Mary grew up on a very rural, cattle ranch in New Mexico just above the US-Mexico border, where she learned to drive when she was just seven years old and had no television in her home. She attended Williams college, in Massachusetts town near the New York-New Hampshire border. She first intended in going into politics, then fell in love with drama and theater, so she shifted her major. After college, she decided to study law.
After law school, Mary went to work for a natural gas utility in El Paso, TX, the city in Texas that borders Mexico and New Mexico. She worked as an in-house lawyer at the utility for several years, then went to work for a traditional law firm for a short period of time before she realized she didn’t like working as a traditional lawyer. So, she went to work for the (FERC) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. abbreviated FERC or “FERC”. She spent her time prosecuting utility companies that were not abiding by the law. After 4 years, she went back to work for El Paso Electric Company, where she would work her way up to the CEO position.
After spending a huge portion of her career in El Paso, Mary decided to join Puget Sound Energy in Bellevue, WA in 2019 to take on an ambitious challenge.
Today, Puget Sound Energy, employs more than 2,500 people, and serves over 1 million customers.
Mary Kipp 00:00
I think that as we're going through our careers, a lot of people focus too much on their career itself and not on themselves and their families and the whole being. And I feel like if you neglect those parts of you, you're not going to be successful. So it's maybe some unusual advice, but in my experience, that's certainly what worked.
Ash Faraj 00:23
Hey, it's ash. Now you want to be sure to stick around for this episode today because we are joined by Mary Kipp, Puget Sound Energy CEO, she takes us through growing up in a very rural part of the country on cattle ranch. She takes us through majoring in theater, then going to law school, and she gives us a peek into the future. Now before we get to the show, I have a quick ask. It'll only take a few seconds. But if you haven't already, please, please, please leave us a quick rating and review on Apple podcasts because it helps us tremendously with discovery. We spent countless hours researching conducting interviews and producing this podcast and all we ask is that if you enjoyed them to please please, please leave us a quick rating and review. Now settle back, unwind and enjoy this wonderful episode with Mary Kipp. Mary grew up on a very rural cattle ranch in New Mexico just above the US Mexico border on the southern part of New Mexico, where she learned to drive when she was seven years old. And she had no television in her home. We always start off with this question. I'm in a high school classroom with you, Mary, who are you in high school?
Mary Kipp 01:43
You know, I'm probably quiet kind of nerdy, a pretty diligent student, you probably wouldn't have noticed me is the truth.
Ash Faraj 01:53
And I've heard that, you know, you grew up in Colorado, but then you're a native of Texas. But where did you grow up?
Mary Kipp 01:58
So So I actually, it's neither, I actually grew up on a cattle ranch in southwestern New Mexico. And it was really, really remote. In fact, our our house actually wasn't served by utility power for most of my life, we had a generator. And it was only when they were bringing a big transmission line three, my dad negotiated having them do a distribution line for us. So that was that was kind of interesting. So it's, it's amazing that I ended up in this business. But the Colorado connection is I actually went to boarding school in Colorado, where we lived was pretty remote, I think our nearest neighbor was 30 miles away. So yeah, I went to boarding school in Colorado, I was actually born in Texas, just to make it even more complicated, because there were no hospitals in New Mexico where I was really, really very rural.
Ash Faraj 02:57
You know, when I bring up your childhood, and you look back, you know, when I say childhood, like, you know, zero to 18? What, like, what emotions, like, do you feel like when I just bring that up? Are there any particular things that you feel,
Mary Kipp 03:08
you know, I actually feel a lot of gratitude, because, in part because of the unique or somewhat unique nature of my childhood, you know, growing up on a ranch with a lot of freedom, and a lot of ability to spend time outdoors, which was critical. My parents, and especially my dad kind of defies a stereotype. When we think of ranchers, sometimes he cared very much about the environment and about animals and, and those kinds of things. So that was really, really wonderful too. And then we didn't have TV just wasn't available. It sounds like I'm from another century don't. But it just we didn't we didn't have the ability to have television then. So we, we all grew up as big readers. And I feel like that's a big part of what has made me who I am, is I just have, I've learned so much through reading and I have I get so much joy out of fiction in particular. And so just, I had a lot of opportunities that probably other people don't have, like I learned to drive when I was seven. Now some people who have seen my driving may find that hard to believe, or see I still drive like I'm seven But no, I mean, just just some really amazing parts of life that I think so many times and I look at my own kids, certainly things that they haven't gotten to experience.
