Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders: Opportunity (Jun 25-27)

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)
  • Gilbert Archuleta, Puget Sound Energy

    • Program Location
    • Intermountain Gas Company
    • 555 S. Cole Road
      Boise, Idaho 83707
    • 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.

  • Upcoming Dates + Locations
  • Session 3: June 25-27, Intermountain Gas Company, Boise, ID
    Session 4: August 8-10, BC Hydro, Vancouver, BC
    Session 5: September 23-25, Annual Meeting, Newport Beach, CA

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations and the critical role of group compositions for the success of the program, cancellations received after January 5, 2018, will not be eligible for a refund, and the organization will be responsible for the full 2018 registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the program are always welcome prior to session one.
  • 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 Anna Sanger Reed, Executive Director of Programs at (503) 688-2795.


Monday, June 25, 2018

8:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Optional Group Work Time

Space will be available for group work.

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Transportation to Intermountain Gas Company

Lunch not provided. Please meet in the Residence Inn Lobby by 1 pm to board the bus.

1:30 PM - 1:45 PM

Welcome to Session Three
Speaker(s): Gilbert Archuleta, Manager, Customer & System Projects, Puget Sound Energy

We will review the overall plans for Session Three.

1:45 PM - 2:45 PM

Welcome to Intermountain Gas Company
Speaker(s): Mark Chiles, Vice President - Regulatory and Customer Service, MDU Utilities Group

2:45 PM - 3:00 PM



3:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Commute to LNG Plant/Truck Fill Station

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Tour of LNG Plang/Truck Fill Station

5:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Transportation back to downtown Boise

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Informal Networking in downtown Boise

Dinner on your own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

7:00 AM - 7:30 AM

Breakfast at the Residence Inn

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Transportation provided to Intermountain Gas Company

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Customer Service Executive Presentation
Speaker(s): Maria Mills, Customer Service Manager, MDU Utilities Group

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Customer Service Similarities + Differences between Large and Small Operators
Moderator(s): Mike Kingery, Mgr, Credit, Support & Program Development, MDU Utilities Group
Panelist(s): Chris Zenner, Director of Contact Center Operations, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Del Herner, Director of Customer Service, MDU Utilities Group

10:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Networking Break

10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Mergers and Acquisition Changes at Intermountain, Cascade, MDU
Speaker(s): Hart Gilchrist, VP, Safety, Process Improvement & Operations Systems, Intermountain Gas Company

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Business Acumen Homework Discssion
Facilitator(s): Gilbert Archuleta, Manager, Customer & System Projects, Puget Sound Energy

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM

Lunch at Intermountain Gas

12:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Public Speaking Workshop
Facilitator(s): Seka Ojdrovic-Phillips, Associate, The Humphrey Group

The Humphrey Group will facilitate a workshop to discuss Delivering with a Powerful Leadership Presence and Improv in Everyday Communications.

5:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Transportation provided back to hotel

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

BAEL Program Reception

Reception for Students, Hosts, and Special Guests from Intermountain Gas Company and Idaho Power.

Sponsored by POWER Engineers

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Transportation provided back to downtown Boise.

Dinner on your own.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

7:00 AM - 7:30 AM

Breakfast at Residence Inn

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Transportation provided to Intermountain Gas

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Panel: Commission Communications
Moderator(s): Mark Chiles, Vice President - Regulatory and Customer Service, MDU Utilities Group
Panelist(s): Mike McGrath, Director – Regulatory Affairs, Intermountain Gas Company, Byron Pfordte, Customer Communications, Intermountain Gas Company, Kris Raper, Commissioner, Idaho Public Utility Commission, Matt Evans, Public Information Officer, Idaho Public Utility Commission

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM


9:15 AM - 10:15 AM

Establishing Commitment and Leading Diverse Personalities and Work Styles
Panelist(s): Neal Pobran, Senior Manager, Community and Aboriginal Relations, FortisBC, Jana Elliott, Employee Services Manager, Seattle City Light, Christian Henderson, Planning Team Lead, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Brandon Lance, Skyline District Manager, Intermountain Gas Company, Mehul Patel, Manager, Day Ahead Operations, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Carol Mak, Storage Regulatory Manager, Southern California Gas Company

Leaders need to work through difficult situations to achieve commitment from others around a shared goal, drive a positive impact, and keep a team productive. A panel of BAEL mentors will discuss best practices around establishing commitment and leading diverse personalities and work styles.

10:15 AM - 10:30 AM


10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

Elevator Speeches

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Peer Roundtable Discussions

The group will break in to four tables for peer to peer roundtable discussions. Students should bring issues/best practices/questions to address with their fellow students in these areas. The point is to get feedback and perspective on how other companies approach your issue so you can have more tools to be successful. Students who do not fit in to these four specific areas will join a table that closely relates to a group that they work with or support at their company or an area that they want to know more about.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


1:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Wrap Up and Debrief
Facilitator(s): Gilbert Archuleta, Manager, Customer & System Projects, Puget Sound Energy

WEI will facilitate a discussion on key take-aways from Session Two speakers and tours. We will also do more elevator speeches.

1:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Optional Capstone Group Work Time

Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • Please contact the hotel directly at (208) 424-9999 to reserve your room, or complete your reservation online. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute to receive a special rate of $159 USD/night. This rate is guaranteed until June 11, 2018 or until the WEI room block is full.

Meet The Speakers

Mark Chiles

MDU Utilities Group

Vice President - Regulatory and Customer Service

Maria Mills

MDU Utilities Group

Customer Service Manager

Chris Zenner

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Director of Contact Center Operations

Del Herner

MDU Utilities Group

Director of Customer Service

Mike Kingery

MDU Utilities Group

Mgr, Credit, Support & Program Development

Hart Gilchrist

Intermountain Gas Company

VP, Safety, Process Improvement & Operations Systems

Seka Ojdrovic-Phillips

The Humphrey Group

Learn More

Seka Ojdrovic-Phillips is an Associate at The Humphrey Group where she works with organizations to develop programs that help leaders at all levels inspire action by the way they communicate. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Gonzaga University in Spokane with a focus in Marketing and Public Relations as well as a Masters in Organizational Psychology which she earned while living in Vancouver BC. Among other adventures, Seka lived in Wellington, New Zealand for four years writing speeches for Ministers of Parliament for the Ministry of Social Development and has also served as a Communications Consultant in Seattle. Along the way she has learned the importance of organizing data in an INSPIRATIONAL way… rather than getting too caught up in the information.

Gilbert Archuleta

Puget Sound Energy

Manager, Customer & System Projects

Mike McGrath

Intermountain Gas Company

Director – Regulatory Affairs

Byron Pfordte

Intermountain Gas Company

Customer Communications

Kris Raper

Idaho Public Utility Commission


Matt Evans

Idaho Public Utility Commission

Public Information Officer

Mehul Patel

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Manager, Day Ahead Operations
Learn More

Experienced professional in the Energy Procurement field with a focus on Day Ahead & Real Time Energy Trading/Procurement. Deep understanding of bidding & scheduling of generating resources (Solar, Wind, Natural Gas, Hydro Electric, Nuclear) into CAISO markets.

Started my career (2002-2010) at the Moss Landing Power Plant in the Operations Department focusing on Day to Day Operations, Outage Management/Planning, Training Coordinator Duties, Shift Supervisor Responsibilities.

Joined Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in 2010 first as Real Time Asset Manager performing the responsibilities of the PG&E 24/7 Merchant Trading Desk. In 2012, moved over to the Day Ahead Scheduling Desk primarily focused on bidding & scheduling of PG&E’s supply assets and demand into the CAISO Markets.

Jana Elliott

Seattle City Light

Employee Services Manager

Neal Pobran


Senior Manager, Community and Aboriginal Relations
Learn More

Neal Pobran is a community and communications professional more than 15 years of experience. Neal started his career in print journalism, including starting his own lifestyle magazine. After that, he took a position in the Government of Saskatchewan’s Executive Council, working closely with Premier Wall and his Cabinet. Currently, Neal is the Senior Manager of Community and Indigenous Relations at FortisBC, managing the working relationships between the utility, First Nations and Municipalities. Prior to moving to Community Relations, Neal managed Corporate Communications at FortisBC where he oversaw strategic communications and media relations.

Brandon Lance

Intermountain Gas Company

Skyline District Manager

Carol Mak

Southern California Gas Company

Storage Regulatory Manager
Learn More

Carol Mak is currently the Regulatory Manager of Gas Storage Risk Management at SoCalGas, responsible for overseeing a variety of regulatory proceedings, developing strategy and advising in business policy for SoCalGas’ natural gas storage facilities in response to new or emerging regulation, legislation, and public policy.

Prior to this, Carol has held various roles with increasing responsibilities in SoCalGas’ Customer Solutions organization, which most recently included leading the Commercial and Industrial Services team to provide all encompassing, single point customer service and energy solutions for refinery, government, higher education, manufacturing, and commercial accounts. She has had experience developing and building teams from the ground up as well managing and restructuring existing organizations to address changing business environments. Her past responsibilities also included market development/outreach and growth strategy, managing the implementation of gas curtailment events and incident response, advising in tariff, rules, federal contracts, gas market, contract compliance, nonresidential and energy markets, energy efficiency, power generation, cogeneration, emissions testing and environmental compliance.

Carol has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona and is a licensed Professional Engineer.

Christian Henderson

San Diego Gas & Electric Company

Planning Team Lead
Learn More

Christian Henderson is the Manager in the Electric Distribution Engineering department. He has worked for the company for seven years as an engineer in the Grid Operations department as well as the Substation Maintenance and Operations department. He is license in the state of California as a Professional Engineer and has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineer from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University