This the latest installment of our Boardmember Spotlight. Each installment will have one of our board members answering a few questions about their experience, influences and advice to other women in the energy industry.
Emily Pataki, Board President, Pedernales Electric Coop
In what part of the energy industry do you work? How long have you been involved with the energy industry? What is most rewarding about your field to you?
I am the current Board President and the District 2 elected Director on the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. I am a little over two years into my first three year term on the Board. I began my service in June 2014; my Board peers elected me Vice President in 2015; and most recently, they honored me by electing me Board President in June 2016. Prior to serving on the PEC Board of Directors, I did not have much involvement with the energy industry other than growing up in a family that had dealings and businesses related to Energy. The most rewarding thing about serving on an electric cooperative board is getting the opportunity to improve something in the lives of all of our members – we serve over 230,000 members, their families, and their businesses, and by enacting policies at the Board level that make it possible for them to receive reliable, low-cost power safely and responsibly, I can hopefully make their experience with their electric provider a positive one.
What qualities helped you overcome the biggest career challenges you have faced?
I ran for my position on the PEC Board because I have always had a passion and interest in local community involvement. The best way to change the world, as we have heard from many respected leaders, is to get involved in your own backyard. My hope when I ran for the Director position was that I could influence PEC to be fundamentally engaged in its member communities so that the Co-op could provide valuable solutions to the different challenges that affect the diverse areas that it serves. I believe my emphasis on this approach has been beneficial for the relationships between PEC Headquarters and our members.
What qualities do you look for in new hires?
At PEC, we are committed to achieving excellence across all sectors of our business. That means we are not only looking for people with the right experience and the right training, but we are more specifically looking for individuals that will be committed to our vision for success. We want people that are dedicated to the cooperative model and willing to be positive and proactive in serving our membership.
Name, or describe, 3-5 people who have inspired you in your professional endeavors?
My dad has been the biggest influence on me when it comes to my professional endeavors. He is the CEO of Atec, Inc., an Aerospace Engineering firm in the Houston area, and his stewardship of that company has taught me so much about commitment to excellence, leadership, and perseverance.
Another person that has inspired me in my professional endeavors has been my fellow AWE Board Director Jessica Ogbonnaya. She has excelled in the financial sector as a young female, which is not the easiest thing to do. She has earned a respected leadership position at Citigroup, largely handling Fortune 500 oil and gas accounts, through hard work and personal sacrifice, and she has done so with integrity and grace.
A third inspirational figure for me is PEC CEO John Hewa. After arriving at the helm of the Co-op in 2013, he immediately charted a course that has taken us from a utility still in recovery-mode after years of instability and Executive turnover to one of the most transparent, reliable, and increasingly competitive utilities in Texas. It’s been an honor to help him achieve these wins for the PEC membership.
What advice would you offer women in the energy industry?
My advice to women would be to ask questions; seek out mentoring; sign up for extra projects; and do everything you can to learn things not only in your job description but in areas that might help you expand your skill set and opportunities in the future. Also, practice oral presentations – being able to communicate orally, whether to a Board room of people, to a workgroup, to superiors, or to your customers is an important and increasingly rare skill. If you can master this skill, you will automatically be in another class of candidates when future opportunities arise.
What advice do you offer Millennials, who are beginning their careers?
My advice to Millenials would be the same as the advice I would give to women, or anyone for that matter. Work on your ability to present in person, which means you must develop those interpersonal skills that are so often overlooked in the digital age. Spend some time away from smartphones and computers and get busy knowing your co-workers and learning how to communicate well with them. Also, the age-old adage of dressing for the job you want rather than the job you have is one I’ve found to be invaluable, even in 2016.