Ellen Smith - National Grid
EVP and COO, Electric, Gas and Generation operations
Ellen Smith joined National Grid in September 2009 and serves as EVP and COO responsible for Electric, Gas and Generation operations. She is also responsible for Construction and Maintenance, Control Center Operations, Operations Performance, Customer Order Fulfillment and Fleet, Material and Logistics. Ellen brings over 25 years of experience in the energy industry gained through leadership positions at GE Energy, Pratt & Whitney and Hess Corporation.
Ellen has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Power Systems Engineering and is a Professional Engineer in the state of NY.
What principles do you as a leader apply to your professional and personal life to advance the STEM cause?
Women make up more than 50% of the workforce, and as a result, it they need to be well represented in the STEM professions. I have worked throughout my career to be a role model and to support women in engineering and science in the workplace. I look for ways to encourage young women to challenge the traditions, problem solve, innovate and use strategic thinking. We need to continue to make STEM careers and subjects more relevant to attract the young women of today into the profession.
What is your concept of mentoring and sponsorship of others for STEM careers?
Mentoring and sponsorships are a great way for young women to experience the opportunities that exist in the STEM fields. These types of programs can help young people translate what they are learning in school to how it applies to real time problems.
However, mentoring needs to start in elementary school and continue through high school. Taking four years of science and math in high school is relevant regardless of what you choose to do for a career. Just think about it -- science, math, engineering and technology - are just critical to almost every profession and to almost every part of life. I believe true mentorship is about helping students understand how these subjects will help them in their everyday lives – while making them fun –that is true mentoring..
Of what one initiative are you most proud?
I have supported women's initiatives at work over the years and continue to be proud of the progress we have made. I am also very proud of my daughter -- who at one point did not want to continue with Math in high school and is now an an engineering student in college.
What leader do you most admire and why?
I admire just so many great leaders. If I had to pick one - it would be Madeline Albright. Not only did she become the first female U.S. Secretary of State but the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. During her time in government, she faced some very hard challenges, which had huge, important outcomes. She did this with grace and fortitude. She is also a staunch supporter of women helping women. I truly believe that we must support each other as women – especially since many STEM careers have been historically non-traditional for women.