NYPA Recognizes its Women in Engineering: Katie O’Toole

Throughout March, we posted a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. The last post features a Q&A session with Katie O’Toole.

1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? In high school, I excelled in math and science, and with my dad as a role model I thought engineering would be a good fit for me. Through my studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I took an Intro to Electrical Engineering class and I knew that that was what I wanted to do. Not only did I find it interesting, but I knew that going into the power industry would provide job security, since everyone needs electricity.

2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? No.

3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I am proud to work for NYPA because it is a well-known company dedicated to delivering low-cost, reliable clean energy to all of New York.  I have worked at NYPA for 2 years and 10 months.

Kathryn O'Toole

Katie O’Toole

4. How many positions have you held at NYPA? One. I am an Associate Electrical Engineer with the Electrical Engineering Group.

5. What things do you love most about engineering? What I love the most about engineering is that there is something new to learn every day, whether it is a new piece of equipment or system to learn about. Technology is always changing, making it is so important to know what is available and how to use it properly.

6. What are the most difficult aspects of your job? What parts do you enjoy the most? The most difficult and enjoyable part of engineering is that no two jobs are the same. While you might have some background knowledge of a similar project that will be helpful, there are always new challenges to work through which keep things interesting and exciting.

7. What project that you have worked on are you most proud of? The project that I am most excited and proud of being a part of is the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant Life Extension Modernization (LPGP LEM) project because it is such a big undertaking that involves coordination between so many different people and equipment. It is fascinating to see how carefully all the phases of this project are planned and actuated successfully.

8. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? If so, which was the biggest one? Yes, when I started college I had professors tell me that I would never make it as an engineer because I did not pick things up as quickly as other students and that I should consider other career options. That gave me the drive to work even harder to reach my goal of becoming an engineer. Not only did I graduate and find a job as an electrical engineer right out of school, but I graduated on the Dean’s List.

9. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? I have learned no matter what gets thrown your way, to take things one step at a time. Breaking down overall jobs into individual tasks makes them much easier to tackle and much less intimidating.

10. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? There is no such thing as routine work in engineering, you need to be willing to step up to the plate and not be afraid to take on whatever challenges are thrown your way.

11. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? One word I would use to describe the engineering profession is multifaceted, because not only are there a vast amount of projects that you can get thrown into, but there are many different steps that must be taken from a conceptual design, to construction, to a fully functioning system.

12. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? One thing that people might find surprising about me is that I am a professional USA gymnastics coach.

NYPA Recognizes its Women in Engineering: Lindsey McCloy

Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Assistant Research & Technology Development Engineer II Lindsey McCloy.

1. How did you enter the engineering field and decide on your specialty? Growing up, I always viewed science and math as tools to discover solutions to big world problems, and I think that’s why I tracked toward engineering as a career.  I settled on mechanical engineering in college because the discipline allowed me to explore many areas of interest, including sustainable energy technology, materials science, design, complex systems, and breaking stuff.

Lindsey McCloy

Lindsey McCloy

2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? Though I haven’t had an official female engineering mentor, I would count as “informal mentors” my female friends and colleagues in engineering, to whom I frequently turn for advice and perspective.  I’m also reliant on a loose network that includes former professors, supervisors, colleagues at NYPA, and family members (my engineer dad, energy businessman grandfather, power system researcher boyfriend, and life expert mom) who let me pepper them with questions and who kindly dispense wisdom.  Officially speaking, I’ve been lucky to participate in NYPA’s mentoring program which paired me with Paul Belnick, and he’s been an invaluable source of guidance as I’ve begun my NYPA career.

3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA?  How long have you worked here? I have worked as an Assistant R&TD Engineer for about a year and a half, my first and only position so far at NYPA.  Everyone who works here, throughout all of the business units, is an inexhaustible trove of information, and they are so generous with their time and knowledge – they constantly amaze me!

4. What things do you love most about engineering? Engineering, as both an academic and professional discipline, is all about breaking down and reorienting seemingly intractable problems.  I really enjoy the interplay of rigor and creativity involved in engineering solutions.

