dedicated people.
“In my opinion the real value of our organization is its people, and the dedication that they show to their work and profession,” shares Hinton.
Even better is that he gets to work with talented people while providing a critical service.
“We deliver energy and natural gas in a safe and reliable manner, and we perform our work with customer satisfaction in mind,” explains Hinton. “It’s an awesome responsibility, and it brings me great satisfaction to perform this work with a diverse group of talented people.”
Hinton notes how he’s been “blessed” to have both mentors and sponsors throughout his career who recognized his talents, and who were willing to provide him with opportunities and challenging assignments. This has also led to some great advice through the years.
“I recall one of my mentors once telling me that I should try to position myself to ‘get struck by lightning.’ This mentor said opportunities can be like lightning because you don’t necessarily know when they’ll occur, but you can both prepare yourself for what might come and position yourself to take advantage of the opportunity.”
In addition, success comes from not only learning the technical aspects or principles of your field of study and being prepared to apply those concepts to real-world applications, but also from getting comfortable with collaboration and upskilling your ability to work with others.
“Because it’s very likely that your success will depend not only on your individual skills, but also on how well you can work in a group or team setting, I’d highly encourage young professionals to learn and start applying the concepts of ‘emotional intelligence’ early on in their career,” he advises.
And finally, no matter what the situation, maintain a positive attitude. “I believe your attitude impacts your thoughts and behavior,” says Hinton, “and it’ll ultimately impact your outcomes.”
Find career opportunities with WEC Energy Group at wecenergygroup.com/careers. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Sutton Ensures Pipeline Integrity for Atmos Energy
Maintaining pipeline integrity is core to Marlo Sutton’s work. Sutton is the vice president of technical services for Dallas, TX-headquartered Atmos Energy. Overseeing the company’s engineering and compliance functions for the company’s Mid-Tex division, her team manages all of the information pertinent to Atmos’ piping systems and ensures the company follows state and federal guidelines to maintain their pipelines.
A large project Sutton and her team has worked on the past few years is taking a huge technology leap and moving to new, industry-standard GIS system to blueprint and map gas lines.
“When things are high stakes, we need quick info at the drop of a hat,” explains Sutton, who has a degree in civil engineering and an MBA. “We went from a system with a lot of limitations to one that really serves us well.”
Sutton’s first job out of school was working as a consultant for a civil engineering firm. A few years into that role, she wanted a career change and started researching different companies. She specifically wanted to work for a company with a good reputation for having a great culture and treating employees well. Around the same time Atmos landed in the list of the top 100 places to work in Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX.
“The decision to come here was one of the best career decisions I ever made,” says Sutton, who’s been with the company for eight years.
Sutton further appreciates that Atmos is not just a place to work. “It really is a family,” she says.
“We live and we breathe safety. The message to employees is that we always want everyone to go home safe, every day, exactly the way they came to work. Employees look out for each other, and feel valued and heard and feel like they belong.”
To succeed in the workplace, Sutton offers advice she’s found especially helpful since coming to Atmos: foster strong relationships with people, inside the organization and outside of it.
“Dedicating time to build relationships with others inspires trust with folks,” says Sutton. “While it’s about getting to know people, building relationships allows you to offer your support to others and help others however you can. In turn, one day you may need someone to lend you a hand.”
The crux of a good relationship, however, is doing what you say, according to Sutton. “In relationships you have to be honest. If you don’t know, then say you don’t know. Be humble, and people will be more willing to approach you.”
She also advises investing in yourself, much like she did in obtaining her MBA.
“It provided me the opportunity to meet my personal and career goals and gain new and different perspectives that I’ve leveraged throughout my career,” Sutton shares.
“It does take time and sometimes money, but you never forget what you learned about yourself through the process.”
Find career opportunities with Atmos Energy at atmosenergy.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
Woodson Keeps Dominion Energy Online
While Venessa Woodson oversees a team responsible for Dominion Energy’s network and wireless infrastructure across its entire 18-state footprint, she also recently played a critical role in bringing diverse young talent into the organization.
Woodson, Dominion Energy’s IT supervisor of infrastructure operations, who supervises the company’s network operations team, recently played a critical role in Dominion Energy’s first Diversity Student Conference. This conference hosted more than 120 students from different colleges all over the country with the hopes of educating them about the energy business and what Richmond, VA-headquartered Dominion Energy is doing to support it.
As a result, the company filled most of its paid internship positions with students from this conference.
“This effort [is] an example to show that Dominion Energy promotes the idea of taking on more projects that catch your interest that are outside of your normal job duties,” says Woodson. “So, although I love my job and I enjoy doing it, I’m also allowed to participate in efforts that give back to students and other people in our communities, which is another passion of mine.”
An electrical engineer by trade, Woodson always had an interest in computers. In addition, she quickly learned she didn’t want a job that required her to be out in the field.
