Growing up in New York, I still remember the massive blackouts that impacted the area in 1965 and 1977. I thought there had to be a better way and I knew I wanted to be a part of keeping the lights on. That was one of the reasons I pursued an engineering degree and certainly a contributing factor for my 30-year career in energy and utility services.

I’m enjoying a very rewarding career and have the pleasure of working with many kind and dedicated people. To wholeheartedly commit your time, energy and talents to the success of an organization, you must believe in its mission and values. So I have been deliberate in choosing the companies I’ve worked for, as well as the people I’ve wanted to work with. Luckily, I’ve also had the insight to recognize great opportunities and the prudence to know when it’s time to move on to a new challenge.

I attribute my personal and professional accomplishments to the strong work ethic instilled by my Irish family. As a second generation American, my parents encouraged me to take advantage of our great education system and to push myself every step of the way. I am truly living the American dream.

As an executive in a male-dominated industry, I would be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to the generations of courageous women and supportive men who helped pave the way before me. Undoubtedly, situations of injustice and inequity still occur today. So I would encourage the next wave of aspiring leaders not to dwell on circumstances beyond your control, but instead, concentrate your efforts on what is within the realm of your influence. In other words, stay focused on your goals, choose your battles and lead by setting a positive example.

Most importantly, make candid communication, humanity and humility the hallmarks of your leadership. The most effective leaders seek knowledge and ask a lot of questions. Empower your team to provide input, even if it means sharing conflicting opinions or unorthodox ideas. Valuing diversity, creativity and an array of perspectives will not only enrich you as an individual, but will inevitably prove beneficial to your organization.

In working to keep the lights on, I’ve learned the real power in leadership comes from the ability to inspire others. I hope you will find, as I have, that motivating and encouraging those around you to reach their potential is the ultimate reward.