Hard work is an absolutely essential component of a well-rounded career. I advise all of the young women I mentor to take on problem areas that no one else wants to handle. That creates a good buzz around their career, and leadership always takes note. They know they can depend on those people to really get in there and tackle the hard jobs without complaint and without unnecessary direction. Leadership in any company is constantly on the lookout for talent, and there is no better way to get recognized than by volunteering for the jobs no one else wants, and solving problems efficiently and without complaint.

Additionally, I always recommend that women volunteer in their company’s service organizations. Citizens of Georgia Power is ours, and that’s where I put a lot of time and effort in giving back to my local community. I know the dollars and time are being well spent, and involvement in those sorts of organizations also allows young women to continue to make those all-important contacts and connections, while keeping plugged into community needs. Our communities are where we live and work, so nothing is more important than making sure they are desirable places to raise families. There is also no better place to get plugged into the heartbeat of what it means to be a community leader.

I also counsel young women to put aside their fears and be the first to try new and different experiences with all types of people. Having a strong and effective network is essential for advancement and for telling your career story as it evolves.

Because developing effective relationships is absolutely essential to career success, I encourage young women to make it a priority in their career development.

On Knowing When to Make a Career Leap
Taking a new career step is always a leap of faith. But if it scares you, you know it’s time to accept a new challenge. If you are comfortable in your current role, it’s time to move on. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve contributed to Georgia Power’s mission by not only making a positive difference, but by helping move the organization forward by offering new ideas and sometimes making the hard choices no one else wants to make.

I thrive on experiencing the unknown and undertaking challenging opportunities, so I get very uncomfortable when things start to become ordinary and routine. With that said, taking on a new role must make sense and support the goals of my company, as well as my personal and career goals.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
It is essential for young engineers to gain their core engineering experience in the field and learn the business from the ground up. Become an expert in your area of specialization, then build on that foundation to develop a more flexible and broader career path. The utility industry is a dynamic and ever-changing field that requires continuing education if you want to remain relevant and marketable.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I’ve been blessed with having many mentors throughout my lifetime, including my parents, siblings, and the people I’ve worked with at Southern Company and Georgia Power.

My parents were incredibly hard workers and proud of their ability as West Alabama farmers to provide us with a better life. My mother had an eighth-grade education and my father a ninth, but they were smart and creative, and made things work. They recognized the importance of having a solid educational foundation, and insisted that all 12 of their children earn undergraduate and advanced degrees. My parents gave us something more valuable than money and material things; they gave us tenacity. My mother even went back to school at the age of 60 to earn her nursing degree. The lessons my parents taught me about hard work and the desire to undertake new challenges continue to help me achieve my personal and career goals.

Fran’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
My advice to young women building engineering careers in the utility industry is to take a holistic approach. Take responsibility for your development and create a meaningful short- and long-term career plan.

When you learn about the non-engineering side of the business, you begin to truly understand the business drivers and decisions that are made. It is important to understand the technical side of the industry, but it’s essential to understand the business reasons behind the decisions that are made.