Ash Faraj 04:32
Yeah, that makes sense. So your movies were those fiction books. These days? Yeah, that makes a lot of
Mary Kipp 04:38
Yeah, yeah, to a large extent.
Ash Faraj 04:42
So Mary attended Williams College, she first intended in going into politics. Then she fell in love with drama and theater, so she shifted her major. Now after college, she decided to study law that the interesting part about this is that Mary didn't necessarily have a passion for law, but she You saw the law degree as a vehicle to support yourself kind of like a means to an end. Fast forwarding a little bit, you got your ba from Williams College in Massachusetts, from what I read, what did you study there? And what made you go into that? Was that a random choice or
Mary Kipp 05:15
this is actually kind of a funny story. So when I, when I went to Williams, I started out as a political economics major, which is a combination of political science, economics. And I spent the summer after my first year at Williams, working for a really terrific senator at that time, he was a freshman Democrat, his name is Jeff Bingaman. But I also learned during that time that I probably didn't want to really delve into the political realm, I was a little disillusioned, not by him, he was wonderful, but just by some of the processes I learned and how things work. So I decided to be an economics major. Then, however, I fell in love with theater. And this is what happens at liberal arts colleges where you try a bit of everything you know, before you really formally declare your major and know what you're going to do. And I loved theater so much, that my senior year, I changed my major to theater. So I am a theater major,
Ash Faraj 06:13
did you always want to go into law or like after college? Did you decide that? Actually, I'm gonna go into law now or because I'm trying to make that?
Mary Kipp 06:19
You know, I really, I really first thought, yeah, I first thought I wanted to actually direct plays like off off off Broadway, you know, the kind of plays were there in a black box theater, and you have 20 people in the audience. That is what I really thought I wanted to do with my life. But then I realized that I probably wasn't going to be able to support myself doing that. So that's when I decided to go to law school. And I just, I think I've you lost law school as a really good vehicle for learning a lot of things related to business. I don't know that I wanted to be a lawyer in the traditional sense. I certainly didn't want to be a courtroom lawyer or anything like that. But yeah, that's, that's when I decided to go to law school. So I had a meandering plan, as you can see if we can even call it a plan.
Ash Faraj 07:07
Yeah. So so at that time, you were just like, well, I want something that's stable. And I know that, you know, law is a vehicle to that. So it wasn't even necessarily that it was law, but you just knew that it was a vehicle I it makes a lot of sense.
Mary Kipp 07:21
No, it honestly wasn't a love of law. And in fact, my very first job out of law school, this is pretty telling was that I'll pass on natural gas. So I immediately went into the corporate world rather than going the traditional law firm route. And that's because I'm much more interested in kind of the business side of things than I am the legal side, I sometimes joke with our current General Counsel, and also my former general counsel, that I had to become a CEO because I was only a mediocre lawyer, even though I did come up through the legal side.
Ash Faraj 07:58
So after law school, Mary went to work for a natural gas utility in El Paso, Texas, she worked as an in house lawyer at the utility for several years, then went to work for a traditional law firm for a short period of time before she realized she didn't like working as a traditional lawyer. So she went to work for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Now it's abbreviated FERC are firk. If you're not familiar with the FERC, or firk, it's a government administration that exists to make sure that utility companies like the natural gas company that Mary had previously worked for play by the rules. So she spent her time prosecuting utility companies that were not abiding by the law. After four years, she went back to El Paso to work for El Paso electric company where she would work her way up to the CEO position. What was your first job?
Mary Kipp 08:42
So I was a, I was just an in house lawyer at what was then El Paso natural gas company, a big interstate pipeline company that doesn't exist anymore since merged with some other entities. But, you know, I was I was started out doing corporate law, and then kind of through a turn of events, I became a regulatory lawyer, which is really how I, I've been able to kind of learn that business and the electric utility business as well.
Ash Faraj 09:09
During your time in law school, did a particular subject grow on you?
