In this series, three dynamic, female AESP Members share their journeys in the energy industry and give their insights and advice to other women wishing to succeed in the energy industry.
Penni McLean-Conner, Executive Vice President of Customer Experience and Energy Strategy at Eversource.
Penni McLean-Conner is currently the Executive Vice President of Customer Experience and Energy Strategy at Eversource. She is active with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, having recently served as chair and she also serves on the Boston Green Ribbon Commission and her town’s Energy Committee.
Penni is a recognized thought leader in the utility industry with over 30 years of experience implementing positive change in the areas of leadership, superior customer service, and energy efficiency programs. With her renowned expertise and experience, Penni has earned the 2016 New England Women in Energy and Environment Achievement Award and the 2017 Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award for Achievement in Management. Penni holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University and is a registered Professional Engineer.
Not only does she have such a prestigious background, but Penni is also the author of three books on customer service and energy topics. The most recent, “Profiles in Excellence: Utility Chief Customer Officers,” shares the stories of eight all-star chief customer officers who have demonstrated success in creating a customer-focused culture.
AESP: Can you please describe your career journey in the energy industry?
My now 35-plus-year career in the energy industry has spanned three utilities in a variety of roles ranging from distribution engineering to customer service to field operations and delivery of clean energy solutions. As I reflect, there have been some pivotal roles that accelerated my growth as a leader. Let me highlight a few:
- Leaving the engineering field to learn customer service by managing a 24/7 customer contact center. By far one of the most challenging roles, as this required me to tap into my ability to lead and inspire teams versus running calculations to drive to an answer.
- Leaving Duke to lead Tampa Electric’s customer operations team. This move to another company in another state gave me the opportunity to lead transformational change in the delivery of customer service. Importantly, personally, I had to learn how to adapt to significant change.
- Leaving Tampa Electric to join NSTAR (now Eversource) as the vice president of customer service. Once again, I was on the move, but this time with my husband and our son on the way. This was a more strategic role where I was driving customer service improvements. But importantly, I had the new opportunity to transform our work in energy efficiency from mediocre to the industry-leading position we have today.
- Leaving is a theme over my career. I have found that for me to really grow in my skills, I needed to leave roles where I had gained expertise and a level of comfort for ones where I had to learn new skills, new people, new companies, new cultures, and more. For me, this fast-forwarded my growth and my ability to manage change.
AESP: What single piece of advice would you give to women early in their careers in order to be successful in this industry?
Become an expert in the work you are doing! Really dive into your role and establish yourself as the go-to person for this work.
AESP: Looking forward, what do you foresee as the biggest hurdle or challenge facing our industry? How do you recommend we overcome this hurdle?
Decarbonizing our industry is the biggest hurdle. The move to electrify transportation and heat will not only change the way we design and deliver energy, but this transformation will impact every single customer. It is vital that we help our customers through this transition by continuing to deliver reliable, cost-effective energy, but we also support them with information, education, and valued customer clean energy solutions.
AESP: What fun fact about you can you share so we can get to know you a little better?
I am not a native New Englander; in fact, I grew up on a large dairy farm in the mountains of North Carolina. With that, I am very proud today to call New England my home. You can find me, my husband, and our two boys most winter weekends on the ski slopes in New Hampshire. Besides skiing, I love to golf, garden, read, and work out.