Part of the women-in-energy article series
Kathleen Wolf Davis | Jun 18, 2014
Sallie Rainer, president and CEO of Entergy Texas, tells outsiders that her role is all about value. Top value: delivering power to 420,000 customers in Southeast Texas. But, there are others at play as well, including creating value for shareholders, employees and communities.
But, certainly, creating value through power delivery wasn’t Rainer’s dream job as a kid. It wasn’t what she always wanted to be, though, even as a kid, it sounds like she had the executive-level drive.
“I dreamed of being successful in whatever I did,” she said. “But I had no idea that I would ultimately become CEO of an electric utility. As a kid, I didn’t even know what an electric utility was. As I went through college and studied management and engineering, I began to develop an interest in the energy industry. It was during my first entry-level position at Entergy when I began to understand what impact the industry had in our day to day life. Today, I feel honored to be leading Entergy Texas in this very challenging industry.”
To do all that leading, Rainer’s day is a long one. It takes a lot of hours to juggle responsibilities that include everything from distribution lines to customer service, from government discussions to community contributions—along with the financial aspects. And all of that boils down to something else no kid thinks of when dreaming of the future—namely, lots and lots and lots of meetings: with employees, with community leaders, with officials (to keep them informed about issues), with her direct team and with other employees “to ensure they understand the vision and mission of the company and how they fit into the company’s success,” she said.
“Listening to the ideas and feedback from our employees is an excellent means of identifying solutions to improve how we do business,” she added. And she sometimes enjoys all those meeting—especially if they include participating on her favorite volunteer boards for area nonprofits. (So meetings aren’t always so bad.)
And her skill with all those meetings may come from one underlying realization: She really loves gaining insights into her company from outsiders and employees alike. “What I enjoy most about my job is talking to our front-line employees to understand how things are going in their local offices and to help them understand what is going on in areas of the company outside of their day to day job duties,” she said. “The men and women who keep the electricity flowing are dedicated to serving our customers, working in a very dangerous field, often in dangerous weather conditions. Their commitment to serve our customers is inspiring to me.”
Rainer’s commitment to serve both customers and employees blends seamlessly into a utility’s with a service business that, she believes, has the potential to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years.With industries looking to expand or locate in the Gulf South, Rainer and Entergy Texas are focused on bringing those businesses into the communities they serve. “Over the next few years, we will be adding new transmission lines and other infrastructure to ensure that we can reliably meet the growing demand for electricity this creates,” she added. She admits, though, this focus may be a bit unique to Entergy Texas and depends, entirely, on high-levels of growth, which isn’t the norm for most American utilities. In this area, Rainer and Entergy Texas are facing a unique opportunity.
And speaking of unique opportunities, Rainer would like to encourage more women to join the energy industry and get into this business of creating value and serving a community, from technical areas to regulatory accounting, human resources, communications and even meter reading. “My advice for anyone entering the field would be to set goals, build strong relationships and don’t be afraid to take a position outside of the traditional career progression,” she said. “When I began my career at Entergy 30 years ago, I did not expect to be in the position I am in today. I have found every step along the way to be very challenging and rewarding.”