5. What are the most difficult aspects of your job?  What parts do you enjoy the most? Paradoxically, I find the same thing both most challenging and most exciting:  the sheer amount of information and scope of the R&D department’s work.  Sometimes it feels like I’m always playing catch-up to get up to speed on a project in a new area, but finally grasping abstract notions (like “what is a power system”) and being able to speak the language of a project is a great feeling.

6. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? I think pretty much anyone who’s gone through engineering school would say the same thing (if they don’t, they’re a robot and you shouldn’t trust them):  engineering school is hard!  It seems as though it’s structured as an endurance test and that if you complete it, you’re equipped to handle pretty much anything an engineering career can throw at you.  Fortunately, so far that’s been the case!

7. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that networking, especially within the company, is extremely important. Building personal working relationships with people across the company, especially when your work spans sites and business units as mine has a tendency to, makes solving problems so much easier – when you’re tackling a new issue or project, already knowing who to talk to makes the solution much easier to find.

8. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? Listen and observe, always.  The fastest way to learn is by listening to others and picking up details through observation, whether in the field, in a meeting, or in a brief conversation in the hall.   You never know when this information will be just the thing to help you solve a tough problem.

9. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? Utilitarian.

10. What is one thing about yourself that people would find surprising? In 8th grade, I was the North Carolina state champion in the National Geographic Bee, so you can trust me with directions!

It’s Time To Modernize New York State’s Energy Infrastructure

By Gil C. Quiniones

The electric power industry stands on the brink of transformational, perhaps revolutionary, change.

For much of its history, the industry has been based on a fundamental operating model: electricity, produced at large central power plants, is carried by long-distance transmission lines and local distribution lines to customers. Thanks to advances in technology and cost reductions in small-scale, clean generation, we can reimagine a more decentralized power system that meets the needs of an environmentally sustainable, energy-driven economy.

The Future of New York State's Power Grid

The Future of New York State’s Power Grid

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility and produces more than 20% of New York State’s power. For years, we have been at the forefront of innovative energy, in addition to environmental and economic development initiatives. Today, we’ve released our Strategic Vision, which aims to not only build on our past successes, but  also position New York as a leader in forging the new power industry, attracting the businesses and jobs that will provide new energy products and services.

NYPA’s Strategic Vision lays out strategic actions according to the following three themes:

Customer Empowerment NYPA can help its customers evaluate and implement the available technologies, products and services that can be tailored to their needs and desired outcomes.

Infrastructure Modernization The transmission grid will have to become more intelligent and flexible in responding to demand variations and extreme weather events.

Resource Alignment We intend to build on the tremendous skills and experience of our employees to make our workforce as skilled and flexible as possible; improve access to the information and knowledge.

To view the New York Power Authority’s Strategic Vision Plan, click here.

Gil C. Quiniones (@GQEnergy) is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Power Authority. Quiniones has served as Senior Vice President of Energy and Telecommunications for the New York City Economic Development Corporation during the Bloomberg Administration, and worked for Con Edison for 16 years.

NYPA Recognizes its Women in Engineering: Maribel Cruz-Brown

Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Economic Development & Energy Efficiency Program Manager Maribel Cruz-Brown.

1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? I really enjoyed Math and Science in high school and received a partial scholarship to attend Manhattan College. During my college search, I was informed that an Engineering Degree would serve me well if I wanted to enter into any other career choice later on. They were right.

Maribel Cruz-Brown

Maribel Cruz-Brown

2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? I had interned all through college but didn’t come across any other female engineers until my first job out of college with Syska Hennessy Group. My aunts and uncles went to great schools like NYU and Yale. They were amazing role models for me, and I have great female engineering role models here at NYPA.

3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? This organization thrives because of the contributions from entry level to executive management. Over the past 14 years, I have seen how reliable public power and energy efficiency upgrades have real, positive impacts on NY communities.

4. What things do you love most about engineering? Most engineers say problem solving skills and I agree but it goes deeper than that.  Engineering is a resolution to a need, it is an approach.  I studied Mechanical Engineering so to me it’s all about gears, motors and turbines making things happen.

