Meet Annie Wong — Senior Electric Utility Professional, AEGIS
Meet Annie Wong — Senior Electric Utility Professional, AEGIS
To provide members with the support they need, AEGIS Loss Control professionals have to understand not only the utility business but their members, too. Annie, a Senior Electric Utility Professional for AEGIS, prides herself on listening to members with an open mind to provide a fresh perspective. Here, she shares how she applies these skills to help AEGIS customize its Focused Services℠ to what members need.
After interning at an aerospace manufacturing corporation, what made you choose the electric utility industry?
Everybody needs electricity, so it’s an important part of everyone’s life. I have always enjoyed working in a service sector and taking care of people. For these reasons, the electric utility industry was the right choice for me, because I could help people with something that is so much a part of their lives.
Your educational background is in electrical engineering, and your career has included positions in operations, sales and management. How does your collective expertise and experience serve you in Loss Control?
To be good in sales, you need to have strong listening skills. This helps me to understand the members’ needs. You also must be creative to come up with new ways to promote a product. My operational experience in two different utilities enables me to offer effective ideas and suggestions to help members mitigate their risks. I was always involved in emergency response, which gave me a true sense of urgency. I learned to be quick on my feet while making the right decisions, which is vital in Loss Control.
Let’s discuss your role as Senior Electric Utility Professional. Beyond the public safety aspect, what was it about this role that made you want to pursue it, which includes risk assessments, Focused Services℠, safety presentations and workshops?
By nature, I’m a very helpful person. After spending 18 years with different utilities, I’ve mastered many skill sets. Sharing my expertise and knowledge through all the services that AEGIS offers to support our members comes naturally to me.
The AEGIS Focused Services℠ program provides member companies with the services of a Senior AEGIS Utility Professional for up to 10 days – at no charge – to help correct operational or public safety issues identified during a risk assessment. How does the program work? What do you see as the value it brings to members?
Utilities often don’t have either the resources or the expertise to implement suggestions that are made during the risk assessment, and they need some guidance. At AEGIS, we can offer that guidance. Sometimes it’s through programs that we develop (for example, the Incident Investigation Workshop for First Responders) by listening to our members and determining that there is a need for a particular program. When members feel heard and see us strive to meet their needs, that’s value. They trust I can make it happen.
Over the last two years, you developed an Electric Utility Call Center Safety Talk presentation, which is geared toward enhancing customer service representatives’ emergency call handling training, and an Incident Investigation Workshop for First Responders, which was member requested as part of the AEGIS Focused Services℠ program. How do members’ suggestions impact the services that AEGIS offers?
Listening to our members, coupled with my operational background, allows me to tailor the services that AEGIS offers. Let’s focus on the Electric Utility Call Center Safety Talk presentation. I came up with the idea to put together a program to help customer service representatives (CSRs) handle emergency calls. When a caller phones into a call center, the CSR may be the only opportunity a utility has to keep the caller safe. CSRs are the first line of defense for their utility, so the proper training is critical. This includes making sure that the CSRs take down the appropriate information and share precautionary statements with the caller until the utility crew arrives to make the situation safe.
What are AEGIS Quick Tips electronic communications? Can you share some examples of a Quick Tips communication for new services, workshops and lessons learned?
Quick Tips is like a periodic newsletter that allows us to communicate with member utilities. With my sales experience, we have expanded its use to not only share industry trends but to also share new products and services and upcoming events. During a risk assessment, we talk about our products and services with only about 20 to 40 employees. Quick Tips allows us to reach employees or departments that we would not normally see at a risk assessment. Since using Quick Tips, just for the Incident Investigation Workshop for First Responders, we’ve completed and scheduled 15 workshops this year.
During risk assessments, you are often asked if AEGIS has electric system inspection training available that utilities could utilize to identify public safety conditions that require attention. The How Safe® Series DVD set focuses on Substation, Transmission, Overhead Distribution and Underground Distribution. Tell us more about this four-part series. Will there be an option to live stream these DVDs soon?
The series focuses on inspections of various electrical systems within a utility. As an inspection presentation, it’s a hidden gem. Not too many members can utilize it because it’s a DVD set, so we expect to have it available for streaming for our members early next year.
You said, “In Loss Control, one of our missions is to explore ways to reach other individuals or departments within the member utilities that we typically do not engage during risk assessments, and make them aware of our products and services.” Can you tell me more about the type of individual or department you’re hoping to engage with? Is this mission evolving as you expected?
During our risk assessments, we interact with a limited group. It’s only a small portion of the utility. We want to reach out to as many utility employees as we can. Our mission to do so is moving forward in different ways. For example, I recently did seven of our Incident Investigation Workshop for First Responders and spoke to over 150 linemen. During the workshop, they expressed concerns and asked questions that I was able to answer. If it were not for this workshop, I may not have had the opportunity to talk to the linemen firsthand. Additionally, the Electric Utility Call Center Safety Talk presentation enabled me to talk with the people that actually handle calls from customers. Without this presentation, I might only interact with their director or manager.
From sewing masks and culinary creations during the pandemic to classical music training and traveling to 47 of the 50 states, do you find that your personal experiences have guided or impacted your career choices and responsibilities?
When I began sewing masks early on during the pandemic, it was from that sense of urgency that I learned from my emergency response experience. I had to do something. Cooking, music and traveling help me to relate to people from different backgrounds and professions. I’m the type of person that is inspired by and open to what’s new, and these pursuits feed that part of me. When you’ve been to 47 of the 50 states, you realize one size does not fit all. What works in a utility in the Northeast may not work in a utility in the South. I believe that if you are disciplined, can follow instructions and put your mind to it, you can do anything.
Looking back on your career path, is there any milestone or notable achievement that impacts how you do your job, such as supervising crews to install emergency generators in the Financial District after September 11?
No one planned for that. When my company said you’re going to go to New York City, I just did it. I lived in New Jersey, and I had to accept that I might be wearing the same clothes for a couple of weeks. I knew I’d have to think on my feet and make decisions. I had no idea how long I was going to be there, and I knew the working environment may not be ideal. But I knew in my own very small way I was giving back to our country. And I wanted to be there.
What are you most proud to be a part of at AEGIS?
I am honored to be part of a very elite group. Each of the senior utility professionals in Loss Control brings with them unmatched experience and a steadfast commitment to serve our members.
When you look ahead, what opportunities do you see that you believe can benefit members?
We are getting overwhelming response from the members for the Electric Utility Call Center Safety Talk presentation and the Incident Investigation Workshop for First Responders. I can see us developing other new products and services to mitigate or manage members’ risk. I recently got the green light to create a substation inspection training program that will be available in early 2023. In Loss Control we have the perfect skill set from our backgrounds as former utility employees who have a thorough understanding of the utility business. And who listen well.
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