My name is Jeff Westfall and I am the Central Region Director of Operations T&D at Liberty. As we celebrate National Lineworker Appreciation Month, I reflect on my 32-year electric utility career with the 15+ years I spent as a lineman and I’m proud to share my thoughts.
When I started in linework, I was a 22-year-old kid that didn’t know anything about linework or even the utility business. I soon realized if I was willing to put in the effort there was plenty of support to help me obtain the knowledge and training, I needed to succeed. I quickly became part of a work family that was willing to share their knowledge and help me obtain the skills needed.
Over the first four years, I learned the technical and safety skills to progress though my apprenticeship to become a journeyman, but I also learned to work as a team and realized just how much could be accomplished as we worked together. Being part of a trade where the most important thing is your safety and the safety of others around you taught me more than just technical skills. It taught me to value others and their opinions and how to trust and respect others and the importance of safety practices. All these things come together in a common saying in the utility industry, “it’s not dead unless it’s grounded”. This truly means something in this profession. It can mean life or death and make a difference whether someone you care for goes home at night.
Linework is hard, demanding and dangerous work and performed in all kinds of conditions, however it is very rewarding as well. Anyone who has heard cheers when the lights come back on knows what I’m talking about. There is no better feeling than knowing you have helped someone in need.
For me, choosing linework was more than a career choice, it’s was a lifestyle choice, not only for me but my family as well. Missing holidays, birthdays, graduations, ballgames and other events is just something that comes with the territory. As much as my wife and daughter wanted me to be at those events and was concerned when I was gone, they were my biggest supporters when I needed to go.
Working trouble and storms through the years are great memories and I, like all other lineman, all have stories to tell, but the people and the lifelong friendships is what stands out to me and what I really remember and will always cherish.
I value every day that I spent as a lineman, and I owe my experience to all those that taught me the trade and the true meaning of teamwork and respect for others. 15 years later I still use those experiences and lessons learned to guide me in my career. Even if I could, I wouldn’t trade my time as a lineman for anything.
I would like to say Thank you to all the line workers that came before me and helped make this the trade what it is, and to all those currently continuing to make things better and safer for our future workers, I truly appreciate everything you do.
- Jeff Westfall - Central Region Director, Transmission and Distribution
Liberty has a long-standing tradition of taking a moment at the beginning of each meeting to discuss a safety topic. These Safety Moments occur at every meeting that has more than 5 people in attendance with the purpose of reiterating the value of safety. Safety Moments allow employees to reflect and learn about safety throughout their work week, no matter how safety-sensitive their position is. All employees participate in these Safety Moments no matter their department or seniority in the company. Although Safety Moments are only one component of Liberty’s ongoing commitment to safety, these moments have become second nature to our employees and are a great way to kickstart a meeting while keeping safety at the forefront of what we do at Liberty.
Safety Moments are often a part of meeting presentations and agendas as our employees make sure to dedicate time for these important moments of sharing and learning. The host of a meeting will typically have a Safety Moment prepared that covers a topic of their choosing or they’ll invite meeting attendees to share a safety topic that is on their mind that day. There is an endless number of topics that Safety Moments can cover such as electrical safety, bike helmets, ergonomics, and ways to relieve stress throughout the workday. Our Safety Moments transcend workplace safety to cover safety issues that employees may face in their personal lives as well.
Here is an example of what you might hear during a Safety Moment on heatstroke:
Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The condition is most common in the summer months.
Warning signs include heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches and weakness.
Some actions that you can take if you think that you might have heatstroke are:
June is Pride Month for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community and is celebrated each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a big moment in time for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as "Gay Pride Day," but the actual day has been flexible in many other regions.
Liberty’s very own LGBTQA+ Business Resource Group, newly named “Friends of Liberty” is moving ahead with lots of steam. For the very first time in Liberty history, the company has raised the progressive pride flag in Joplin, the Lake Tahoe offices in CA., and in AZ. Liberty is showing pride, by supporting their employees and community in a colorful way. Friends of Liberty’s mission is to provide a comfortable, safe place for employees to connect while focusing on education and representation of the LGBTQA+ community. We recognize that sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are influenced by race/ethnicity, gender, culture, age, faith, and other social characteristics. Our duty is to promote awareness, decrease prejudices through learning events, cultural celebrations and networking.
