In honor of Black History Month, DTE’s employee resource group REACH (Respecting Ethnic and Cultural Heritage) celebrated their sixth annual Trailblazers award ceremony recognizing three DTE employees for their exceptional leadership and mentorship in blazing a path for others to follow. 

Terrell Lockhart is a 2022 Trailblazer, recognized for his work to help connect Black students, community members, and employees to learning, development, and growth opportunities in STEM.

Terrell Lockhart, manager, Distribution Operations (DO), is known for making a positive impact in every role he’s had throughout his career at DTE. Terrell leads DO’s two tree trim training programs at Parnall Correctional facility in Jackson, Michigan, and at the Tree Trim Academy (TTA) in Detroit. Both programs have garnered awards as well as national attention and have been the focus of industry benchmarking as an innovative approach to addressing workforce needs while also being a force for growth in our communities.

Terrell joined DTE in 2008 as an electrical engineer and capital project manager at Trenton Power Plant for Energy Supply (formally known as Fossil Generation). There he was responsible for all site electrical maintenance, execution of large capital projects and direct management of small capital projects. Terrell transitioned to Renewable Energy where he earned his Blackbelt on wind turbine and solar array performance analytics. After completing the DO Leadership Program, Terrell joined DO’s substation team where he was responsible for the day-to-day execution of planned and repair maintenance necessary for reliable distribution system operations. In 2019, he moved to his current role where he led the design and construction of the two programs he now oversees.

Terrell was instrumental in getting the tree trim program at Parnall up and running and his continued efforts have made the program a success,” said Shannen Hartwick, director of Distribution Operations. “Terrell goes above and beyond to personally help the students in these programs succeed.”

Shannen recalled a story that exemplifies Terrell’s character and commitment. When one of the students in the tree trim training program at Parnell was released from prison, he was offered a tree trimming job with one of the program’s vendors. This individual was living in a halfway house where mealtimes are fixed. He had to leave for work before breakfast, was at work during lunch, and got home after dinner was served. After a few days Terrell checked in on him, noticed something was off, and found out that he hadn’t had a decent meal in a few days. Terrell picked him up, took him to the grocery store and bought him food. 

“Terrell’s caring made a world of difference to that individual, and that memory will last a lifetime for this student,” added Shannen.

Terrel has an electrical engineering degree from Morgan State University and a Juris Doctorate degree from Wayne State University Law School.

We asked Terrell a few questions about what it means to be a trailblazer, who has positively impacted his life, and what wisdom he has to impart to others.

What does being a trailblazer mean to you?

To me, being a trailblazer means honing in on the bravery and courage that is within all of us, and using it to chart a course in your life, relying on what is in your heart and mind, and not on what conventional wisdom might advise. It’s quite possible that none have articulated this concept better than Robert Frost in his poem “The Road Not Taken.”

Tell us about the first person who inspired you and what they said or did to inspire you, that has remained with you to this day?

My parents have inspired me to set goals, to pursue them and remain steady toward them in times of self-doubt. They were both raised in small towns in Alabama that most people have never heard of, and they moved to Detroit in 1968 right after high school in hopes of setting a new course. Both their families advised against it. 50 years later, they’ve raised seven college graduates and post-graduates. More importantly, they built a house of love and confidence. They explicitly instilled in all of us that “no one is smarter than you, some just work harder than others. If you ever think that someone can do something you can’t, work harder and you will see the truth.” That mindset remains with me today.

What advice would you give others, who might follow in your footsteps?

I would advise putting time into figuring out what type of life you want to live as early in life as you can. That’s vocation, hobbies, everything. Then start towards it. You can always change your mind as you approach or pass your destination or goals. But you won’t reach it, or anything else if you don’t go! If you do that, no matter what direction you’re headed in, after a while you’ll look behind you and say, “I’ve come this far, maybe I CAN do this!”

Want to learn more about how DTE is working to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace? Read more about our efforts here