From Baltimore to Boston
Meet Jeannette Mills our SVP of Safety, Health and Environmental
In March 2017, Jeannette Mills became National Grid’s Senior Vice President of Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE). Prior to joining National Grid, Jeannette served as a Commissioner for Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC). She began her career at Baltimore Gas &Electric (BGE) as an Associate Engineer and eventually became BGEs Chief Customer Officer and Vice President of Customer Operations. We sat down with Jeannette to chat about her first few months at National Grid.
Q: After 25 years of service with BGE you went on to hold a very prestigious and powerful post serving as one of Maryland’s PSC Commissioners. So what was it that enticed you to leave that and join National Grid?
“For me, coming back to work for an energy company like National Grid is kind of like riding a bike – you can be away from it for a while but once you’re back, it just feels right. I enjoyed working for the PSC. I had the opportunity to shape policy and help protect the public interest when it came to safe, reliable, and economic utility and transportation services. My experience there helped me understand the why and how things were done to create the regulations and tariffs that I had administered for many years. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I got to look behind the curtain and see the “all powerful”.
Q: What’s different about working for a utility rather than a regulator?
“What I like about working at National Grid is the collaboration and teamwork. At the PSC, there were five independent Commissioners. Also, when you’re a regulator you are setting policy, rates, and settling complaints; you don’t actually get to do the work. For a person like me, that’s difficult.”
Q: Did you ever think your career would take you on this path?
“When it came to my career, I’ve never plotted where I was going to get to. I was more about trying to do a good job and treat people with respect. I was born and raised in West Baltimore by a single mom. I was the youngest of four girls. As a child I was always reading and studying. My sisters liked to go out and have fun, but I could always be found book in hand, hanging around the house with my grandmother or aunt. It’s no surprise that I went on to study engineering, but I never really thought about what the future held for me.”
Q: What was your initial impression of National Grid?
“My first reaction was, boy, I’m glad to be here. I thought that the people here are disciplined and they are professionals in their field. My other thought was that this company is big and everywhere! Keep in mind that I worked at a utility with about 3,500 employees and a contiguous service territory. National Grid’s pockets of communities that we serve are not necessarily connected. As a leader, my thought is how do I help influence people who are from different parts of our service territory and so widely spread out in our jurisdictions.”
Q: How do you plan to do that?
“Well, I think my biggest job is to listen and observe. I have been out with our first line supervisors and meeting with our crews. I’m not going to step in and start changing things just for the sake of it. Change needs to be thoughtful. You need to know why, and you have to have a good plan around it.”
Q: What do you think about our safety record so far?
“The progress we’ve made should be applauded. We’ve made significant improvements, not only to systems and process but our people tell me we talk about safety more than we ever have. Now we need to take this performance to the next level – increased ownership and accountability for all of us. Focus on key behaviors such as the peer to peer aspect of safety management and each of us recommitting to adhering to all of our safety policies and practices.”
Q: So what’s next?
“We are so performance driven that we haven’t taken the time to celebrate. If you think about it, we have people out there doing the right thing every day! That’s why we implemented our Near Miss-Good Catch (NM-GC) program. We wanted to hear about and share what people are doing right to prevent injuries and accidents. We know it’s not perfect and we may get some Near Miss-Good Catch reports that are high quality and others not so much… you get a wide variety yet it’s so great when you get those gold nuggets that we can share across the company.”
Q: What do “safety, health and the environment,” your department’s focus, mean to you?
“It’s about our people. With safety, we want to make sure people go home the same way they came in. It’s the same with health and wellbeing – if people want to make a change in those areas, we hope to be able to give them the resources to do that. And when it comes to our environment, I think about my children and future generations. My daughter Sinclaire is 21 and studying Computer Engineering and my son Garrett is 17 and will graduate high school next year. They are both just beginning their lives and so I want to do my part to protect our environment for them. My family was recently vacationing in Colorado near Pikes Peak. That’s where Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write “America the Beautiful.” When you see those mountains and think of the lyrics to the song, it’s just beautiful and you can’t help but think about leaving this place better than you found it.”