Mary Kipp 09:15
Yeah, yeah. No, that's, that's such a great question. I mentioned that growing up, you know, I was in a family that was really cognizant of the environment and taking care of the planet and those types of things and all the time outdoors. And that kind of stuff really cemented that in me. So I don't think it's a surprise that when I got to law school, I was really drawn towards environmental law. And I was on the Environmental Law Journal. And that's probably the one if you can find, you know, a consistent strain through my meandering path. Anytime I'm working on something that I feel like has, you know, benefits to the plan, and then something that's kind of an adjacency to environmental laws, regulatory law, which is actually what I spent my legal career practice. To sing for the most part, with a couple of exceptions, it sounds terribly boring. But in highly regulated industries, like utilities, pipelines, banking is another one. To understand the business, you really have to understand the nature of its regulation. And so I mentioned I was kind of nerdy, right? So I really liked that aspect of it, too. And so that's, that's really how I got to know a lot of the facets of the job that I currently have.
Ash Faraj 10:31
How long were you there for? 10 years?
Mary Kipp 10:33
Geez, I think it was a little bit shorter than that. And you know, it's funny now, when I think about the name El Paso natural gas, because there's a lot of controversy around gas now. Right. I, you know, I think I think it's part of the solution. I really do. But back then it was the clean fuel of choice, right? was the one that was going, you know, that's, that's what people wanted. And so it shows you how over time, you know, views and preferences evolved. But yeah, I think I was I was there a little less than 10 years, I then went to a law firm, big law firm, and I worked in Denver for a bit. And then actually, after that, I didn't like being at a law firm, my colleagues were great. The work was interesting. But I like I said, I like being closer to being part of the business. But after that, I actually spent four years at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the office of enforcement, where I prosecuted utilities and pipelines, who weren't complying with rules and regulations. And, you know, gave me a whole different view of things. And, and something that experience taught me is that I hope has served me and the people who I work with well, and on the other side of the table, too, but you know, sometimes people look at the regulator as kind of a pain or difficult or something you just have to deal with, there are a lot of good people on both sides of the equation there and a lot of very well meaning people trying to do the right thing. So I'm actually a huge advocate in terms of career actually going back and forth between the public, governmental and private sectors, because I think it gives you a more rounded view, rather than making Aaron assumptions or stereotyping. You know, whoever that that other may be.
Ash Faraj 12:22
Well, how long are we the law firm just was like a year,
Mary Kipp 12:25
I was only there a year. Yeah. And then, and I actually ended up marrying a lawyer from that law firm. And that was the reason we didn't want to be at the same law firm. So there you go. I'm divorced now. But that that was what would happen. But
Ash Faraj 12:42
my parents or do I think, some some rate of like, 55% of people who are getting married, get divorced.
Mary Kipp 12:48
That happens. Yeah. You know, and, and, you know, I, I was one of those people, because I grew up, you know, with my nuclear family intact. And, you know, everything seemed rosy in some ways. not perfect, but but good. I never imagined that I would be divorced. So it happens, you know, and in circumstances, sometimes things beyond your control, we evolve as human beings in different directions.
Ash Faraj 13:14
You know, one thing that I'm curious about is, how did the opportunities come about?
Mary Kipp 13:19
Yeah, so the law firm was actually a law firm that did a lot of work for El Paso natural gas. And it's it's not uncommon for people to move between a law firm that does a lot of work for a company and the company, although it's usually in the opposite direction. I thought it would be good for me to have some law firm experience, just because if I was going to spend my career as a lawyer, I thought that it would be a good thing for me.
Ash Faraj 13:47
I guess for those that don't understand what the FERC is, I mean, would this be kind of like a succinct explanation? I guess it makes sure that consumers are being treated fairly in regards to how much they're being charged for energy. What is that? Right?
Mary Kipp 14:00
So energy is kind of a ridiculously complicated web of regulation. So here, I'll use Washington as an example every state's a little bit different, but I'll use it here. So the rate that for example, pse charges, our customers are actually set at the state level by the Washington utilities and Transportation Commission. So they we deal with them a lot more than we do. firk firk, on the other hand, regulates the wholesale markets. It has it regulates interstate pipelines, it regulate not not induce sales to customers, like like, PSC has a natural gas part of our business. Those rates are also regulated by the W UTC. So firk does some big permitting stuff. They do have a lot of authority around hydro licensing, which is relevant up here in the Pacific Northwest. But it's it's a it's it's more wholesale and more large scale individual customers, there's, there's a tradition in this business that we should be regulated in the areas that we serve. And I think a good maybe reason for that is different parts of the country have different preferences, right? And different parts of the country want their customers served in different ways. And now we're seeing that more than ever, with the changes in energy. And our customers, for example, really want clean energy. And the reason I came up here, in fact, is I want to work on that clean energy transformation. So there may be other states, I'm not going to name names, but that may not care about that as much. So, so it's kind of it's kind of like hometown or home state rule.
