Our second WICE Member Spotlight features Laurie Poltynski, the Manager of Community and Customer Management at National Grid. We thank her for her time and candidness while answering our questions below.
Q. Please explain your role at National Grid and your work / educational background.
A. My team and I are responsible for building relationships, being liaisons, and assisting our largest customers and communities within the Eastern Region of Upstate New York’s service territory. When our customers and communities are strong and growing, so too is our Company viable. Everything our team does begin and end with the customers we serve in mind. We take our jobs personally, and we do our very best every day to make a difference for our customers.
I am currently in my 37th year at National Grid, and its predecessor company, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. I have always been in customer-facing positions throughout my career. I began as a stenographer, I knew and loved taking shorthand, and took dictation to transcribe letter and memos for my managers at the time. For any Millennials reading this, the time was well before we had computers and even word processers. I started at the company with a two year Associate’s Degree from Morrisville College. I worked in the Consumer Relations department early on and asked how I could become trained to do that work. Those folks still to this day work with and call on our smaller businesses and municipalities as well as manage larger projects to bring new electric and gas service to customers.
So, off I went to Hudson Valley Community College to take courses in Electric Theory. I then got my Bachelor’s Degree from Regent’s, which is now Excelsior College. I have taken advantage of as many of the training programs offered along the way as well. I received my Certified Energy Manager certificate from the Association of Energy Engineers, Chartered Industrial Gas Consultant from the Institute of Gas Technology in Chicago, and the Building Operators Certification from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council.
Q. What is your favorite / least favorite part about your job?
A. My favorite part of my job is the people I meet and getting to learn what people do and how products and services are made and handled at other companies. Some of my best days on the job are touring a facility with a customer and not only learning what they do but seeing the pride on their faces as they explain what their company is all about.
My least favorite part of my job is public speaking. It does not come naturally to me, so I really have to work at getting better at it each time I speak.
Q. Tell us about a time when you overcame adversity in the workplace.
A. I didn’t ever feel I experienced true adversity. I have tried to learn from any mistakes. I try to remember that 90% of what we think about a situation is the attitude we bring to it, and we can chose to look at the positive side of things. I have also tried to be flexible and know that the only thing we can count on is change. If we don’t change we are not getting any better.
Q. How has being a member of WICE helped you personally or professionally?
A. Being a member of WICE or any type of networking, civic, or community organization can pay big dividends to you personally and professionally. I have made many friends and have had informal as well as formal mentorships with people I would have otherwise never have gotten to know if it were not for participating in external organizations of many types.
I have been associated over the years; with my local chamber; a professional women’s organization, Soroptimists, which I was a member of for 25 years; been on numerous boards; volunteering for a walk or run for a health organization; or to stretch my knowledge about an industry, I was involved with the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry for years (TAPPI) because that was the industry I was responsible for managing at the time. Whatever you chose to be a part of, do it for the right reasons, because you’re passionate about the mission, and it will be all that much more meaningful. If you’re like me when you look back, you’ll be surprised at how much you learned and grew from the experiences and wonderful people you met along the way.
Q. What piece of advice do you have for Millennials working in the communications and energy industries?
A. My advice would be to have patience, perseverance, and keep a positive attitude. I started at the very bottom level of the company. When I started out, I wasn’t even sure what my goals were. I was happy to find a job and work for a great company. Over time I got exposed to different roles and wanted to learn more. I’d find out what was needed to advance, and I’d continue towards that next goal. It didn’t happen overnight, but I do now feel as though I learned and grew with each role I took on and from the people I worked with and for. I continued to push myself, sometimes even surprised myself, took courses or classes I needed to move to that next level, and over time earned new opportunities to challenge myself.
Q. Our Spring WICE Conference focused on advancing with agility. How do you think the communications and energy industries will adapt to changes in the workforce (e.g. Baby Boomer retirements, increased diversity, etc.)?
A. At National Grid, we have an aging workforce. The opportunities will be endless. We are currently partnering with all types of colleges and other learning institutions to develop programs for work force development to prepare for the future need. For example, we have partnered with Hudson Valley Community College and other community colleges across upstate to develop a line mechanic certification. We also developed with Farmingdale in Long Island training for gas mechanics and are looking to add the gas certification at Hudson Valley as well.
Q. Tell us about an interesting project that you’re working on.
A. We are currently working on a Reforming the Energy Vision project with the residents of Clifton Park, called Smart Energy Solutions. Residential customers are getting smart metering technology installed. They will be able to see their energy usage the following day to when they use it. With the information we hope to learn what choices customers will make to reduce consumption and then if they reduce load they will be rewarded for curtailing during conservation events over peak periods. We hope to learn if customers will change their behaviors if they had more knowledge to affect change to their energy consumption and the cost.
Q. What piece of advice do you have for women who want to excel in the communications and energy industries?
A. No one is entitled to promotions and opportunities. We need to earn them. We must understand we are in control of our own destiny. Keeping a positive attitude, finding solutions rather than problems, and continuous learning to grow are a recipe for long term success and happiness. Don’t be afraid to take risks and step out of your comfort zone.
Q. What is a quote that you live by and why?
A. I have a couple sayings that my grandfather carried with him in his wallet. When he passed my brother framed them and my whole family keeps them close at hand, and I keep mine on my desk at home.
“Good Enough”: Don’t say that things are good enough…or ambition will fade…for progress in most anything…stems from improvements made….remember that each try you make…is like a step ahead…those who won’t stop trying….seldom have a thing to dread…it’s the will to keep on trying…for a new or better way…that keeps the wheels of progress…turning day by day….there-by making life more pleasant…and more wonderful to live…each one of us in this old world….has something good to give…it’s true, the pace is torrid…but still is it worthwhile…this spirit makes a country strong….and aids the rank and file…so whatever be your station…though the way be long and rough…never be content to say….everything is good enough.
And, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
To me these sayings provide encouragement to keep on working to improve myself, to be a better person, and to not spend time worrying about things I cannot change or for which I have no control over!
If you would like to be featured in our next “Member Spotlight”, please contact Erin Gryniak, WICE Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.