Here is a spotlight on a few of our valued members of Friends of Liberty BRG explaining why it’s important to have such a group in an organization striving for more diversity and inclusion:
Kacii Hamer – she/her/hers – Hiking and photography are two of my favorite things. Hoping to get some good shots at some Pride events this year. It will be so amazing and freeing to see everyone out and open and happy. One day I hope to hit all of the “big” Pride events across the entire country. San Francisco, here I come!
I joined Friends of Liberty because I love getting involved with anything that brings inclusivity and acceptance into the world, so when I heard about this I knew I had to join! I grew up in Philadelphia, PA and there I helped organize Pride events within my local neighborhood! Getting involved has always had a place on my heart so it was a no-brainer for me to join. ??
- Kacii Hamer, Customer Service Clerk
I started with Liberty in August of 2019 in Accounts Payable, prior to that I was in banking for 10 years. I have a 9 year old son named Hunter, he has the best personality and keeps me thriving. When I am not working I am spending time with family, cooking, crafting, gardening, fishing and being a sports mom. My partner Jonny and I recently bought a house so we will have quite a few projects to complete.
I joined Friends of Liberty as an ally to support my friend who didn’t have the best experience when we were in high school. I want to be a part of something bigger to show my support. I have friends and family that are members of the community. I haven’t always fully understood the struggles they face but I am understanding them more every day. I strive to continue to learn, become more knowledgeable and continue to support the community. I want to raise my son to be open minded and accepting of others no matter their differences.
- Lindsey Powell, Accounts Payable Administrator
Who am I?
Max Bruning-Roark, I am a liberty Employee, I work in Accounts payable and I am a supporter of our local community. I am married to my husband of 5 years, who also works for Liberty. We have a 15 year old daughter. We love to travel and be out in the sun.
Because life is too short to sit on the side lines or in the closet being scared. Liberty has an open door to all and the message needs to be spread that it doesn’t matter the who or what you are, what matters is the impact you will make, that will change lives in your life, family, community and workplace. I want to be the backbone and support for our Central Liberty employees.
- Max Bruning-Roark, Manager, Accounts Payable
At Liberty, safety of our employees
is are of utmost importance to us. Whether working out in the field or in one of our many offices, we want to ensure everyone has a safe environment to work in. Safety isn’t just about physical safety, however. We promote a physically safe and psychologically healthy work environment and have several programs and initiatives, including:
Below is a more detailed outline of some of these programs, initiatives and events across the enterprise.
As part of our 5-year safety vision, our organization has embarked on a journey to implement the following safety programs:
The committee also takes pride in educating their co-workers about hazards identified and work on mitigation strategies. This is a group of passionate people who love being involved and being part of this committee!
Mental Health First Aid Canada
In 2018 and 2019 the Company introduced a sponsored Mental Health Training to create Mental Health awareness and train employees on how to deal with mental health as it arises in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid Canada (MHFA), is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The program aims to improve mental health literacy and provide the skills and knowledge to help people better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, a friend or a colleague. For more information please refer to the “Improve Mental Health Workplace” flyer in the appendix.
Every year, we hold our Safety Symposiums to give our employees the opportunity to learn about key safety topics, participate in workshops and activities, and hear inspiring stories from engaging outside speakers.
Due to the pandemic, we have been holding our annual Safety Symposiums in a virtual format for 2020 and 2021. These symposiums are open to all employees and cover a variety of topics including: Life-saving behaviors, a day in the life of our Liberty employees, good catches and more.
- Gary Sommer, Sr. Program Manager, EHS
One of the core tenets of our operations is our belief in the importance of our employees living and working in the communities where we operate. In order to best serve our communities, it's integral that our workforce be representative of those communities and reflects the ideas and expertise inherent of diverse communities.
We believe that building an inclusive work environment, where all of our team members feel a sense of belonging, is critical to unlock the benefits of diverse teams.
In today’s blog post, we are sharing the stories of two of our employees and founding members of the EDGE BRG at Liberty.
