Our People

Like most industries, utilities face core challenges to recruit, retain, develop, and train their employees. This track will bring together employee development and training experts, HR leaders, and other professionals to share best practices, present case studies on current issues affecting the workplace culture, and preparing the utility workforce for future challenges and opportunities.

Meet the Our People Program Development Team. Learn more about the Customer + Corporate Symposium.

All session times are listed in Pacific time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

10:15 AM – 11:30 AM
The Next Normal: Workforce Transformation and Lessons Learned through COVID-19
Panelists: Danny Seto, Human Capital Advisory Director, KPMG LLP
David Howell, Director of Electrical Operations, Avista Corp.
Sharon Grove, Assistant GM – Customer Service Division, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power
Tim Vanderpyl, Manager of Employee & Labour Relations, FortisAlberta Inc.
Beyond any organization’s control, COVID-19 disrupted the workforce and impacted individual employees dramatically. The global threat of COVID-19 produced unforeseen changes in our work culture. In addition to organizations responding to health and safety requirements, the workplace culture instantaneously changed and shifted the way employees build relationships, engage with each other, and undoubtedly, will have long-lasting effects. Utilities and workers continue to respond and adapt within this uncertain landscape the pandemic created. As we all move towards a “Next Normal,” it is critically apparent and important to reflect, gather lessons learned, understand the trends at play, and work together to move boldly into the future.

This panel focuses on what the “Next Normal” means to employees and across a variety of organizations. Please join the conversation with these esteemed members, each with unique views on the workforce and its recent evolution to hear a thought-provoking discussion on where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. Although specific discussion areas may vary depending on recent events and workplace trends at the time of the symposium, themes are likely to include changes to remote/hybrid work, mental health impacts and employers’ responses, new/desirable leadership competencies, and success stories.

2:15 PM – 3:30 PM
The Journey of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Successes and Lessons Learned
Moderator: Shahzia Noorally, Human Resources Business Partner, FortisAlberta Inc.
Panelists: Angela Thompkins, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Consumers Energy
Laurie Rodriguez, Director, Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Tommi Paris, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Southern California Gas Company
Join Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) leaders as they share their successes and challenges faced while on the continuous journey toward building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive utility. The focus of this session is learning through story-telling and shared experiences. Join us to hear these leaders recount the lessons they have learned from past missteps and assumptions, share examples of programs they have created, adapted or implemented, and reveal what has or has not worked as expected. Finally, learn how psychological safety and executive support play an important role in each of their journeys, and leave with actionable insights that you can take back to your own teams.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

8:30 AM – 9:45 AM
The Success of Our Future Workforce is Tied to Today’s Leaders
Speakers: Kendall Helm, Vice President of People and Culture, San Diego Gas & Electric Company
Sharon Huntsman: Manager, Learning Development & Culture, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Faced with increased competition, changing technologies, and the pressures of new legislation and regulations, many utilities are experiencing the need to shift toward a more agile and innovative workforce. This session is intended to explore the role of leaders in driving this culture shift by exploring what capabilities leaders need in order to create this new reality. What specific development or training emerged for leaders as a result? How have they enabled employees to become comfortable with ambiguity, accept discomfort, and take risks? Where do they see the opportunities going forward to continue the momentum already in place?

12:30 – 1:45 PM
How To Drive + Embrace the Disruption of Knowledge Transfer
Panelists: Heather Burns, Director, Human Resources, NorthWestern Energy
Jason Merkel, General Manager, Operations, NorthWestern Energy
Troy Nutter, Manager, Operational Training, Puget Sound Energy
The next 10 years are critical for our energy industry to tackle the issues of knowledge transfer. The pressures for increased operational competency in all areas of a utility are being felt in every corner of our business – safety, leadership, field ops, customer service and more. This session will provide insights and hope on how to meet this challenge head-on.