5. What project are you most proud of? My first energy efficiency projects at NYPA have set the tone for my career here.   I began my career with NYPA at NYC and Westchester schools, hospitals and precincts. They called on my engineering knowledge, street smarts and negotiating skills.  I learned to maneuver through challenges with customers, public officials and contractors.

6. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? I always had to balance school while working close to full time my entire college career. I’m currently earning my M.B.A, and I have two young sons – so life is a little busy at the moment.

7. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? Always be professional and mindful of your contributions and you will be successful.  Not everyone we work with has been exposed to the diversity of the engineering world of today. I had a customer ask me if I had really gone to school for engineering, why I chose my nontraditional profession, where I had studied, etc. By the end of our meeting he was eager to proceed with the recommendations I had presented for his town.

8. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? I have been speaking to elementary and high school students for 10 years.  My message is still the same.  If she (or he) has a passion for math/science, want to work on projects that have local impact and is ready to put the time in then the engineering field is for them!

9. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? Symphony. A collaboration of instruments, players, working at different levels to create a beautiful product.

10. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? Years ago I wanted to create and be the host of a Home Improvement Show demonstrating to women how to DIY.

NYPA Recognizes its Women in Engineering: Kaela Mainsah

Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Chemical Engineer Kaela Mainsah.

1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? I decided on chemical engineering because I like chemistry and was interested in the industrial processes that enabled daily living. If you’ve ever eaten a chocolate bar, taken a pain killer or enjoyed a coffee at dawn – a chemical engineer has been involved in the creation of your experience.

Kaela Mainsah

Kaela Mainsah

2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? There were a few women in my undergraduate degree and others a few years ahead of us. Although they were not formal mentors, they inspired us by reminding us that we belonged. I know a personal mentor would have been a great help, and I am excited at the prospect and the wealth of female engineering mentors at NYPA.

3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I have been at NYPA for almost a year – I really enjoy the camaraderie and I am proud to be part of NYPA’s implementation of Executive Order 88 – I believe that strategies and initiatives employed as part of BuildSmart NY will have a lasting influence on the State Energy Efficiency Industry.

4. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? If so, which was the biggest one? I did find it challenging as a new engineer to find my place – I joined a company that had not hired a graduate engineer for a number of years; I was a novelty and constantly had to prove myself. They also did not have facilities at all the sites for women and I remember changing in closets once or twice.

5. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? I have learned that diversity strengthens all teams because of the different perspectives we bring to solution design and problem solving. Ultimately, success at engineering requires the ability to communicate, solve problems and work within a team. As women have a well-known bias for team building teams and communicating effectively, I think women are built for engineering.

6. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? I would tell young women that the engineering discipline is an excellent foundation for almost any discipline. Engineering particularly chemical engineering, touches a variety of industries and a wealth of opportunities to be involved in the manufacture of a wide range of products both at home and abroad.

7. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? Undervalued! I feel that society values the end consumer product, the marketing and buzz without an appreciation for the technical engineering behind it. Engineers are responsible for a lot of innovation and business growth and the industry plays a critical role in economic growth…. engineers create jobs… in fact, they create industries.

8. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? I could speak perfect Mandarin at the age of 4 because my parents lived in China at the time. I have forgotten every word of it but I am sure it lurks in the dark recesses of my mind. Maybe I will try hypnosis!

NYPA Recognizes its Women in Engineering: Tabitha Robinson

Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Account Executive Tabitha Robinson.

1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? I really loved math throughout school, it was like another language to me. There really was no question in my mind that I was going to study engineering as an undergraduate.  It was a field where math was applicable, I was passionate about what I was learning, and there were jobs for everyone upon graduation.  In deciding my specialty, I chose Industrial Engineering because it was very business oriented, and I really enjoyed using numerical methods to solve problems.  I also naturally seek out efficiencies in everything I do, which is the core of Industrial Engineering.  It was a really good fit for me.