My name is Kimberly Luces and I’ve been with Liberty for 5.5 years as their Senior Program Manager, Environment. As a multiracial millennial mom, I have been on the receiving end of intersecting micro aggressions related to my gender, age, race and ethnicity throughout my life. I am also deeply saddened to say that I have witnessed other people—my friends, family, coworkers, strangers—experiencing similar micro aggressions based on their identities.
When the opportunity arose for me to start the EDGE BRG (Ethnically Diverse Group of Employees Business Resource Group) here at Liberty, in an effort to support ethnically diverse employees and continue to grow our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), I felt a combination of excitement, hope, and nerves. For one, I felt that in the social climate we’re witnessing around the world today, this was an opportunity to come together across the enterprise to drive meaningful, positive change with my ethnically diverse colleagues and allies. I hope that the EDGE BRG will bring us closer to achieving social equity, disrupting unconscious bias, increasing diverse representation in the boardroom and across the enterprise, and most importantly, offer a platform to marginalized employees to share their stories, to listen and learn, and to identify and address our own biases in a meaningful way. I am happy to say that since launching EDGE, I’ve seen these very hopes come to life.
EDGE launched officially in December 2020 and now has 50 members comprised of talented, passionate and diverse employees and allies all across the business. Together with our Executive Sponsor, we wanted to ensure EDGE was built for the employees and in collaboration with our employees. Our mission is to create and nurture an inclusive culture by providing a safe place of belonging, acceptance, empathy and respect for our ethnically diverse employees and allies. Through the development of meaningful and long-lasting connections, constructive dialogue, education and celebration of our differences, we aim to create a deeply inclusive and culturally competent workplace while driving innovative solutions to meet the needs of our employees and the communities we serve.
We will continue to focus on driving deeper inclusivity, innovation and improving company performance as it relates to DE&I and employee wellbeing; and I look forward to seeing all of the 2021 EDGE plans come to life this year and beyond.
- Kimberly Luces, Senior Program Manager
My name is Greg Sorensen and I have worked at Liberty for the past 15 years. I currently serve as the President for Liberty’s West Region. I have the privilege of working with our fantastic employees who provide outstanding electric, water, and wastewater service to our customers and communities in Arizona, California, Texas, and our newest utility in Chile. In my career at Liberty, I have come to understand that while we are utility company which operates pipes and pumps, wires and substations, and many other facilities, we are at our core a company of people – employees and customers.
Over the past couple of years, it has been hard NOT to reflect upon the rapidly changing environment in our country. The topics of equality, justice, equity and bias are at the forefront of our minds and frequent topics of conversations we are having. But the time for only talking about these challenges is past. I realize that someone like myself, who is in a position to help influence and affect change, must start acting.
In 2020, I was presented with an opportunity to be an Executive Sponsor to help start, along with the amazing Kimberly Luces from our Oakville office as the Lead, a Business Resource Group (BRG) to focus on and help support and grow our company’s diversity, equity and inclusion commitment. The particular focus of the BRG would be to develop and offer a platform where ethnically diverse employees and allies could gather, discuss issues related to race and ethnicity, share their stories and challenges, and maybe most importantly, begin to affect change within our organization. So, in December 2020, the EDGE BRG (Ethnically Diverse Group of Employees) was launched.
EDGE’s mission statement is to create and nurture an inclusive culture by providing a safe place of belonging, acceptance, empathy and respect for our ethnically diverse employees and allies. EDGE will support our Diversity and Inclusion Council, as well as look for ways to shape and influence company policy to drive Liberty to have a workplace that is supportive of diversity, and a place where employees feel a true sense of belonging.
To be a successful company, we must know and understand our customers. To do this, we must be a company that, at all levels or the organization, from front lines to executive management, reflects the communities we serve. This can not be done if we are all one gender, ethnicity, or orientation. To be a great company, we must develop and support our employees, and provide the opportunity to grow and advance to ALL employees. To have true diversity of thought, we must have diverse employees from where those thoughts are generated.
Throughout 2021 and beyond, EDGE will continue to focus on its mission, and we look forward to making continued improvement for our employees and the communities Liberty serves.
- Greg Sorensen, President
Our objective around diversity, inclusion and belonging is to widen our scope and consider how all underrepresented employees can have an equal footing for all opportunities. In order to advance this commitment, we've recently launched two new Business Resource Groups. One for LGBTQA+ employees, and the second focused on ethnicity.
