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December 2011/January 2012

Diversity/Careers December 2011/January 2012 Issue




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Diversity In Action

New York Power Authority supports an inclusive environment

NYPA is the country's largest state public power organization and a national leader in promoting clean energy and energy efficiency


In April 2011 Sylvia Hamer stepped into her role as chief diversity officer at the New York Power Authority (NYPA). Since then she's introduced a number of initiatives to encourage an inclusive environment where "Diversity will be embedded in the culture."

As the authority's chief diversity officer, Hamer will review NYPA's corporate diversity policies and procedures. She'll also support New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's efforts to increase opportunities for minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs).

Before this job Hamer was EVP and chief of staff at the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp, responsible for a range of purchasing, personnel and financial areas. And before that she was deputy secretary for former New York governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, overseeing labor, state operations, technology, gaming and gambling in New York State.

Hamer is clearly accustomed to motivating people, and she hit the ground running at NYPA.

One early job was launching a diversity council. "If you want buy-in, you need to get the entire organization involved. So I decided to have a representative from each business unit at the Power Authority," she says. The council currently has twenty-two members and eight subcommittees.

NYPA is the country's largest state public power organization, producing some of the lowest-cost electricity in North America. It has seventeen generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. It's also an active leader in promoting energy efficiency, the development of clean energy technologies and the use of electric vehicles. More than 80 percent of NYPA's electricity is produced from clean, renewable hydro power.

There are challenges in recruiting for diversity, Hamer has found. The populations of small communities in upstate New York, where many NYPA facilities are located, are usually not as diverse as metropolitan centers. So "to cast a wider net," she is encouraging NYPA to "become one of the many engineering/science organizations that get involved in recruiting veterans, women, people of color and people with disabilities.

"We reach out to colleges and will continue to do more, particularly with the historically black colleges and universities. But we want to make sure we tap into New York State colleges as well, to retain our young techies here in New York State, especially after we educate them," Hamer says.

She's also getting employees involved with Adopt-a-School science enrichment programs, talking to the students about NYPA and interesting them in applying for internships.

Succession planning is important to NYPA. In the period between 2009 and 2014 about 40 percent of NYPA's population will be retirement-eligible. "This will be a time when we can educate and train a whole new generation of people," Hamer says. "It's also a good opportunity to diversify the organization."

NYPA reaches out to diverse job candidates through advertising and membership in websites and business organizations that post professional jobs and attract diverse populations.

Specific hiring needs are many, ranging from network and Cisco engineers who provide hardware and software configuration and administration for NYPA's operational data center, to techies with skills and experience managing complex projects. NYPA also looks for specialized skills in cybersecurity. A computer science degree is always a plus and certifications are very helpful for some positions.

Engineers are also in demand at NYPA. In power supply and energy services, the authority hires MEs, EEs and CEs. Power supply also employs environmental engineers. "Protecting nature is an important NYPA commitment in the operation of its generating and transmission facilities," Hamer says. A PE license and an advanced degree are preferred, and even required for some positions. Practical field experience is, of course, also very desirable.

In energy services, NYPA seeks MEs and EEs to work on large-scale energy efficiency programs like HVAC systems and lighting installations for its governmental customers. Clearly, the authority is interested in candidates who are certified energy managers.

With the interest in green technology, NYPA seeks engineers with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and those with expertise in advanced clean technologies like solar, bio-fuels and fuel cells.

The NYPA family encourages volunteerism and outreach to the community, Hamer says. Employees organize food and holiday clothing drives and some are working with Habitat for Humanity on houses with "green" building elements. Others are assisting fellow employees whose homes were devastated by the recent Tropical Storm Irene.

NYPA offers flexible work schedules and an employee assistance program to help with issues like daycare and eldercare.

"We're looking at what other organizations do and what other state authorities have done," Hamer adds. "It's a good way to start. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just refine it and see if it works for NYPA."

D/C




www.nypa.gov

Headquarters: Albany, NY
Main Administrative Office: White Plains, NY
Employees: 1,600
Revenues: $17.9 billion in 2010
Business: The country's largest state public power organization

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