Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



February/March 2013

Diversity/Careers February/March 2013

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Diversity In Action

A growing TVA seeks diversity in technical talent

Momentum is building as this public utility focuses on diversity to build a strong pipeline of future leaders

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the nation’s largest public power provider. It was founded in 1933 to provide electricity, along with environmental stewardship and economic development, to the Tennessee Valley region. Although it’s still a corporation of the U.S. government, it is now completely self-financing.

Technical talent is key
“Whether it’s running a nuclear power facility or finding new ways to improve air quality, hiring top technical talent is critical to TVA’s success,” says TVA recruiter Michelle Woods.

In 2012, nearly one-third of all new hires at TVA were engineers and IT professionals. According to Woods, hiring will not only increase in 2013, but will focus even more heavily on engineers and highly skilled craft workers.

Technical acumen will be only part of the profile that TVA seeks when hiring this new talent, says Linda Wiley, senior program manager for diversity and inclusion. “We’re looking for people who are good technically but who also have a penchant for leadership, and who bring a variety of experience and perspective to the table.”

“We want people to grow with TVA,” she adds. “That means we’re increasingly focused on creating an environment where employees enjoy learning from one another, sharpening one another, and collaborating to deliver the most creative solutions. Diversity is key to building that kind of environment.”

Supporting the Guard and Reserve
Diversity has many dimensions at TVA. In 2012, TVA won the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the Department of Defense’s highest recognition to employers for exceptional support of U.S. Armed Forces Guard and Reserve employees.

“TVA now has more than 100 employees actively serving in the Guard or Reserves and more than 1,700 military veterans on staff,” says Woods. “That’s a tremendous amount of talent and experience being leveraged on our behalf.”

On a separate front, TVA runs an active internship program that taps into the growing diversity of students in engineering and IT programs. Approximately one third of TVA’s more than 300 interns are women or people of color.

“The success rate of our internship program is significant,” says Woods. “More than seventy percent of all TVA interns become employees.”

Stepping up diversity efforts
While TVA already has an active record of tapping pools of diverse candidates to fill positions, Wiley says that even more work is needed to bring the utility up to the highest levels of excellence.

“In addition to actively reaching out to veterans and people with disabilities, we’re challenging ourselves in 2013 with more aggressive goals around ethnicity and gender,” she says.

To help meet these goals, TVA has created two new recruiting positions focused on diversity. One will be devoted to veterans’ affairs and the other to building relationships with diverse colleges and universities.

“The diversity recruiter will be actively cultivating relationships with associations like the National Black MBA Association and the Society of Women Engineers,” Wiley explains.

“The new veterans’ affairs recruiter will assist in better translating military records into experience that TVA can use. Both will actively participate in career fairs, conferences and other key events, and will look for relevant speaking opportunities.”

Internal strides
In addition to stepping up external efforts, TVA is also taking a closer look at its internal diversity focus, starting at the top with its diversity council. In 2013, council member training will include raising awareness of personal biases and assumptions, and creating greater understanding of diversity and inclusion as a company value, not just a set of numbers.

“Numbers may tell us how we’re doing when it comes to meeting our goals, but we want employees to truly understand the value of diversity and how each person’s unique contribution helps make TVA stronger,” says Wiley. “We’ve named this our ‘Diversity is Me’ campaign and it’s all about making sure that everyone is valued and respected for what they have to offer.”

Wiley’s mission to instill the value of diversity across TVA receives strong support from all levels of the organization and is increasingly becoming an integral part of leadership training and performance measurement.

“At the end of the day,” says Wiley, “the ability to appreciate and value diversity is a true measure of good leadership. At TVA, we recognize that’s key to our successful future and we’re going to continue giving it our top attention.”


Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Headquarters: Knoxville, TN
Employees: 12,000 plus
12,000 contractors
Revenues: $11.2 billion
Business: Public electric utility services; flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system

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