The below interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you get to where you are today? What was your training or education?
My first exposure to the world of project management came while working at an insurance company as a business analyst where I was assigned to support the project manager (PM) on an IT solution for the company. Being able to work so closely with the PM, I was able to witness the various skillsets and expectations required of the role. This experience gave me a level of respect and passion for project management which sparked my interest in pursuing a career in the field.
After that first job, I worked for multiple companies working on projects in various roles with different responsibilities. At the same time, I was going to school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology at San Diego State University Shortly after earning my degree, I was brought on full-time by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) as a PM. Over my 12 years with SDG&E I have supported and led over 20 different projects of varying scopes, with the most notable being the Imperial Valley Phase Shifters project which was budgeted at over 50 million dollars. Through experience and research, I learned of a certification specifically for project management called Project Management Professional (PMP). This certification shows that you have the knowledge, experience and skills to bring projects to successful completion. While a PMP is not required to become a successful project manager, it rounds you out as an experienced PM and could give you an advantage over others when applying for new positions.
Overall, I think I took a typical pathway to becoming a PM. Naturally, projects have start and end dates and this allowed me to jump from project to project at different companies to gain exposure in many industries. By taking this route, I was able to see and experience how PM tools were being applied across industries.
Describe your job. What does a typical week look like for you?
A typical work week as the fleets clean transportation project manager involves managing different customer fleet projects, which are in various phases of project development from implementation to closeout. This includes project reporting and meeting with team members to resolve any issues or risks that result in any project. It also includes looking at the current overall health of the program, as well as ensuring we are targeting program goals on time, within scope and within the approved budget. My role touches aspects from the regulatory to the design portion of the job, and from building and constructing sites, to sites becoming fully operational and energized.
My team and I meet with customers frequently to provide status updates or provide information about their projects, while also meeting internally to ensure projects are moving forward. My work requires the ability to prioritize and communicate efficiently, supporting different customers in different phases of the program.
I consider the PM role similar to conducting a symphony as it requires the ability to deliver a customer project within certain parameters and guiding the team members, who each play a separate but equally important role, toward the collaborative implementation of a project.
What is something you find challenging about your job?
One of the most challenging parts of my job is keeping up with the latest technology. It’s important to be comfortable asking questions to understand new technology. More importantly, knowing how to ask the right questions that play into your team’s strengths is valuable.
Another challenging part of my job is understanding who the audience is and ensuring that the appropriate level of communication is delivered. In this role, we deal with different stakeholders and team members so it’s important that there is effective communication across team members and that communication is timely. Since project management requires a lot of balancing of priorities, communication is also key.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love most about the job is the people I work with and being part of a team that is contributing to a cleaner environment. My work depends on me being connected with other staff at SDG&E, but also with the community. What I’ve learned in the 12 years here at SDG&E is that it’s really all about the people–who you work for and who you work with.
Additionally, I’m passionate about electric vehicle (EV) charging and the future of EV, so I am very excited by the aggressive goals that SDG&E has in this area—not just for San Diego or even California—but for the Nation. In my current PM role, I am contributing to an overall goal and mission.
The last part about my job that I truly enjoy comes from the successful completion of a project– when the customer sees the final product and is happy with the results. I believe ensuring the customer is happy and satisfied in the end is the core duty of a PM. The cherry on top would be delivering any project on time and under budget.
What advice do you have for others thinking about working in clean energy infrastructure planning and management?
The clean energy industry is evolving very quickly and emerging technologies are advancing at an incredible pace. If you have an interest in clean energy, research is the best thing to do right now. Research the various technologies, leading clean energy companies, roles within the industry and reach out to others in the industry to gain perspective, insight of status and future vision. Once you identify an area of interest, you might seek mentorship with individuals within the clean energy industry to help guide your career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get a big picture of the career expectations and different career paths.
Gain experience in the areas you are interested in as well as take advantage of furthering your education in these areas. Research the different educational programs that are offered. The clean energy workforce has increased in recent years resulting in different clean energy job sectors becoming available. With that in mind, there are many resources to investigate if interested in pursuing an energy-related career, and it could be helpful to individually map out a career path. Lastly, build your network and strengthen management skills with available training and technical knowledge.