A conference that enlightens and inspires us

By Ellen Cooke

Energy professionals of color from across the country gathered in Las Vegas in May to learn about innovative new technologies, the future of our industry, industry best practices and to network with their peers. Twenty National Grid employees were among the participants who came away inspired and motivated to share their newfound knowledge. The occasion? The American Association of Blacks in Energy’s (AABE’s) 41st national conference – this year themed ‘Bridging Gaps through Innovation.’

Alliance of Black Professionals (ABP) member Emmanuella (Ella) Emmanuel is a new employee who’s new to the energy industry. Here’s what she and fellow Grid participants have to say about this ‘life changing experience’ …

“The AABE conference helped me recognize the benefits of diversity and inclusion at National Grid. One of the many sessions that really resonated with me is the misconception of the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. A lot of people think that it will result in loss of jobs, but the reality is it will provide the opportunity for new jobs.


“Quoting one of the attendees, Carlene Lacey, ‘Utilities are challenged to create digital platforms that help customers access information efficiently. Utility organizations are cognizant of the fundamental gap in their ability to provide services to individuals who do not have adequate internet services; however, efforts need to increase to reduce the gap.’

“I found the coaching session, sponsored by National Grid, helpful too. My biggest takeaway: that we need to take ownership of our career trajectory, put together a game plan and create our own opportunities. We should also remember to be our authentic selves – be true to who you are and not consumed by how people see you. And we need to give back to the younger generation and get them involved.”

Here are some of my coworkers’ key takeaways:

“The conference reinforced my belief that to remain competitive, the energy industry will need to leverage its core business and get in front of change. That includes things like determining how precious metals get safely back into the earth. Promoting the use of LED lights and understanding unintended consequences of things like self-driving electric vehicles.” – Carlene Lacey

“The executive coaching session provided an opportunity to speak candidly to professionals who have ‘been there, done that!’ The advice coaches and participants gave was thoughtful, relevant and helped me refine my professional development goals for the year.” – Juana Silverio

“Sometimes we only pay attention to issues when the whole world is impacted. To build a solid foundation for our efforts, it’s critical to step back from our ideas and start by creating them where we are. We will know when those we are connected to are authentically benefitting from what we offer, and we will be empowered to grow our business.” – Christopher Williams

“Keeping our eyes open and looking across industries to borrow some of their existing technologies and make them our own. This can help us ‘Find new ways to Bring Energy to Life’!” – Terry Yarde

“Men will be a critical partner in mentoring women without fear of consequences. And while utilities have to adapt to the rapid pace of technology, they also have to transform the skillsets of current employees and seek future employees with the skillsets necessary to use this new technology.” – Aaron Choo

“I found the battery storage panel – with panelists from EEI, SunRun and Tesla – especially engaging, relevant and interesting, given our partnership with SunRun through National Grid Ventures. We’re in a perfect position to identify ways for income-eligible customers and communities of color to become engaged and empowered customers and suppliers of solar, EVs, battery storage, demand response, etc.”  – Candace Young

“The conference took a holistic approach, providing a diverse array of topics relevant to participants’ professional and personal growth – from the technical, such as blockchain or battery storage, to conversations with C-suite and Women in Power, to the infamous ‘Cross-fire’ session focusing on the political climate and its impact on the energy industry. – Renee McClure

“I have a personal responsibility to share what I learned with others, use it as a tool to motivate younger employees and ensure they know all the opportunities available to them. I was clearly reminded, too, of the importance of having a diverse work group and hiring the best candidates while ensuring a great blend of diversity.” – Phil Rodriguez

“Those of us in the regulated utility industry need to become more flexible to encourage and respond to innovations in our market. This will improve our competitive advantage.” – Caeresa Richardson

“We have to understand our strengths and the value we add. And with that in mind, focus on problems that have not yet been solved but are a priority to the organization – and help solve them. Artificial Intelligence will be one of many ways we can work smarter, safer and more efficiently in the future.” – Amanda Downey

“I expanded my awareness of considering data in terms of volume, variety and velocity. This will help frame and plan our call center’s focus through the upcoming changes, as I was left questioning ‘How can we make better business decisions using the information captured in the data?’” – Tanasia Poke

“There were two sessions that motivated me to continue to find new ways of working while focusing on meeting our customers’ needs. One was around Customer Satisfaction – ‘Providing Amazon-like Customer Service.’ I heard about utilities on the verge of having customers dictate how they’d like to be contacted. Alexa will soon be telling customers their account balance! How phenomenal! Another was using drones to help to assess storm damages at light speed. That’s the way of the future and National Grid has exposed us to this technology via the AABE conference.” – Margaret Gordon


One Comment

Mrs. Karen East Robinson

This is inspirational
Looking forward to attending next year AABE conference.


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