Celebrating Our Veterans: Paul Gwaltney on Using His Experiences to Help Fellow Veterans Elevate Their Utility Careers [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]
To celebrate Veterans Day this upcoming Thursday, November 11th, the Energy Central Community Team will be shining a light on the many outstanding utility professionals in our network who also spent time in the military. This week, we'll be featuring interviews with these veterans sharing how they found their way into the industry. We will also highlight their unique perspectives of the industry and how they are influencing the utility space.
All the interviews will be collected at this special Veterans Day 2021 topic tag.
To all the veterans in the Energy Central Community, we want to say thank you for your service and we wish you a Happy Veterans Day.
Paul Gwaltney joined the military fresh out of high school before college. He signed up with the Air Force in 1985 and spent six years on active duty worldwide, working on flight line aircraft avionics.
Later he passed a law degree and is a qualified attorney. After an extensive consulting career, he joined the energy industry around eight years ago. He compares the military to mission-critical utility infrastructure, "You're trained in the military to be mission-driven and tackle the toughest assignments. And so, I think it's a natural fit for veterans to come into the energy industry."
Paul now works as Director of Solution Delivery and Enterprise Governance at Altagas/Washington Gas Light Co., the local gas utility in the greater DC metropolitan area. He also is a mentor to veterans wanting to work in the industry. “We've made significant strides over the last four or five years. We've changed our hiring criteria to where we accept military experience in lieu of construction experience. So veterans can come in without the specific construction level experience.”
He notes that one of the biggest challenges to the industry is cyber security. "Utilities are core critical infrastructure. We put a significant effort into our cybersecurity and the hardening of these systems. I think the industry as a whole has a pretty good track record of being secure. We have implemented pretty significant air gaps and barriers, so those systems are secured and cut off from the internet."
Like several of the other veterans interviewed for this series, Paul believes that it is the managerial and problem-solving mission skills that are transferable to the utility industry, not so much the technical ones. As a pilot himself, he is very safety-conscious because when you are flying an airplane, the buck really does stop with you!
His advice to other veterans looking to join the industry? "I think recommendations would be to seek out mentors and seek out connections in the industry. Utilities are a great kind of solid work opportunity for people who want to go back home to their hometowns or to an area they want to live in. Utilities tend to have a much tighter connection to the community for many reasons. Which makes for a good work culture."
Paul is a board member of The Veterans Project Manager Mentor Alliance (VPMMA). Their primary mission is to create a pathway for veterans and their spouses to connect to the Project Management discipline across industries and the US. Paul says, "We look to create mentoring opportunities for veterans and help them on a path towards a profession in project management." He feels that when he left the Air Force in the '90s, there wasn't enough of a support system, and it was hard for some veterans to find their feet in civilian life, so VPMMA exists to help talented service people find employment that utilizes their skills to benefit both themselves and society.
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