During Women’s History Month we’re highlighting our women in leadership like Helen Wesley, the chief operating officer for Peoples Gas. She’s served in several strategic and operational leadership positions in her career and today she helps our company grow in a thoughtful and strategic way.
Q: What contribution(s) are you the proudest of in your career?
I’m most proud of the things that were the hardest, took the longest, and involved the most people. I’m very proud of working to remove barriers and achieve outcomes that we didn’t think possible. A few projects like that have been really big moments in my career and there are always a lot of other names and faces conjured up when I reflect back on those moments.
Q: Who were some of your role models/mentors especially in the earlier stages of your career?
I spent the early days of my career with much exposure to many key leaders in the company and I can’t honestly imagine being where I am without their contributions.
I had the benefit of working with a CEO who believed in taking on a lot of different roles to gain broad experience. That approach enabled me to take on some incredible job changes. It also enabled me to build leadership skills early in my career, also important. I would advocate for anyone to take on a role that has broad people leadership responsibilities as early as possible because I think that’s what enables you to learn about yourself as a leader, and the earlier you do it the more forgiving people will be when you mess up, which you inevitably will!
Q: What advice would you give women who are beginning or considering careers in the energy industry?
It took a while for me to learn this, but I’d say don’t focus on the fact that you’re often the only woman in the room, just be yourself and build relationships and learn. I was fortunate to have been raised in a household where there were no “pink jobs” or “blue jobs” — I think my Dad secretly wanted to have a boy but he had two girls first before the boy came along, so I learned how to work with tools and change my car tire and lots of handy tips about how much luggage to pack (no more than you can carry by yourself!).
If you see something you’re interested in and want to do, get yourself trained and educated so there are no excuses for you not being able to pursue what you want! And there’s no substitute for hard work.
Q: What future developments in our business are essential to our organization’s growth?
We have a great deal of opportunity to grow in Florida in different ways – whether through residential, commercial or industrial growth, and at the same time, supporting decarbonization for Peoples Gas and Emera in aggregate.
In addition, we have all the DNA and the ambition to make sure that growth is done thoughtfully and in a disciplined and strategic way. We have a great brand reputation, great people, and a natural gas-friendly policy and regulatory environment. We just have to keep applying the signature Peoples Gas “can do” attitude and approach!
Q: Is there a woman in history or present who inspires you?
There are lots of women and lots of men. I’m a huge reader, so I will happily take on any biography or story of success or challenge.
In general, I think honesty and humility while helping people do great things are what inspires me. I have some very good friends who are big inspiration to me as well– we have shared our trials and tribulations and most importantly, some good laughs as we’ve navigated the last 25 years or so of business and personal lives! Learning to share your vulnerabilities, fears and mistakes is the biggest door opener to learning, in my view.
Q: What brings you joy?
My kids and husband are my biggest joys in life – I can’t think of anything that’s happened over the past almost three decades I would have been able to accomplish without my partner by my side, and our kids have been a huge source of (mostly!) joy.
I also really like to be outside, to read, to escape into a good movie, and to climb the leaderboard made up of total strangers on a Peloton ride. My friends and family are always “with” me – and I’m very thankful for that.