Ash Faraj 15:47
Yeah, no, I know which state but yeah, so so you know, I'm putting myself in your shoes. You know, I'm I leave this law firm. I'm at the FERC. And, by the way, I'm in your in your, I'm assuming you're in DC at that point. Yeah, I was in DC. And then four years later, you like you mentioned you you decided to move to El Paso, back to El Paso to join an electric utility, which is, you know, where you'd be at for a long period of your career. That was this move from DC to El Paso? Obviously, I wouldn't imagine that a lot of people would want to move from
Mary Kipp 16:25
El Paso has some really great things. It gets a bad rap. It's actually a really terrific place. I think that Yeah, you're probably right. But you're probably right.
Ash Faraj 16:33
Yeah, I was gonna say I think it's probably because of those, you know, the, those Netflix shows about drugs and stuff from the the Mexican cartels, but um, it was that move. I feel like it was I'm assuming that was partly personal as well, like, what was it that time? What was that?
Mary Kipp 16:49
Yeah. So so I had, I had some family things going on. And I needed to be in El Paso to be closer to my family. So that was actually a move that was 100%. Personal motive driven. And I am glad you asked this, because this is this is kind of something important. I think, I wish I would have realized when I was younger, I got lucky. In this case, I really thought when I will, I actually went back to El Paso electric. Right. So just to clarify, I thought that when I went there, I was giving up my career, because I was doing really well at for work. And I have a lot of super interesting cases. And you know, all kinds of things going on, I actually took a pay cut from my federal government job to go be the frick lawyer, and I'll pass electric, you know, at the time, the leadership was largely a lot of white men down the hall, right. And I didn't think that I as a woman really had much of a shot there. So I put personal before work. What happened, however, was they also decided I wanted to make the best of that situation, I wasn't just going to give up or be miserable or any of that. So I really set out to do interesting work, innovative work. I tried to really work with my colleagues I and I think by trying to do a good job and interesting work. When a management change happened and someone came in and company slowly started to evolve. I was I was viewed as a really good candidate to be general counsel. And so and once once I got into the officer suite, that's when you can really start making changes, right, especially once you get in the CEO role, then you can just make tons of changes. But I think it was it's important. Like I even if it hadn't turned out that way, I still would have put my personal. I had, I think that as we're going through our careers, a lot of people focus too much on their career itself and not on themselves and their families and the whole being. And I feel like if you neglect those parts of you, you're not going to be successful. So it's maybe some unusual advice, but in my experience, that's certainly what worked.