“I wanted the balance of doing technical work while physically being in an office environment, and, for me, that was IT,” says Woodson, who’s worked at Dominion Energy for five years. She was recruited as an intern her junior year of college at a National Society for Black Engineers’ (NSBE) national conference.
“A lot of the companies who came to these conferences and my college to recruit interns had this mentality of we need them more than they need us. The recruiters from Dominion Energy were the only ones that made me feel like they would invest in me, just as much as I invest in them. At that point, I didn’t care about which internship opportunity was paying more. I knew I wanted to work in a welcoming and supportive environment. That’s why I decided to apply for internships at Dominion Energy.”
This experience echoes the best advice Woodson has ever received: don’t chase money, but instead be happy, and everything else will fall into place.
“I chose Dominion Energy because I truly felt this was a company that would invest in me,” she points out. “I have friends who accepted those higher offers, and now they aren’t happy and looking for other jobs. The money kept them happy for a while, but then they realized it wasn’t enough to motivate them to work in an environment that they do not care for.”
In addition, to that end, she appreciates the company’s culture. “In general, the culture at the company is unmatched. Dominion Energy is not trying to be the biggest utility, but the best one!” she enthuses.
Find career opportunities with Dominion Energy at careers.dominionenergy.com. Connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
Serradji’s Love of Geology Helps Her Drive Business Decisions for Chesapeake Energy
Hayet Serradji seeks to help Chesapeake Energy make better business decisions in relation to what lies just beneath the Earth’s surface. Serradji is the manager of geology in geoscience technology at Oklahoma City, OK-headquartered Chesapeake Energy, overseeing subject matter experts in the fields of geology and geochemistry that focus on advanced interpretations of subsurface data to help guide the company decisions.
“Part of my job is to be a liaison between these geological experts, and the exploration and development teams at Chesapeake,” she details. “The purpose is to form a partnership where technology and other geoscience and engineering teams collaborate to drill the best locations with the highest returns for the company.
Another important role for Serradji is to develop her employees and help them grow, professionally and personally.
“That’s a very important part of my job,” she says, “and a role I take very seriously because I’m passionate about people and committed to their development.”
Serradji has always been interested in science and knew from a young age that she wanted to do something science-related. At the same time she also loved the outdoors and had a passion for arts. Geology offered all this.
“The more I learned, the more excited I became. Early in the geology education, you use your artistic ability a lot - drawing fossils, etc. - so I quickly was able to integrate my love for art. The further along I got in my education, the more I fell in love with geology. With geology, I’m able to harness my curiosity about the planet and my passion for the arts,” she shares.
Serradji has been with Chesapeake since 2008, joining the company after completing her second master’s degree at University of Kansas. Originally from Algeria, Serradji notes that her post-college job options in the U.S. were limited as an international student. But while volunteering at a job fair, Chesapeake noticed Serradji’s interactions with students and faculty, and asked her to interview and flew her to Oklahoma City the next day.
“In the end it was Chesapeake’s interest in my abilities, as well as their amazing benefits and technical expertise that drew me to the company,” she says.
What makes Chesapeake a great place to work, she adds, is the people.
“Our CEO often says our people are what make this company successful, and I couldn’t agree more,” states Serradji. “Chesapeake employees have a strong work ethic, grit, and determination, and we’re always pushing to do better.”
She also loves the fact that Chesapeake “respects you as a person and values a work-life harmony.”
From her own experience, Serradji offers a few pieces of advice to young professionals: first, believe in yourself and your technical skills.
“There’s a lot of gray area when it comes to the interpretation of data, so we have to look at the big picture. It’s important to believe in yourself and your skills,” she says.
Secondly, stay curious. “You’ll only grow and improve when you stay open to new ideas, different opinions, help, and feedback.”
Find career opportunities with Chesapeake Energy at chk.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Clean Energy Trends in the Power & Utilities Industry
In 2019 natural gas dominated the U.S. power generation mix, as wind and solar saw a rise in capacity. And while some of the year’s power and utilities industry trends - cyberrisk, scrutiny from regulators, natural disasters - will continue into the new decade, 2020 will likely bring growth opportunities for the power and utilities industry to lead the clean energy transition.
In 2019 the multiyear pattern of record-breaking utility capital expenditures amid stagnant load growth continued in the power industry. And it shows few signs of changing as the need to upgrade aging infrastructure, digitize, and secure the grid against natural and man-made disasters such as cyberattacks continues. But while this generally creates upward pressure on prices, once again in 2019 retail electricity customers saw only modest increases. This is due, in part, to low natural gas prices and declining costs of wind and solar power continuing to dampen wholesale electricity prices.
Natural gas continued to dominate the U.S. power generation mix, at more than 44% of generation capacity. Wind and solar capacity also continued its rise, to nearly 12% of capacity, driven largely by growing corporate commitment to renewables, declining prices, supportive policies such as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), and improved performance. Renewables as a whole, including hydroelectric, reached nearly 22% of U.S. capacity, surpassing coal-fired plants’ share for the first time. And the rush to deploy battery storage
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