Since we last spoke, Hillary Clinton became the first female major-party presidential candidate in U.S. history, women have been empowered by the #TimesUp social media movement, and, my favorite by far, the Fearless Girl statue was installed at Bowling Green in Manhattan. So many, yet I always seem to circle back to the same question: what do these events mean for women, particularly those in the utility industry?
Each achievement marks a step, whether little or big, towards female voices being heard equally to men’s; these shifts are running parallel in the utility industry. When I started my career over 20 years ago, I was always the only woman in the room, but today, at one of my current clients, the project leadership team is comprised of 4 women and 2 men! I love sitting in those meetings and seeing smart, successful, and driven women debating technical and functional challenges articulately. I also see more utilities putting a priority on inclusion requirements further than simple gender equity, actively working to fill diversity and inclusion targets to benefit us all as we strive toward creative, innovative, and diverse solutions.
We’ve talked in the past about the concept of the “emotional woman” and the negative connotation of that sentiment. Lately, I’ve seen that idea turned on its head and rephrased as emotional intelligence. How has this supposed female tendency toward emotional awareness, empathy, and relationship building helped you conduct your business?
Making real connections and building friendships are important to me, and I do believe that both have led to quite a bit of my success. As I mentioned in our last chat, customer transformation is all about building a strong relationship between the utility and the end customer. When looking at the consultant-utility relationship, the two things that I like most about the utility industry are that it is very much a relationship and knowledge business. You can’t sell into a utility unless you build a relationship with the stakeholders and not only demonstrate an understanding of their business but creative solutions to their specific business needs and issues. Working with clients to understand where they face challenges, listening to their needs, and paying attention to which words they use to describe the challenges or feelings about such provides us the opportunity to find innovative solutions.
For example, after our go-live at Avista Utilities, we looked back over the lessons learned on the project and identified some key pain points that we experienced during the implementation. A big one was that the business really struggled to understand what the solution would be post go-live. So, we asked ourselves, what if we throw out the standard way of doing projects? What if we found a way to get the solution into the hands of the business well before testing, which, in a waterfall approach, comes very late in the overall project? Given that the businesses we work with need extensive functionality in a solution when they go-live, we knew that a pure agile approach wasn’t very likely to be successful. So, we developed a hybrid waterfall-agile approach to counter that challenge alongside many others. Every client we’ve spoken with since developing this methodology has responded extremely positively. I think that’s a great example of showing empathy to the customer’s challenges throughout a project and responding in a way which positively affects the outcome.
You can’t sell into a utility unless you build a relationship with the stakeholders and not only demonstrate an understanding of their business but creative solutions to their specific business needs and issues.”
Emotional awareness, empathy, and relationship building applies to more than just customer relationships. Using this framework within my organization, I have made my employees feel like we’re a family rather than being a number or headcount. I count each person as a personal friend and we’re able to provide a flexible work environment to let people take care of family first while still getting our work done to make our customers successful.
LaRae Quy, a counterintelligence officer with the FBI, made this statement in Forbes: “Women in the workforce need to grab success however they can, but too many of them are throwing away their advantages by trying to be like men.” What’s your reaction to this quote?
Ms. Quy is specifically speaking about using aggression and intimidation to get ahead and lead when she says, “like a man.” I think that women have the opportunity to lead differently by demonstrating and promoting emotional awareness, empathy, and relationship building in all aspects of their careers. What customer wouldn’t want someone who listens to them, shows empathy for their challenges or focuses on building a relationship over selling a product? Considering how demanding a consultant’s job can be with long hours and extensive travel, employees appreciate an employer that believes that the ‘organization’ includes employees’ families and understands the impacts on one’s family when making decisions that impact the corporation. Empathy for your employees should be at the top of any leader’s list of skills and qualifications.
What would your advice be to a woman entering into the utility industry, specifically someone who intended to work as a consultant like yourself?
I would tell someone that it’s important to learn the industry outside of the area you specialize in order to have a holistic understanding of how the industry is evolving and to be able to speak knowledgeably to resources in different areas. Find mentors from diverse backgrounds, as it is important to understand different perspectives as you work through challenges you face in your career. Protect and maintain your reputation and integrity to the highest standards. They are very important, don’t let anyone or any situation cause you to compromise them. As a consultant, these are more important than your technical skills or functional knowledge. Finally, you don’t have to have all the answers up front, but you have to try to do things, think about things, and work to find the right answer.
Protect and maintain your reputation and integrity to the highest standards. They are very important, don’t let anyone or any situation cause you to compromise them.”
It’s been nearly 4 years since Triniti’s inception. What is the key factor to which you owe your success and what is your biggest lesson learned?
There are really three key factors to Triniti’s success over the past 4 years. First, a smart and experienced team. We really did pick the most experienced resources in the market. The second factor is hard work, which is obvious but important. Finally, third is putting the customer first. If you put the customer first and make sure that all your decisions as a business ensure doing the right and best thing for the customer, you will be successful, period.
Our biggest lesson learned was more of a proven theory, and that is that doing the right thing is always the correct thing. If you do it, you can’t go wrong, and it preserves your reputation and integrity.
If you put the customer first and make sure that all your decisions as a business ensure doing the right and best thing for the customer, you will be successful, period.”
Our journey to build an Oracle Consulting practice at Triniti from scratch has been an exciting one and we are very proud of what we have accomplished in the past four years. We started Triniti with four like-minded business partners that believed strongly in our core competencies and values. With the go-live of Avista, growth has continued to accelerate in supporting new and existing clients. We have opportunities that we never really dreamed of to grow and innovate in our industry and we are really excited about the future. I hope we can talk again in another two years.