Ash Faraj 19:13
A while Mary was working in a passive Electric Company, she joined the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Now if you're not familiar with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, similar to the FERC. They are a government administration that regulates banking services and monetary policy in Texas, in southern New Mexico. Now one thing that Mary advises is that nonprofit board experience is very, very important, even if it is volunteer time, if you want to become a corporate officer one day, after spending a huge portion of her career in El Paso, Mary decided to join Puget Sound energy in Bellevue, Washington in 2019 to take on an ambitious challenge as it relates to clean energy. Mary has a challenging task ahead but she is optimistic of the future with We we engage with our audience and ask them, you know, what questions would you like to hear answers from? And a lot of them asked, what are some tips on how to, you know, I guess climb the ladder? So in reflection kind of looking back, I know, it's sometimes it's hard to look back at such a long period of time at a certain place. But what do you feel like, played a critical role in enabling you? I think you already mentioned, you know, sometimes like when
Mary Kipp 20:20
Yeah, so. So I think it's a few things Ash. One is, there's luck, right? There has to be an opening to allow you to climb the ladder. And you have to be in the right place at the right time. And that's, that's another reason that I think it's important to focus on doing something you like, and also focus on broader things beyond your career, because no matter how talented you are, the odds of actually getting to become a CEO, and having that privilege are extremely low. So there are a lot of people out there who would make great CEOs, who will never be CEOs, so so keep that in mind. But for me, you know, under the control the controllables theory, I think it's twofold. One is be good at what you do, be engaged, try hard, work hard, all the conventional things that we know about, you know, keep up your, your ongoing education so that you don't, you know, fall behind on things. But I mentioned before that who you work for is really, really important. And so, for me, as one CEO, left, a new CEO came in, off our board. And he was a 70 year old, white man, and he was from Central Texas. And I thought it was going to be terrible, because I looked at his external attributes, and thought, Oh, no, it's gonna go back to like it was you know, I'm never going to have a shot with this guy. Instead, I actually got to know him. And he is one of the best human beings I've ever known. And in fact, served as a mentor to me, I learned that he cared about the communities we served, he cared about the people in El Paso, he cared about the people who couldn't pay their bills, he cared deeply about the environment. He cared about the union. And his ethics, and the things that he believed in, were very much aligned with mine. So what I found myself wanting to do was make sure he was successful. I didn't know how long he would be there. I mentioned his age previously, because you know, that he'd come in off the board, but I wanted him to be able to accomplish a lot of good while also making a good return for our shareholders. Right, that's, that's what we are required to do. And, and that's what keeps us in business and keeps the capital coming in. But by setting him up to succeed, I didn't realize but you know, bout a year in, he had been tasked by the board with figuring out who should be the next CEO. And so I didn't know I was in a horse race, as they call them. And I wasn't working because I wanted to be CEO, I was working because I believed in the mission, his mission, which was then the organization's mission. And I think that when we are lucky enough to find opportunities to put ourselves in that position, that's when we must succeed. And, and that's what keeps me doing what I'm doing. I mean, you know, climate change is real, it's an existential threat is is now commonly said, I remember when those were rare words to hear. But I have the privilege of being able to actually work with an amazing team and an amazing part of the country to try to do it and do it in a way that actually works. Not in a way that is so expensive, people can't afford their bills, and we leave, you know, different communities behind or don't think about the equities of it, and also in a way that keeps the light and light and the heat on. Because unlike some people I know what it's like it's really unreliable electricity. And yes, that was back in the dark ages before we were, you know, doing things online,
Ash Faraj 22:33
of course, of course, unless you're Amish but
Mary Kipp 24:17
but we need it right, especially here, especially here in this this, you know, technological coast that we're on. We got to have power and, and so I it's it's a fascinating puzzle to solve and to get to work with technical experts on it, and just people who really care. I mean, a lot of people come to work at PSE, because they have that passion. And so it's it's really fun, and it's it's terrific.
Ash Faraj 24:43
You know, at a certain point in your career, I forget exactly what year it was or when but, you know, you were appointed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas as a deputy chair. And I assume that was an additional responsibility to what you were, you know, if if I'm not mistaken, but how did that super curious on how that opportunity came about.
Mary Kipp 25:02
So I started out so that I don't know if you're familiar with the composition of the Federal Reserve System, and I promise not to bore you with a lot of details on it. But um, you know, there, there are different like we hear about the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the federal reserve of Dallas, there are actually districts with numbers. So those the first second third, whatever district, then those districts have branch offices. So in Texas, for example, the federal reserve of Dallas covers north, I'm sorry, southern New Mexico, Northern Louisiana, and all of Texas. So there'll be a branch in El Paso and San Antonio, and Houston. And so those have boards. So I was first on the branch board. And then Robert Kaplan, was then appointed the new president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, I got to meet him through my work in El Paso, and I was so impressed with him, he had been the vice chair of Goldman's I'm sorry, the co chair of Goldman Sachs. And then he went on to Harvard Business School, and taught leadership. So another theme, you know, I believe, partnering with people you believe in, so I was lucky enough for them to ask me if I wanted to serve on the main board. And then in the Deputy Chair role, and I have to tell you, what an amazing experience. And you know, if I'm thinking about a young, you know, younger person or a younger version of myself, get all the nonprofit board experience that you can, because you have to have that kind of thing. One if you want to become a corporate officer, and to that's how those opportunities like the Federal Reserve System boards, where you actually get to work on monetary policy for the United States. That's where they really start presenting themselves. And I have to tell you, on you know, the list of the things you leave behind, that are really hard when you open a door and take new opportunities. serving in that capacity is something that I really, really miss. I learned so much. The the other people on the board, you know, coming from different industries. We weren't only talking about energy all the time, and it was just fascinating. And also, you know, getting real insight into how, you know, central monetary policy in the United States works was just an amazing education.
