Feb 27


Mar 01

Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders: Challenge (Feb 27-Mar 01)

An intensive training for high potential managers and supervisors through exposure to broad perspectives of the utility business, its interrelationships and successful leadership strategies. This program is designed by a utility-driven Curriculum Development Team, and directed by facilitators, and executive and alumni mentors. Program sessions are hosted by member utilities and topics are presented by executives, subject matter experts and formal instructors. The first four sessions focus on leadership development, industry perspectives, customer connections, communications and strategic planning. The program includes a capstone project which is delivered to industry leaders at the WEI Annual Meeting. Participants build a broad peer network that continues well into their future careers.

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Leanne Dawkins, ENMAX

    • Program Location
    • Southern California Gas Company
    • 555 W 5th St
      Los Angeles, CA 90013
    • Who Should Attend
    • Participants are nominated by WEI members and selected through a formal application review process. Applicants make a commitment to attend and actively participate at each session, and should plan time for additional work between sessions. It is expected that students commit to completing “homework” assignments during evenings and off-hours with additional assignments required outside of the normal work day. Each group is assigned one executive and one alumni mentor who will support the group’s development throughout the program and guide them to a successful final project.

  • Full Course Dates + Locations
  • Session 1: February 27-March 1, Southern California Gas, Los Angeles, CA
    Session 2: April 24-26, Puget Sound Energy, Bellevue, WA
    Session 3: June 26-28, New Mexico Gas company, Albuquerque, NM
    Session 4: August 8-10, ENMAX, Calgary, AB
    Session 5: September 20-22, Annual Meeting, Tucson, AZ

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations, cancellations received 15 business days prior to the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations received 6 to 14 business days prior to the event will receive a refund, less a $100 administrative fee. No shows and last minute cancellations, 5 business days prior to the event or less, will be responsible for the full registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the same event are always welcome.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.


Monday, February 27, 2017

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Tour of SoCal Gas Emergency Response Center

Meet in the hotel lobby at 3:00 pm to walk to Southern California Gas

5:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Opening Dinner with Students

No-host dinner to get to know program participants and mentors. Meet in the lobby of the Standard hotel at 5:30 to walk to restaurants.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

7:30 AM - 7:45 AM

Walk to SoCal Gas

Meet in the hotel lobby at 7:15 am to walk to SoCal Gas

7:45 AM - 7:45 AM

Breakfast at SoCal Gas

8:30 AM - 9:15 AM


Leanne Dawkins, the 2017 Facilitator, will provide an introduction to the program and describe the goals throughout the program.

9:15 AM - 10:00 AM

Student Introductions

Students will introduce one of their peers and share information learned from the partner interview assignment.

10:00 AM - 10:00 AM


10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Welcome to SoCal Gas and Leadership Discussion
Speaker(s): Gillian Wright, Vice President, Customer Services, Southern California Gas Company

Gillian Wright, Vice President of Customer Services for SoCal Gas, will welcome the Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders Challenge class of 2017.  

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM


12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Leading High Performing Teams

Denita Willoughby, Vice President of Supply Management

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Leadership Exercise
Speaker(s): Michelle Roth, Employee Development Advisor, Southern California Gas Company, Carlos Alvarado, Employee Development Advisor, Southern California Gas Company

Michelle Roth and Carlos Alvarado

2:30 PM - 2:30 PM


2:45 PM - 2:45 PM

Debrief from "Strengths Based Leadership"

Based on the best-selling book, "Strengths-Based Leadership", students will go through a team-building exercise to identify the strengths in others and how an understanding of these strengths contribute to high-performing teams.

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Networking Tips Refresher and Close

We close out the day and provide tips and tricks for intentional networking.

