Celebrating Our Veterans: Steve Wacker on How His Military Career Led Him to a New Mission in Energy [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.
Steve says, "I was serving in Germany and going to leave the Air Force. How I ended up in the energy industry? I was with my Deputy Commander; we rode the crew bus together to our work site. And he said, what are you going to do? And I told him my wife is from Alabama. I have an electrical engineering degree, so I guess I'll call Alabama Power. He replied, my brother-in-law is in human resources for Alabama Power! It's a funny story, but that's literally how I ended up in the energy industry, working for Alabama Power."
Steve studied at the Air Force Academy for four years, where he received his degree. Then he served for eight years on active duty, reaching the rank of Captain, performing engineering tasks, project management, and participating in Desert Storm as part of the logistics backup from Germany. He also did a stint in photographic intelligence research, which gave him a good insight into using imagery to understand events.
When he started in utilities, he had to begin his career again at the bottom. "I started over, I was a 30 years old junior engineer. It was a pretty steep learning curve. The only transferable skills were the higher-level ones, the leadership skills."
Then Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, and Alabama Power sent a team to help out, putting Steve in charge of logistics. He clearly acquitted himself well, although he says the aftermath of the hurricane was devastating for the local people and the power grid, which needed to be rebuilt.
Steve moved through various companies, seeking rapid promotion and greater responsibility. This meant that he acquired a broad base of skills in different parts of the sector, including hydro electrics, maintenance support, and pollution control, before moving to Osmose about 18 months ago, just before the pandemic hit.
Osmose is a specialist in maintaining transmission poles and pylons. “Basically, anything that holds the wires up,” as Steve defines it, “We are also expanding into resiliency.”
Steve values what he learned in the military. He says it wasn't the technical skills, which are not comparable in the Air Force and the power industry. It is the soft skills that matter. "I'm supervising people: we're particularly interested in growth strategies, so there's a focus on strategy. I analyze situations, come up with game plans, so the company can be flexible and respond to what's going on in the marketplace."
Osmose is actively looking to recruit ex-military personnel, particularly because most of them will now have drone-flying skills, which are becoming essential in Osmose's area of operations.
Why does Steve work in utilities? "Everybody needs energy. This is a higher purpose for society: we need to keep the lights on. Nowadays, it's even much more important because the planet's at risk if we don't get this right."
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