WICE Member Spotlight: Laura Popa, Manager, Resources Planning, New York Independent System Operator (NYISO)- June 2020

WICE Member Spotlight: Laura Popa, Manager, Resources Planning, New York Independent System Operator (NYISO)


Welcome to the June 2020 edition of our Member Spotlight, highlighting WICE members around the city and state.


What are your job duties?

I lead a team of engineers charged with performing complex power system simulations in order to ensure that the New York bulk electric system has sufficient resources to keep the lights on in the future (10-year look-ahead). This work takes into consideration complex factors and drivers such as economic conditions, policy changes, environmental impacts, technological improvements, demographic shifts, etc., which will affect the grid of the future in an unprecedented way.

Tell us about a project that you are currently working on.

We are currently in the middle of executing the Reliability Planning Process for New York, which has the ultimate goal of identifying potential deficiencies in the reliability of our future bulk electric system and to work with market participants to identify and implement solutions before the deficiencies become reality.

How do you balance your work / family life?

Balancing work and personal life gets better with time. Life experiences help put things into the proper perspective. Learning how to prioritize effectively is also important. For instance, valuing and respecting the time at work as much as the time spent at home with family and friends helps one strive to be more effective when away from home, and ultimately leads to better balance of energy, and well-being.

What is a piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

I would advise myself to learn how to reframe my thoughts during stressful times in order to worry a bit less.

Tell us about your education and work experience.

I have both Master’s and Bachelor’s Degree in Power Systems Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest and have been in the power industry for over 20 years. Working in the power industry has been incredibly interesting and rewarding (our motto is “Never a Dull Moment”), as we are living through a fast-changing industry.  My years have been busy with designing and leading planning and interconnection processes for New York’s bulk power system.

What are your hobbies / interests outside of work?

I love to learn and have a curious mind – therefore I enjoy reading (in a listening mode lately) and any other learning experience. I enjoy spending time at home and in nature with my family and friends, trying new recipes, and traveling. I am also active in my community, helping to organize events that bring and keep people together.

How did you hear about WICE?

My company, the NYISO, has been a WICE member for a long time. This has enabled me to attend the spring conferences since about 14 years ago. It is wonderful that members organize the spring event here in beautiful Albany, NY, and the fall event downstate. I love being part of the WICE family. I love its local nature, and the history of how it came to be. I also love attending the conferences (I always leave them renewed, inspired, and re-energized), lunches, and happy hours, while getting to know people from New York’s energy and communication industries.

What book (or course) are you currently reading/listening to, or impressed you lately?

We live through amazing times thanks to technology, which enabled online learning and access to information via open platforms such as Coursera, EdX, LinkedIn Learning, KhanAcademy, etc. I fell in love with Coursera many years ago, and kept at it when I have the time. I currently am auditing a course from Yale, “The Science of Well-Being”, taught by the very talented Professor Laurie Santos. I highly recommend the course to anyone interested in the topic.

A book that I read recently, and impressed me in more than one way, is Heartland, by Sarah Smarsh. It helped me better understand the deep impacts of being born in poverty.

Also, last year I attended a class in New York City, led by the American Management Association, called “Leading in a Diverse and Inclusive Culture: Maximize individual, team, and organizational potential through Diversity and Inclusion” taught by the wonderful Ellie Nieves. This class taught me about the many aspects of unconscious bias, and the benefits of checking our own biases until we move into an awareness state where it comes naturally to control and minimize them.

Who is your biggest influence and why?

My biggest influences are my mother and my aunt. My mother was the voice in my head that kept motivating me to learn and seek a good education. My aunt was a great example for me – she was a substation lead engineer (now retired) and first person on my mother’s side to graduate from college. She went on to become one of the most respected engineers in her company, in Bucharest, Romania, and the spirit behind what kept her department feel like family. When we were driving through Romania, she would proudly point to the numerous high voltage substations she and her group designed.

What advice do you give other women working in the male dominated fields of energy and communication?

While I have two wonderful boys, a very supportive husband, and supportive management and colleagues at the NYISO, I would share these two thoughts:

  • Never take for granted what we have and give thanks to those who have been actively changing the status-quo – it takes a blink of an eye to lose it; or to regress; and
  • More needs to be done when it comes to minimizing unconscious bias. Representation matters and it ultimately leads to better, well-rounded businesses, as well as increased well-being, both at home, and at work.

Do you have any other information about yourself that you’d like to share?

I came to the United States over 20 years ago with our one-year-old boy, and my husband, and fell in love with upstate New York. I believe that going through such a major change helped us, in time, to develop perpective. This ultimately led to better vision when it comes to seeing and valuing both the country we came from, Romania, and the country that welcomed us in every way, and where our home is. It has been a great journey so far, and we are looking forward to continue to be part of the evolution. Stay curious. Find your voice. Take care.

If you are interested in being highlighted in this series on our blog, please contact WICE Communications and Marketing Manager, Erin Gryniak, at erin.gryniak@nationalgrid.com.