Ash Faraj 27:33
You spent, you know, 12 years in El Paso. So, looking back, what do you feel like a made you spend so much of your career in your life there, you spent a lot of a lot of your life there. And what made you see so I guess what made you spend so much of your career there? And then after almost 12 years, you decide to join PSE assume that wasn't an easy decision. How was your decision making process?
Mary Kipp 27:59
What I liked about my work at El Paso electric was we were starting to see the beginnings of this energy transition, right? We were starting to see that we would be bringing more solar onto our system or up here, you know, there's a lot of wind. But we were we were starting to realize, you know, the future is not with coal. We got out of coal. I believe there is a future with natural gas, but we're still finding ways to do that in a cleaner way and using less of it. But it was the energy transition. So that's that's what I loved about my work. What I loved about El Paso is an eye I'm serious l passes an amazing place and and more people should visit it. But the cultures along the US Mexico border are extraordinarily vibrant. And I loved the fact that I was in a bilingual community. I was in really a binational community because a lot of folks in El Paso have family on both sides of the border, live on one side of the border work on the other, you know, all of this is kind of an estuarial ecosystem. And I also really liked the weather. You know, it's the desert southwest. It's beautiful, it's sunny. You know, you can't you can't speak in generalizations too much. But people in all pass are generally extremely kind. It's a very open collaborative community. And, I mean, you see it you see people like Beto O'Rourke coming out of El Paso. You see Veronica Escobar coming out of El Paso. And I just think there's a lot of real goodness there. I was working my tail off and I was not thinking about changing jobs. And I'd had you know, recruiters over the years call me about other different CEO opportunities. Now he said, No, here's what I don't want that. Here's what I don't want that. I didn't know then that recruiters actually keep files so they can actually write down you know what it is you like what it is you don't like. So when When I was called about this one recruiter said, Mary, this one checks all your boxes. So it's in a part of the country that I love, you know, I mentioned my siblings are, are both in the Bay Area. And, you know, so the recruiter said to me, you know, this checks, all your boxes, all the all the things that, you know, you've said, don't work, well, this one has them all. And so it's an A beautiful part of the country. You know, I love the Pacific Northwest, I'd be on the West Coast with my siblings, the state of Washington had just passed the most innovative clean energy law in the country, the clean energy transformation act. So I had the opportunity to work on one of the biggest challenges, you know, in terms of the clean energy transformation, I would say the biggest challenge that's out there, and to do it for a state and accompany that are environmental leaders, I was in the midst of a transaction, so it wasn't looking. But this was everything I'd ever wanted to work on. And so it combined kind of both personal and professional in that way that so rarely exists, and checked all the boxes. And so I got my then 13 year old son, my two big dogs, and we came to live on a houseboat in Lake Union in the middle of Seattle. And it's it's been terrific.
Ash Faraj 31:32
Are you still living in a house boat by the way?
Mary Kipp 31:33
I am. I'm sitting here now and my house boat.
Ash Faraj 31:37
Mary Kipp 31:38
It's amazing. So so if you're not familiar with house boats, there aren't many places in the US. I think Marin has some. But in Seattle, there really like every dock is different in their community. And so if you like a lot of privacy, a houseboat is not the right thing for you. And then in the summer, all your friends with boats will come by and visit just unannounced. And so you always have to have to be ready to entertain. And
Ash Faraj 32:02
you know, you you join PSE and obviously, you know, like you mentioned there was it was an exciting, I'm just thinking in my mind, you know, obviously Washington is very, is a very liberal state, especially compared to Texas. You know, I think lawmakers in the state have pressure utility companies like PSE to completely abandon coal fired energy by 2025.
Mary Kipp 32:21
It's the law, it is the law. And we're in the process of doing that.
