Breaking barriers

Like her parents, Vidya Rangachar has a love for math. Her father was an economist and her mom a statistics major. Keeping in line with that numerical legacy, Vidya earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Osmania University in India, her native country. Vidya also inherited her mom’s determination and followed pretty closely in her footsteps – both women striving to go further.

“My mother left her hometown (in India) after earning her master’s to work in a distant city,” she said. “This was no easy thing to do, especially in the mid-50’s in India.  It was uncommon to have an unmarried woman living and working by herself in a large city at the time. Talk about a role model!”

Similarly, after earning her undergraduate degree, Vidya left home and traveled nearly 9,000 miles to study toward and earn a master’s in environmental engineering at Arizona State University.

She later relocated to Texas and for two decades Vidya has called CPS Energy home. Today she serves as a Senior Director of Technical Services Distribution in the Energy Delivery Services area. Simply put, she and her team work to improve electric reliability to the company’s customers. In addition to managing the reliability program, this includes maintaining electrical equipment such as transformers and distribution automation devices, assisting customers with voltage or power quality issues, and overseeing vegetation management, or simply put – tree trimming. Vidya noted that her team also gets to do ‘cool stuff like using drones’ to assist in checking equipment and looking for any issues or potential issues that could cause power interruptions.

We’ll have a lot more to share on Vidya’s team and the work they’re doing to serve our customers soon. In the meantime, keep reading to learn more about Vidya as we continue celebrating Women’s History Month.

Q: What were the biggest challenges you dealt with after moving to the United States?

Vidya: At my first job, I hardly asked any questions in meetings. I thought I would sound silly or nobody would understand my question because of my accent, or everybody already knew the answer – so why bother asking it. Clearly, I have grown out of it, because nowadays people will tell me I ask too many questions.

And it was a little tough being a vegetarian in Texas but it’s getting easier.  

Q: How did you end up at CPS Energy and in the Energy Delivery Services area?

Vidya: Immediately after earning my master’s, I worked on environmental risk assessments at a consulting firm in Houston.  After almost five years at that firm and without any real programming experience, I changed careers and went into software programming with another company here in San Antonio; there was a lot of on-the-job training and long hours. I started as a programmer with CPS Energy in 2002, supporting the company’s website and web applications, and I’m now in the electric operations side of the utility. I’m always interested in learning and fortunate to have been able to make the most of the opportunities that came my way.

Q: Is there anything you’ve accomplished at CPS Energy that you’re especially proud of?

Vidya: When I was a programmer, I was happy being in my “coding cave” left to do my thing. I never dreamt I would stay so long or be on the energy delivery side of the business, let alone be in an executive role like I am right now. I have got to know wonderful people in all areas of the company. There is not one single accomplishment I can point to; there are many involving successful multi-day IT project cutovers, and interacting with and assisting customers who’ve had electric service disrupted at their homes because of strong storm systems.

Q: What do you feel are a few characteristics of a good leader?

Vidya: A good leader should have integrity, care about their team, be approachable and able to LISTEN, very important. The person absolutely, positively, undeniably also must have a sense of humor. 

Q: Has it been challenging being a female in the male-dominated energy industry?

Vidya: Challenges are a part of life, period. There have been many times when I have been the only woman in the room or the only person who hasn’t “grown up” in the (electric) wires business. I try not to let that dampen my enthusiasm for getting involved. Being respectful and persistent works most times. 

Q: India has had the 3rd highest number of COVID-19 deaths, trailing only the U.S. and Brazil. How were you personally impacted by the pandemic, and how did you manage to stay positive and focused?

Vidya: Thankfully, my immediate family hasn’t been severely impacted by the pandemic, other than the travel restrictions that made it hard to visit family elsewhere. During the pandemic, I built on friendships I already had and made new ones.  If I was able to make someone laugh while both of us were masked up, I counted it as a good day. My husband who typically traveled a lot had to cut down his travel quite a bit. Instead of us being at odds, which I thought would happen, we ended up laughing together more and even finished a 2000-piece puzzle together!   

Q: What piece of advice do you have for others to be successful in their careers?

Vidya: Don’t take yourself seriously, take your job seriously. And always try your best at whatever is in front of you. You may not be able to give everything 100% always but give 100% of what you CAN at the time. 

Q: In 3 words or less, how would you describe yourself?

Vidya: Curious, wanting-to-do-the-right-thing, witty — at least I think so.

Thank you, Vidya, for sharing your personal and career experiences and for the work you and your team are doing to deliver reliable service to our customers! Thank you also for having the determination and courage to break barriers for women in so many ways – from studying engineering to learning computer programming (both male-dominant fields) and from relocating from India to the U.S. to continue your education to having a career and becoming a leader in the energy industry.

Fun facts about Vidya

Family: Husband of 26 years Mukund, son Rohan who will be 21 this year

Favorite pastimes: Music and reading, mostly fiction books and sometimes stooping to non-fiction

Favorite movies: Silence of the Lambs and Hallmark Christmas movies

Favorite book: Any book by PG Wodehouse

Favorite childhood memory: Going with her mom to work where there were large super-computers about the size of a small country