Pictured above: Teresa-Thao Tran, manager, capital project implementation, is one of the many strong women helping power Distribution Operations.
Each March we celebrate Women’s History Month to honor the many contributions women have made to our culture and society. It’s also an opportunity for us to recognize our own colleagues and friends and reflect on the impact they have on our company and women everywhere.
We’re proud our organization has made strides over the years that have allowed women to excel in roles that have been traditionally male-dominated. We talked to some of the influential women across Distribution Operations (DO) about the work they do and the advice they have to girls and young women who aspire to be like them.
One of the extraordinary women of DO is Kelsey DeCarteret, operations analyst and one of DTE’s own meteorologists. Since her start as a summer intern, Kelsey has been a vital force in predicting weather conditions like thunderstorms, heat, wind and ice, that may impact our electrical system. Like many other women in a job like hers, Kelsey has learned to embrace being one of the only women in the room. “Even starting from high school, and into college, there were a lot of times where I was one of the only, or the only, females in my science classes or certain parts of jobs I’ve come in contact with,” she says.
Now as one of the company’s full-time meteorologists, Kelsey serves as an example for not only other women going through the summer internship program like her, but women interested in a career in meteorology. Drawing from her own experience as one of the few women in her field, Kelsey encourages other young women “not to be afraid of being the only women in the room.”
Like Kelsey, Jamila Chambliss-Foley, manager, DO, has risen from field apprentice to now overseeing approximately 120 people, holding many different leadership positions in between. In her role as manager of our Southeast region, based out of the Trombly Service Center, she helps reinforce the safety culture to prevent risk of outages. She leads a team of supervisors, operations support and field employees who help with power restoration for our customers.
Jamila’s journey has taught her a lot about what it’s like as a female in what has traditionally been a more male-dominated field, and how to adapt to the challenges. “Men have certain physical abilities women don’t have, so I think as a woman, we need to take a step back and do a little more thinking and strategizing before we jump in and do something,” says Jamila, “like if we need to lift something heavy like a manhole cover, we may just need to strategize different options, such as using a certain tool or asking for help, and not just jump into it and lift it because our partner can.”
One of the most important pieces of advice Jamila would give to young women who aspire to work in a similar field to hers, and something she has benefited from, is finding a female mentor or someone who can help in certain moments. Throughout her career, Jamila has had many different women to lean on and help guide her in her path. She has now become that resource for other women coming through the field, “I always try to reach out and be kind of that mentor and piece of advice they may need or answer any questions they may have that they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking a man, even if it’s something as simple as what to tell the guys when you need to use the bathroom and there’s nowhere to go,” she says. “There’s things that men don’t think about, but we women do, so it’s about being that olive branch and saying hey, call me, let’s talk it through, I’ve been there.”
Morgan Elliot Andahazy, newly appointed director of the DO project management office (PMO), and former director of Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS), has also held multiple roles at DTE. Over the last four years, Morgan led a team for ADMS, a business transformation project based on a suite of software components to help monitor and control our electrical grid. In her new role as Director of PMO, she heads the new scheduling and logistics organization for DO, as well as lead a cross-functional team on improving our strategy on new customer connections to the grid.
Morgan’s career pathway has been a “jungle gym,” she says. With a degree in industrial and operations engineering, and an MBA, she first began her career in manufacturing, operations specifically, where she spent eight years. When she came to DTE, she started as a project lead in DO’s Continuous Improvement (CI) group and has held many roles since, like frontline supervisor at the Trombly Service Center, CI manager in corporate services, director of service operations and finally, ADMS director.
Throughout her fruitful career journey, Morgan says she’s been fortunate to have had a lot of great role models, both women and men, that have taken the time to mentor her and give her opportunities to learn, but her biggest influence has always been her mother. “She’s just the best thing in the world,” she says. “She taught me a lot about perseverance and to make sure you continue to push through when you meet obstacles in life and what it means to always have support and someone to fall back on when you need them.”
Given inspiration from her mother, Morgan also offers similar words of support to others interested in pursuing a similar job to hers, “I would encourage anyone with a desire to do something, to do it, regardless of what everyone else around the table looks like. If it’s something you like, do it! You will find people who are different than you, who will accept you, help you and teach you throughout your career if you make yourself available and open to learning new things.”
Some women like Teresa Emery, dispatch supervisor, realized their potential at a young age and continue to grow and thrive with the same ambition they had then. Teresa started at DTE when she was just 17 years old, working on the gas side of the company. Throughout her 40+ year-career, she has held various leadership roles that have given her a wealth of knowledge in both gas and electric. She is now one of five supervisors in Electric Dispatch, running a 24/7 operation monitoring all pending trouble and emergency jobs to ensure priorities are resolved safely and efficiently. “I’m very appreciative to work at such a great company that gives us every opportunity to learn and grow and provides a lifestyle that allows you to balance home and work life.”
Growing up with all brothers, Teresa’s experience as a working woman never felt any different to her. Since she started in her role 10 years ago, she’s felt her background knowledge and support from others are what have helped her gain the confidence to ask questions and continue to learn. “I feel my background in Customer Relations has allowed me to deal with situations with best intent, to learn, and encourage others to do the same,” she says. “Whenever we have a difficult customer or case, we talk it out, gather input, ask questions and look for a successful solution. Even though this is something different than anything I’ve done before, I’m not afraid to ask questions because we continue to learn every day.”
Looking back on her career, Teresa calls upon the inspiration she’s gained from the women in her life. Her mom inspired her as a successful registered nurse for 50 years, working full-time while raising a family of four small children during a time where there were no day care centers or after-school programs. Teresa’s daughter also inspires her through her ability to raise a beautiful family while running a successful business and balancing school needs for her teenagers. Lastly, she’s been inspired by one of her retired colleagues, Joyce Hayes Giles, former Senior Vice President at DTE. “If you know Joyce you know she was the epitome of a strong, educated leader, she says, “she trusted you and treated everyone with respect and her door was always open.”
Teresa uses her inspiration from these three women to encourage others to do their best every day. “We hear so much bad news in the world, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and go home feeling like we made a difference for someone.”
Sharon Pfeuffer, VP of distribution engineering, is an integral part of DO and an inspiration to women in engineering and operations. In her role, Sharon focuses on the company’s multi-year effort to improve the reliability of our electric system and modernize the energy grid to prepare for a future with electric vehicles and a greater level of distributed resources. Prior to joining our DO team, she held leadership roles in Environmental Engineering, Generation Integrated Resource Planning, and Generation Engineering and Operations.
Sharon reflects on what Women’s History Month means to her. “Looking back on women’s history, it’s amazing to see the impact women have made on our society, not all of which has been recognized. While this is a time when we honor those achievements, I think it’s also an opportunity for us to recognize the success and contributions of the women in our own lives, and the women and men who have supported us” she says. When Sharon suggested to her son Andy Pfeuffer, associated marketing analyst on the Demand Response team, that he use the purple gender equity Teams background, he responded, ‘Even better than posting a Teams background, I will support my female colleagues.’ I’m proud of him and am also proud to work alongside the incredible women across our team and our company as a whole, and I look forward to the impact women will continue to have on our industry and their influence on young women who may dream of one day following in their footsteps.”
Want to join the incredible women of Distribution Operations? DTE is always looking for new people to join the team. Browse our current job openings.