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Reception for Students, Hosts and Special Guests

Sponsored by Burns & McDonnell and Henkels & McCoy
Meet at The Standard Hotel for a reception with all 2017 BAEL students and mentors, as well as special guests and hosts from SoCal Gas and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

7:30 AM - 7:45 AM

Walk to SoCal Gas

Meet in the hotel lobby at 7:15 am to walk to SoCal Gas

7:45 AM - 7:45 AM

Breakfast atSoCal Gas

8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

Leading a Diverse Workforce
Speaker(s): Michael Schneider, Vice President, Operations Support and Chief Environmental Officer, San Diego Gas & Electric Company

Mike Schneider, Vice President of Operations Support and Sustainability and Chief Environmental Officer

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

Leading Through Change
Speaker(s): Hal Snyder, Vice President, Southern California Gas Company

Hal Snyder, Vice President of HR Diversity and Inclusion

10:30 AM - 10:30 AM


10:45 AM - 10:45 AM

Current Issues Assignment

Students will share the results of their interviews with Supervisors and Board Members on what the current issues are facing their organizations and business function.

11:45 AM - 12:30 PM


12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Team Building Exercise

1:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Capstone Project Group Time

Time will be given to discuss potential topics and to create a group plan for moving forward.

2:45 PM - 3:00 PM

Session Close and Introduction to the Elevator Speech

Throughout the program students will have several opportunities to mix and mingle with executives and key leaders from host utilities. A polished elevator speech provides you an opportunity to make a great first impression and share a little bit about yourself and your organization with folks you meet. Alumni Mentors provide examples and share their own tips on effective elevator speeches.

Hotel + Travel

  • The Standard
  • 550 South Flower St.
  • Los Angeles, CA 90071
  • Phone: (213) 892-8080

  • Click here to make your reservation now.
  • Reservation Instructions
  • Please use the reservation link below or contact the hotel directly at (213) 439-3001 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute and use the discount code ‘Western Energy Institute Group’ to receive a special rate of $215/night. This rate is guaranteed until February 13, 2017 or until the WEI room block is full.

Meet The Speakers

Gillian Wright

Southern California Gas Company

Vice President, Customer Services
Learn More

Gillian Wright is chief human resources and administrative officer of Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), a Sempra Energy regulated California utility. She is responsible for the SoCalGas human resources, safety, fleet, facilities, environmental services, supply management and logistics organizations.

Previously, as vice president, customer services for SoCalGas, Wright oversaw the company’s interaction with customers, including the call centers, field activities, billing and payments, and was responsible for completing a $1 billion project to deploy nearly six million advanced meters.

She joined SoCalGas as a regulatory analyst in 1999 and has served in a variety of roles in regulatory affairs and customer service for Sempra since then.

Wright is a member of the board of the California State University Foundation, LA Family Housing, Western Energy Institute and Los Angeles Business Council. She is also past chair and a former member of the board for the Energy Solutions Center and a graduate of Leadership California. Wright holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Reed College.

Denita Willoughby

Southern California Gas Company

Vice President, Supply Management and Logistics

Michelle Roth

Southern California Gas Company

Employee Development Advisor
Learn More

Michelle Roth is an Employee Development Advisor for SoCalGas. Within the Organizational Effectiveness group, she is responsible for leadership development, training, consultation, facilitation, and metrics.
Roth has a master’s of science in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine.

Michael Schneider

San Diego Gas & Electric Company

Vice President, Operations Support and Chief Environmental Officer
Learn More

Michael M. Schneider is vice president of clean transportation and asset management at San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

In this role, Schneider oversees clean transportation, asset management, growth and technology integration, strategic planning and business optimization.

Most recently, he was chief environmental officer and vice president of operations support for both SDG&E and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), Sempra Energy’s regulated utilities in California. His responsibilities included: facilities, fleet services, environmental services, real estate, and land services for both companies.

Previously, Schneider served as vice president of customer operations, where he oversaw billing, collections, customer contact center and meter reading organization, remittance processing and credit.

Schneider holds a master’s degree in business administration from George Mason University with an emphasis in finance and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Arizona.

He serves on the Advisory Board and Director’s Circle for the Lamden School of Accountancy at San Diego State University, the board of directors of the San Diego River Park Foundation, and the National Board of Advisors of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.

Hal Snyder

Southern California Gas Company

Vice President

Carlos Alvarado

Southern California Gas Company

Employee Development Advisor
Learn More

Carlos is an Employee Development Advisor for SoCalGas. Before coming to Organizational Effectiveness he worked in HR as Wellness and Safety Advisor and has been a part of the SoCalGas family since 2012. Carlos has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cal State Fullerton.