Ash Faraj 32:25
You're an advocate for like combating climate change. And you know, it's something you believe in, but you also have investors, you know, that include large institutional investors, I was reading some like pension funds from like Canada and New York, or Canada, in Europe. And I'm just like, I just feel the pressure of talking about it and reading it, I just wonder, the pressure that you feel like, do you feel pressure? Like how do you how does it How do you feel? And how do you manage that pressure?
Mary Kipp 32:49
It's a lot of pressure. So and And the short answer is, I manage it some days better than others. And exercise, diet, and sleep are key. And especially sleep, I get so frustrated when people tell me I only sleep four hours a night. And I just want to say, well, that is not good for you. And that's not good for your brain, you need to find a way to sleep eight hours a night, because if I can do that, most days, you can do that most days. But no, the The good thing is with our investors, and this is this is actually another aspect of the job that attracted me is they have really strong and positive views around ESG. And so, you know, the Canadians and the Dutch, that's, that's the other pension fund. They're very supportive of this clean energy transformation. And that's why they chose to invest in PSC, you know, they, they, they could invest elsewhere, if they didn't believe in that. And they certainly wouldn't have chosen me as a CEO, if they weren't supportive of that, because as you mentioned, I'm very vocal and I speak very publicly about the urgency around climate change. So our investors are willing to put a lot of capital towards making this transformation happen. Obviously, they have to be able to earn a return. And that's where going back to our discussion around regulation. That's where, you know, we have to make sure that we put on our rate cases, that's that's what you call when you go into for the state commission and explain what you're spending, why it's needed. And this is where we're simplifying. And then what return you know, you advocate for return. All the parties can come in environmental parties, social justice parties, low income advocates, everybody comes in and talks and talks and talks and files, reams of paper, and then the Commission has to decide. So I need to make sure that we can earn a return and it's more important than ever, just because the amount of capital that you as you can imagine has to be deployed around making this change happen. So you know, we're We are in some ways a vehicle for public policy on this. So if we are not financially healthy, we're not going to be able to carry out that policy and as the biggest utility in the state, and the one who has the most work to do, it's actually imperative that that we are financially healthy. And so, yeah, that's, that's a part of the equation. But, you know, to to attract capital, you have to have a return. That's the way our system is set up. So, but it's, it's, it's actually, like I said, it's, there's pressure and my team feels pressure. I think probably the hardest part for my team is, and maybe an IT analogy is good, although I'll mess up the IP analogy, and then everyone can laugh. But you know, we have our legacy system running. And we're working on our, our new system, right, and we haven't deployed it yet. But we've we've got to develop it, we've got to run in background, we've got to do all of these things. So we're really, we have two companies currently. And we have to keep doing everything we've been doing for 100 plus years. And then we have to create this clean energy future. And we have to do it in a way that doesn't make it too expensive for customers. And so we can't hire a lot more people. And so we have, it's a lot of pressure. And like I said, you know, it goes back to doing what you love and what means something to you. Yeah, if if you weren't passionate around this, it would be it's probably not a good job. So we have a lot of people who truly care about making this happen. Because it's, it's a unique opportunity. I think it's a it's a once in a lifetime, probably once in multiple generation kind of opportunity.
Ash Faraj 36:52
If you were hiring somebody, you know, like with a couple years experience, or just like, you know, entry level, what do you look for that maybe other people wouldn't look for?
Mary Kipp 37:00
Yeah. So you know, obviously, in addition to the usual things like basic technical competencies and those kinds of things, I think there's actually two things that that really matter to me. And one has been a theme throughout this conversation. And that's passion, right? It's, why do you want to be doing this particular work at this period in time? In other words, are you really all in on this, because it's going to be a hard journey. So I want people who are passionate about climate change the new technologies around it, making sure that it happens. That's one. And then the other one, as I mentioned, we're in some ways, building a plane as we're flying, it got to have a sense of humor, good to have some failures, and you're gonna have some fits and starts. And without a sense of humor, it can be come depressing. And so we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and laugh at the situation. And humor can get you through so many things. So those are the two things that I look
Ash Faraj 38:04
at to be able to tell a good joke during an interview. Something I look for when I decide to partner with someone is
Mary Kipp 38:14
passion around what we're doing
Ash Faraj 38:16
the most important quality and the leader is
Mary Kipp 38:19
there, ethics, integrity, if you don't have that, you can't do anything else. And I will forgive a lot of feelings among my team, because I have a lot of areas that aren't strengths too. But I will not have someone on my team who doesn't have integrity.
