Paula Gold-Williams on leadership


Smart Energy International had a chance to speak with Paula Gold-Williams, CEO of CPS Energy, about her role in taking the utility forward in 2020 and beyond.

“On any given day, I encounter a wide range of opportunities and an even wider range of challenges,” Gold-Williams says. “In fact, they are required parts of leading an operations, engineering and analytics company.”

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International issue 1-2020. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

“In no way do I think of the challenges we face as burdens. To the contrary, it is an absolute privilege to run a great company that serves our wonderful metropolitan community. In my role as president and CEO, I am honoured to work with countless devoted, hardworking and brilliant CPS Energy employees.”

Gold-Williams shares that the days in which energy discussions centred around rates are long gone. Now, the focus is on keeping costs under control, “because service affordability remains at the top of our priorities.”

She continues: “Even so, our customers increasingly have strong opinions about how best to generate energy. Our company and industry are moving quickly into an intense spotlight of new scrutiny and challenges. Further, San Antonio is a community of 1.5 million people that is projected to grow to more than 2.5 million.

Therefore, we expect the range of opinions about energy to also continue to grow.”

“In fact, most people can find themselves somewhere on the energy continuum. On one end are those who are inspired to move quickly toward a portfolio of 100% renewable energy. On the other end are individuals primarily concerned that any quick and sweeping changes could put extreme financial pressure on everyone – individuals, institutions and companies. Neither side of the spectrum is wrong. The concerns of both have merit.”

Gold-Williams is widely praised for her “People First” philosophy. The philosophy to focus on “employees, customers, and community has been [there] at the onset of what we’re doing and we’re continuing to focus on that,” Gold-Williams said.

She continues: “I run a business anchored by our belief of putting people first! My job is to serve everyone, to listen and to help San Antonio find its way forward through the very complex energy landscape.

“The key will be for everyone to come prepared and [be] willing to dialogue about the solutions we can pursue, as a community, over time. While we will begin with a focus on energy, our community will also talk about other significant topics, such as transportation, cybersecurity and smart/connected cities. New discussions are going to be hard, sometimes uncomfortable and very demanding, but most of all, they will be fruitful in developing an effective and affordable flexible path forward.”

Gold-Williams has made her mark since becoming CPS Energy CEO in 2015. She joined the company in 2004 and served as CPS Energy’s group executive vice president – financial & administrative services, chief financial officer (CFO) & treasurer until her appointment as CEO. She also served in other capacities such as chief administrative officer (CAO) and controller.

Under Gold-Williams’ leadership, CPS Energy is among the top public power wind energy buyers in the nation and number one in Texas for solar generation. It has maintained its AA+ credit rating, one of the best in the industry. The company was also named ‘Residential Customer Champion’ (electric and gas utilities) for all combined utilities in the Southern US, as well as ranked 1st as the Most Trusted Brand for a combined utility in the US Southern Region in 2017 by Market Strategies International (MSI).

She was chosen as ETS Thought Leader of the year by Zpryme in 2018, an award that has previously been given to ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore in 2017; former CPS energy president & CEO Doyle Beneby in 2016; and University of Minnesota professor and IEEE chairman Dr Massoud Amin in 2015.

“I am beyond honoured,” said GoldWilliams of the award. “To be part of this group of ETS winners and to be voted by industry peers, humbles and excites me for the future of CPS Energy, the dynamic energy industry we operate in, and the great San Antonio metropolitan community we serve.

“This award is a testament to the “People First” philosophy that’s embraced by all the 3,100 women and men who work every day to enable our customers to achieve their dreams.”

Other awards bestowed on Gold-Williams include recognition at the Keystone Policy Center’s 25th Annual Leadership Awards for her vision and work to inspire peers and others to reach common ground on challenging issues. Additionally, she was honoured by the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) at their 38th Annual Woman of the Year Reception and Dinner Gala in Washington, D.C., for her leadership in mentoring women in the energy and/or environmental fields.

“I am humbled to be recognized with such a distinguished group of thought leaders,” said Gold-Williams. “At CPS Energy, collaborating externally with our peers, partners and customers is equally as important as working within our organisations. We therefore remain dedicated to innovation and are committed to staying ahead of the evolving needs of our customers and the fast-changing energy industry. Our strategy of constructive dialogue with others continues to help us find new collaborative and creative solutions.”

Speaking of her ability to influence the careers of others through guidance and mentoring, Gold-Williams says: “Mentoring others is one of my everyday passions. It gives me great personal satisfaction knowing that I am promoting a culture of mentorship at CPS Energy, as well as broadly in the energy and environmental industries. Mentoring and developing others is crucial to ensure our upcoming talented people continue to grow and evolve.”

From top executives to those working on the front lines, CPS Energy offers several programmes, activities and opportunities to help employees grow in terms of performance and personal and professional development. These programmes are part of CPS Energy’s commitment to foster individual and organizational value.

“We look both inside and outside of our company to provide leadership and growth opportunities. Sometimes those opportunities are internal employee driven groups, many of which were started by women at all levels of our organization. What ultimately makes them successful, however, is that both men and women support them,” Gold-Williams added.

“Key to this commitment is to encourage men to not be afraid to professionally support women. Especially in the current era, the proper development of all our employees benefits our nation’s talent pool. This in turn improves an employee’s skills, as well as their engagement and loyalty.” SEI

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