Tours help bring big picture into focus

Imagine working in a complex industry that employs 3,000-plus individuals in all sorts of roles: engineers, accountants, mechanics, control room operators, safety specialists, IT technicians, and the list goes on and on. Now imagine you and your colleagues working out of more than a dozen centers and power stations scattered throughout San Antonio, and even in Seguin and Austin.

That’s the reality at CPS Energy.

Employees oftentimes cross departmental lines to get the job done, and they participate on cross-functional teams. Nonetheless, with so many team members in so many different roles at so many different locations, it’s easy to understand how one group may not know what another does. For example, a financial analyst at our Main Office campus may not be aware of what an instrumentation & controls technician at our Calaveras Power Station does or that this position even exists.

The Emerging Leaders Cohort (ELC), a new professional developmental opportunity being piloted by the company, is helping to change that. Since its kickoff in March of this year, the 16 employees selected for the program have toured several CPS Energy locations.

Today as we continue our ELC series, we hear from four of the 16 ELC participants – Team Emerging Innovators – about what amazing things they discovered during the tours and how they and their colleagues fit into the big picture of providing reliable, affordable energy for our community.

Who knew we had a team in Austin?

Like the rock ‘n’ roll group Journey on tour in the U.S., the ELC has been on tour as well, traveling across our 1,515-square-mile service territory and beyond to visit many of our company’s locations: Calaveras Power Station in southeast Bexar county, the Northside Customer Service Center and Tuttle training facilities in the northern portion of our territory, Green Mountain and our Eastside Training grounds in the eastern portion, our governmental relations office in Austin, and others.

The visits helped bring to light what others do, and the pieces are starting to fit together – all the components that it takes for the utility to run on a day-to-day basis, said Sid Ortiz, a journeyman cable splicer in Underground Integrated Operations.

While each site visit provided a unique learning experience, Sid, an 18-year employee, said touring the Government Relations office in Austin was hands-down the one that really stood out for him. “I didn’t even know the place was there. I guess it makes perfect sense for a utility of this size to be in direct contact with our legislators and things that may impact the utility, that we have frontline defenders out there. I thought that was really, really interesting.”

Blake Vaughn, too, was surprised to learn about our team in Austin. “I had no idea we even had a CPS Energy group up there,” he said. Blake, who has nearly 18 years of Power Generation experience and knows the plant sites almost like the back of his hand, also visited a place at the Calaveras Power Station for the first time. “I’d never been up in the stacks,” he said. “We had the opportunity to go up in them and look out across the area. It was neat; the view was amazing. We got to see the whole power plant site.”

How do I fit into the big picture?

A senior engineer in the Transmission Operations Engineering Department, Sharmila Gurrala applied for the ELC for personal growth and networking opportunities. The 15-year employee, who normally works behind-the-scenes in her technical role, says the ELC is helping her professionally, and it’s opened a whole new world for her.

“Meeting with people from the different departments has not only allowed me to learn what they do and how they contribute to the organization, but also has allowed me to understand how I’m a part of the system too and contributing to the bigger picture of CPS Energy’s business.”

Like Sharmila, Robert Miller of Enterprise Risk Management said getting a deeper dive into what other areas do has been an eye-opening experience, allowing him and the other ELC members to see and hear firsthand how all employees contribute to the company’s success and strive to get better. “It really struck me how we work to make sure the processes we have are efficient and find ways to make them more efficient when we need to,” said the 17-year employee.

On a more personal level, Robert noted that he’s benefited from the personal development activities and mentoring sessions, and he’s now considering becoming a mentor. “It’s been a growing experience and something that will definitely benefit me going forward.”

Along with visiting our various company sites, the 16 ELC participants have enjoyed networking opportunities as well as a chat with President & CEO Paula Gold-Williams and other senior leaders.

The ELC program will culminate with a graduation ceremony in November, when the four teams will present their capstone projects.

Stay tuned to our Newsroom, where we’ll soon be featuring the fourth team.

Pam Maris

Pam is part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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