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New CIO drawn to Company by the people
By Christine Patmon on November 14, 2017
Karen Kirwan was wrapping up her first week at CPS Energy when she sat down for a Q&A.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your background.
Karen: I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan by parents who always taught me that you have to work hard for what you want. I’ve been earning my keep since I was about 12, when I started cleaning houses. I put myself through school (undergrad at Central Michigan University and graduate work at University of Michigan and Madonna University). I have always been independent and have created my own destiny by following my heart.
I get my energy off people. I especially like to hear different points of view; hearing people’s stories helps me relate to them. I get satisfaction out of helping others in need.
I work and play hard. I like water skiing, mountain climbing, traveling and learning abroad. When my husband and I travel internationally, we like to experience the local cultures by visiting everyday spots and learning from the locals.
Q. What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Karen: I have two. The first is the Seychelle Islands. I spent three weeks there. They don’t have cars – you travel by golf carts, bike or on foot. Many of the islands are made of pink granite, the water is clear, and the sunsets look like the sun is sizzling on the water. The local people learn four to five languages due to tourism. It is a magical place to spend time.
Turkey is the second. The people are enchanting. Turkey has a stigma of being a volatile place to visit due to turmoil at their borders, but I found it to be a wonderful and inviting place to visit. The people are kind and welcoming and the historical artifacts and ruins are amazing.
Karen: That’s a good question. I didn’t know much about CPS Energy two years ago. Through a past relationship at Exelon (former employer), I started to hear about the Company. A colleague told me that I should take a look at CPS Energy, “They are moving in a different direction and they need you. “
Then, Paula drew my attention. The more I learned about her, the more curious I became as we started having conversations. Paula’s command of the business and ability to get results that benefit the local community – coupled with placing a high emphasis on People First is what captured my attention most. She’s a special person and an exceptional leader, who knows how to balance the “what” and the “how”.
I’m entering at a perfect time when technology is required to shape what our customers need and want. The ability to introduce innovative technologies in human ways is in my DNA, making CPS Energy a great fit for me.
Q: What value are you looking forward to bringing our customers and employees?
Karen: I’m extraordinarily customer- and employee-centric. Simplification, education and automation are what I look to bring.
First, I want to position my team for success – making sure we have the right people in the right places with the right skills to serve our customers as we build out a digital ecosystem.
Second, we need to focus on the end-customer experience and work our way backwards to improve the entire customer lifecycle. We need to focus on the frontline. We should be introducing new capabilities to our field employees so they can get their jobs done in the smartest way, enabling them to bring the best value to our customers while working safely in an optimized way.
Q: Most people have heard the terms IoT and Big Data. Why are these terms important and what do we really need to know about them?
Karen: The Internet of Things is very real and very important. Virtual and augmented reality used to be things we saw on TV and in the movies, but now there are hotels in Japan being run by bots – not people – and it’s fully functional and running well. Drones are delivering pizzas, autonomous vehicles are gaining momentum, and intelligence is being embedded in the clothing we wear. We have this mesh of digital things interacting with people and each other, changing the way we live. All of it will have to be powered and we can play a key role in enabling our community.
I’d prefer Data Analytics to Big Data because you have to do something with the data in order to realize value. Data come from many sources in many different way — look at what companies could capture in social media alone. Do we really need to keep all that data? I liken it to emails people read and won’t delete because they think they may need it somewhere down the line. Data should be treated as a company asset, and used to power our workforce and shape how we service our community.
IoT will connect us in ways we can’t imagine. It’s generating massive volumes of data, whereas analytics will help us more accurately predict desired outcomes.
Q: What do you know about San Antonio? What are you looking forward to experiencing here?
Karen: In the ‘80s, my sister was stationed here when she was in the Army and I used to visit her. San Antonio was a simple little town back then, with booming growth since. The growth is amazing. San Antonio isn’t like other large cities. Some cities are like onions: There are layers and some layers are difficult to penetrate. This city isn’t like that. The people are genuine from the heart. People let you in. I see it and feel it everywhere I visit, in everyday moments. I am excited to be part of the CPS Energy family and look forward to becoming part of the San Antonio community.