Ash Faraj 38:37
Something I've struggled with as a leader has been,
Mary Kipp 38:40
I think I have a tendency sometimes because I believe in collaboration. Sometimes it's hard for me to say, okay, and of the discussion phase where we're all throwing out our opinions in an honest and respectful way and critiquing each other's ideas. Sometimes I can let that phase go on too long, because I enjoy it. And sometimes I need to get to the making the decision more quickly.
Ash Faraj 39:06
Something I do to make sure that I feel positive and stay productive is
Mary Kipp 39:10
meditation. I think meditation is very, very important. Even if it's five minutes a day prayer or meditation, depending on you know, your own beliefs.
Ash Faraj 39:19
If I were to go back and talk to my younger self in my mid 20s, I would tell myself,
Mary Kipp 39:24
don't worry so much. I am by nature, a bit of a warrior. And so many of the things that we worry about aren't gonna happen. And so many bad things we never worried about will happen. And life will unfold. So maybe it's trying not to worry so much and see a little bit of control or recognize, you know, as humans, our control is not, not 100%
Ash Faraj 39:50
one setback or failure in my early 20s that I will never forget is
Mary Kipp 39:55
oh when I was at El Paso natural gas I was assigned to us supervisor was just not a good supervisor and not a good person. I don't know how I got assigned to him, it was miserable, horrible, terrible. And I let that kind of Ruin about a year of my life. Now I would speak up, and I would just or I would, or I would leave. Luckily, I was quickly able to move to another supervisor. That's how I moved from corporate law to regulatory law, who was kind of a crusty guy, but I really liked him. So, you know, that was that was really a setback. But here I am, right. And I learned how to deal with people who can be kind of miserable to deal with.
Ash Faraj 40:44
And then on a more positive note, the sweetest moment I felt in my entire career was when
Mary Kipp 40:48
I spoke at a at a at a solar conference in Los Angeles. Gosh, it's been a number of years ago now, probably five or so six. And I decided, in response to a question that I knew was coming, I was on a CEO panel. And I decided I was going to talk about anthropogenic climate change as an existential risk. And at that time, utility CEOs did not talk about that. So on the panel that the other two CEOs were men said, what was the right answer at the time, which was cybersecurity, right? It's a big issue for us in this industry. And I said, and I was so nervous. I mean, this was a huge, huge room, tons and tons of people remember the old days 1000s of people in a room, it's one of those. And when I uttered the words, anthropogenic climate change, I was so happy, because I had decided, I'm just gonna say it, and it will cause a stir, which it did. But somebody got to say it, and there were other brave people, I'm sure out there saying it. But that really mattered to me. And then kind of the, the corollary to that is here at PSC, when we just recently announced that we want to be a beyond zero utility by 2045. That made me so happy because it's it's putting a real stake in the ground, and saying, and we also said, and we don't have all the answers, and we're gonna have to partner with people, and we're gonna have to listen to voices we haven't traditionally listened to. And we're actually convening a table of diverse voices, and technical expertise. But what it what it meant was, I am getting to manifest my intent, and what a privilege that is, right? So few people actually get to do that.
Ash Faraj 42:34
Looking forward. If I could be remembered for one thing, it would be
Mary Kipp 42:37
whether in a big way or a small way, making the world a little bit better place.
Ash Faraj 42:42
If I were stranded on an island and I had access to one meal, it would be
Mary Kipp 42:46
sushi. Although, I may have to change that, because I just watched Seaspiracy have you watched Seaspiracy?
Ash Faraj 42:57
No, what's that?
Mary Kipp 42:58
it's a it's a documentary on Netflix about fishing, and what it's doing to our oceans. So I actually probably am going to have to change that to whatever the beyond meat equivalent of sushi.
Ash Faraj 43:16
Thank you so so much for listening know, we do spend a lot of time producing this podcast and we do appreciate your feedback. So if you have any feedback for us, please let us know by emails at executive office.com. Feel free to email me or you can leave us a quick rating and review on Apple podcasts. It means the world to us that you listened and we take your feedback very, very seriously. We hope to see you again in the next episode. Take care