Tabitha Robinson

Tabitha Robinson

2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? I didn’t actually, but I had very good mentors.  My dad was an electrical engineer and I grew up doing odd jobs with his business and going to Georgia Tech (an engineering-heavy college) football games.  In college, I had a professor that opened many doors to me on the energy side of the business working with the Department of Energy and studying energy abroad in South America.

3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I’ve been here over 3 years now. NYPA has an incredible culture and has so many opportunities for its staff to learn about all sides of the business, from operations, to marketing and policy.

4. How many positions have you held at NYPA? I’ve held three positions now.  The first was with what was Business Development, then with Business Power Allocations and Compliance (BPAC) and now I’m in Key Accounts working with the government customers.

5. What things do you love most about engineering? Studying and practicing engineering really taught me problem solving techniques and how to learn on my own, which gives me the confidence that I can learn anything I set my mind to.  With the training I’ve been able to tackle projects in my career spanning operations, marketing, and strategic planning, among other areas.

6. What are the most difficult aspects of your job? What parts do you enjoy the most? My current job involves a lot of relationship management in a more technical space.  The challenge inherent to relationship management is constantly balancing the needs of the customer with the needs of the organization.  With that said, the reward is that I really enjoy all the people I get to work with in this role, internally and externally.

7. What project that you have worked on are you most proud of? Working with everyone in Economic Development to launch ReCharge New York was one of the most intense projects I’ve worked on in my career.  It was very rewarding to be able to apply knowledge from my engineering days to build evaluation and modeling methodologies that will remain in place for years to come.  It was a project where so many of us came together to successfully launch one of the NYS’s premier economic development programs. It’s so rewarding to be part of something like that.

8. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession?

  • Seek work that you are passionate about and take on obstacles as opportunities.
  • It’s OK to change your career path. I love the analogy that careers are often more like jungle gyms than ladders.
  • Focus on your strengths and talents. We all have weaknesses, but it’s our strengths and talents that set each of us apart.

NYPA Recognizes its Women in Engineering: Mei Lee

Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Our first entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Senior Electrical Engineer Mei Lee.PAH_7824edit

1. How did you enter the engineering field, and how did you decide on your specialty? I attended Brooklyn Tech High School, where I majored in electrical engineering. It was there that I became interested in engineering and saw that electrical engineering was a broad field to grow into.

2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? No – there were very few female engineers. Over the years, I would say that I have learned the most from engineers who have a deep knowledge and understanding of engineering: they taught me how important fundamentals are, especially when there is so much evolving today.

Mei Lee

Mei Lee

3. How many positions have you held at NYPA? One. I am a Senior Electrical Engineer with Energy Efficiency in the Engineering and Design group.

4. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I’m proud to be part of a team of professionals that is dedicated to generating reliable electricity, while preserving our environment. As engineers, we have the ability to develop solutions that affect both today and tomorrow. I have been with NYPA for one year, and I also worked as an intern working in the Generation Planning group during the summer of my junior year in college.

5. What things do you love most about engineering? Engineering really has been a diverse journey for me and I love that I am able to be creative and to work on projects in so many different settings, in both the power and telecommunications field. The systems we build can impact so much in our daily lives.

6. What are the most difficult aspects of your job? What parts do you enjoy the most? The most difficult aspect is managing ever changing priorities…the best part is seeing it all come together.

7. What project that you have worked on are you most proud of? I am proud of the projects that have made an impact to the customer, the end user, the public. Right now I am working on initiatives for emergency generators and LED lighting.

8. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? It’s important to be well-rounded and continue to evolve with our customers and our technology. There is always an opportunity to learn.

9. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? Learn the fundamentals well so that you can deliver. I would also encourage young women to be proud of their decision and to complete their professional requirements (MS, PE License) in the early years. Down the road, it will be a challenge when juggling both family and career.

10. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? That I have worked on a such a wide range of projects – from supporting the electrical systems for power plants, hospitals, airport terminals, and even the World Trade Center (both then and now).  I have also enjoyed working on telecommunication networks from building out the wireless infrastructure and creating the O&M system needed to rollout a nationwide wireless broadband service.