Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders: Opportunity – Session One (Feb 27-29)

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 Location
  • Arizona Public Service
  • 2121 W Cheryl Drive, Phoenix, Arizona 85004
  • 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.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations and the critical role of group compositions for the success of the program, cancellations received after January 26th, will not be eligible for a refund, and the organization will be responsible for the full 2024 registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the program are always welcome prior to the first day of fundamentals training, which is February 14, 2024.
  • 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.
  • For more information contact Jessica Grant, Program Manager at (971) 930-2032.


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

12:30 PM - 1:00 PM

Student Check In

Meet in hotel lobby to say hello, pick up your namebadge and board the bus for the tour.

1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Industry Tour

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Networking Dinner in Small Groups

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Bus Ride: Hotel to APS

9:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Welcome + Student Introductions

10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

Networking Break

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Welcome to Host Utility
Speaker(s): Sarah Kist, Senior Director, T&D Engineering & Construction, Arizona Public Service Company

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Networking Lunch

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Executive Speaker: Leading a Diverse Workforce
Speaker(s): Shannon Standaert, Vice President, Human Resources, Arizona Public Service Company

2:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Networking Break

2:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Executive Panel: Leading High Performing Teams
Moderator(s): Izzy Lawrence, Manager, Product Development and Strategy, Arizona Public Service Company
Panelist(s): Cynthia Garcia, CIO & VP of Energy Delivery & Safety, Tucson Electric Power, Chris Janick, Senior Director - Power Delivery, Salt River Project, Michael Kohrt, Director, Transmission Operations and Maintenance, Arizona Public Service Company, Shannon Standaert, Vice President, Human Resources, Arizona Public Service Company

4:00 PM - 4:15 PM

Networking Tips + Close

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

4:15 PM - 4:45 PM

Bus Ride: APS to Hotel

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Reception: Hosted by SAM

Thursday, February 29, 2024

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Bus Ride to Host Utility

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Welcome to Day 3 + Captsone Introduction

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Strengths + Leadership Exercise

Based on the best-selling book, Strengths-Based Leadership, students will be led through a discussion to identify the strengths in themselves and others and how an understanding of these strengths contribute to high-performing teams.

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Current Issues Assignment

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM

Networking Lunch

12:45 PM - 1:30 PM

Team Building Exercise

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Capstone Project Time

2:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Introduction to Elevator Speech + Program Close

Throughout the program, you and your classmates will 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. In future sessions you will present your elevator speech to your fellow students.

Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • Please contact the hotel directly at (602) 955-3992 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute (WEI) or use the group code ‘WEI’ to receive a special rate of $269 USD/night. This rate is guaranteed until February 5, 2024 or until the WEI room block is full.

Program Sponsors

Thank you to our program sponsors!

Meet The Speakers

Shannon Standaert

Arizona Public Service Company

Vice President, Human Resources
Learn More

Shannon Standaert is vice president of human resources and ethics for Arizona Public Service Company (APS). Based in Phoenix, APS is Arizona’s largest energy provider and serves approximately 1.4 million homes and businesses across the state.

Standaert oversees the company’s human resources functions, including talent acquisition and transformation, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations, ethics, employee communications and HR technology and training.

Since joining the APS Human Resources team in 2016, she has helped navigate Covid-related workplace challenges, modernize the performance management process and introduce emphasis on coaching and feedback. Prior to joining APS, she spent more than 20 years in HR leadership and professional roles of increasing responsibility in a variety of industries, including time at Target Corporation and PetSmart.

Standaert earned a BA in psychology and an MBA with a focus on leadership from Binghamton University.

Cynthia Garcia

Tucson Electric Power

CIO & VP of Energy Delivery & Safety
Learn More

Cynthia oversees and aligns information and operations technologies that play a pivotal role in supporting the future modernized grid. Cynthia worked as the division controller for a software development company before joining TEP in 2000.
After starting as a Lead Accountant, she became a T&D supervisor and project manager, leading teams that delivered large-scale line construction projects.
She advanced through T&D leadership roles that expanded her responsibilities before being promoted to Vice President of Energy Delivery in January 2020. She was appointed to Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Engineering and Safety in May 2022 and then to her current role in July 2023.
Cynthia earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Arizona.

Chris Janick

Salt River Project

Senior Director - Power Delivery
Learn More

Chris Janick is SRP’s Senior Director of Power Delivery. His responsibilities include planning, operations, design, engineering, construction, and maintenance of SRP’s transmission and substation assets, including transmission participation assets.

Chris has been with SRP for 23 years. He has held several leadership positions at SRP in environmental, generation, and transmission roles. Prior to SRP he held positions in consulting and industry as an environmental engineer in both Arizona and Illinois.

A native of Alaska but long-time Arizona resident, Chris received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Arizona State University. Chris currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Food Bank Network and the North American Transmission Forum.

Izzy Lawrence

Arizona Public Service Company

Manager, Product Development and Strategy

Barbara Arms

Arizona Public Service Company

Manager Talent Management
Learn More

Barb Arms is a Program Manager in Talent Management at APS. She has over 25 years of training and leader development/coaching experience working for various companies here in the valley. For the last 12 years at APS, she actively supports several business units across the company by helping leaders and their teams be more cohesive, productive, and effective through facilitating teambuilding events and working with leaders and employees to navigate their careers. Most recently, she was the project manager working to embed a coaching and feedback culture at APS while rebranding performance management to ensure employees grow in their roles, year over year. Barb has two daughters that are starting their lives in Chicago and Los Angeles. Most of her free time is spent traveling to see her daughters, playing tennis, and taking care of her dog Moo.

Michael Kohrt

Arizona Public Service Company

Director, Transmission Operations and Maintenance

Sarah Kist

Arizona Public Service Company

Senior Director, T&D Engineering & Construction