In today’s blog post, we are sharing the stories of three of our employees and members of the LGBTQA+ community.
My name is Sue and I am the President of our New Hampshire utilities. I am also proud to be a part of our corporate LGBTQA+ Business Resource Group, as I consider myself a member of this community. As part of this BRG, I have had the pleasure of helping introduce Liberty employees to the rich culture of the LGBTQA+ community through stories and experiences.
Individuals’ stories about identity and belonging help us all connect to universal truths about ourselves and our world. They foster empathy and understanding by allowing us to share passions, fears, sadness, hardship and joy and find common ground with those around us. For many of the LGBTQA+ employees with concerns about how others may treat them if they show their true selves, these stories can create a sense of community and help them not feel so alone. And some are just plain entertaining for everyone!
I think the TV show Modern Family, with central LGBTQA+ characters, proved that with its 11 seasons, 22 Emmy awards and 1 Golden Globe. This show reached out and spoke to people from multiple backgrounds and dealt with serious issues in a considerate way. And, I have to say, I have laughed out loud to this show more than any other TV show I can think of. It reminds me of my crazy family, in so many ways and I recognize many struggles and successes that I have gone through over the years.
One of the issues we all as LGBTQA+ deal with is coming out to friends and relatives and co-workers. Just imagine that you couldn’t tell your family about a really important part of your life because you were afraid that they may never speak to you again. That’s how many of us feel in the workplace. Afraid to put a photo of a loved one on our desk or discuss our chosen family around the water cooler. Our BRG wants to make sure no one ever feels that way at Liberty.
And lastly, I’d like to suggest that you all celebrate Pride month with us this year in June. It is the single biggest cultural event for the LGBTQA+ community and usually includes community parades with floats and music and gatherings all across the globe. I’m not sure how the pandemic rules will impact it this year, but hopefully there will be celebrations in your areas.
- Sue Fleck, President
My name is Paul Rushton and I am currently part of the HR Team out of Oakville. I came to Liberty in September 2020 in the midst of a pandemic but one of the reasons I joined was because I was truly sold on the culture and how strongly passionate Liberty was with regards to Diversity and Inclusion.
Being an openly gay male in the workforce, I have faced some challenges with feeling accepted within the culture of the organization I was with. For example, one company I worked for made it a point to state they don’t support “my kind of people”. In most cases, I would simply shrug it off as my sexual identity should not define who I am. It is a part of who I am but it does not define me. However, this is why I needed to find a place where I belong and Liberty was that place.
After bringing my son into the world via surrogacy in 2019 and knowing that he may have some challenges being raised by two dads, I knew I had to help pave the way for more acceptance. In Liberty, I joined Friends of Liberty, the LGBTQA+ business resources group to help foster this kind of environment for members and allies of the gay community.
Since I have joined Friends of Liberty in January, 2021, we have seen a growth of membership from 3 to 11 members. The word is getting out to the community that we have such a fantastic resource group that is accepting and rewarding to those employees who want a place in which they feel they belong. 2020 will be the year with many rewarding events that will be delivered by Friends of Liberty and I can’t wait to be part of every single one of them.
- Paul Rushton, HR Manager
My Name is Angie Custer, and I’m part of the Planning Department in North Lake Tahoe, CA. I’ve been with Liberty since February 2010, and I’ve seen tremendous growth within Liberty in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion. In the 10 years I’ve been with the company, I have always felt that I was accepted for who I am.
As an openly gay woman, my partner and I (which her name is Liberty LOL) have a 4 year old son. One day we were playing school, I asked him “What am I?” Expecting the response of either a boy or a girl, he looked at me and said “You’re a human Gigi”. I was completely surprised by his answer, and thought “imagine if everyone thought this way.” That our differences didn’t matter.
In 2019 I became part of the LGBTQA+ business resource group. Our mission is to represent the LGBTQA+ community by bringing awareness, educating, and providing a safe place for all employees. I look forward to all the future events we have planned for 2021 and the years to come.
- Angie Custer, Planner
Over the last 2 years, Liberty’s Talent Acquisition team has worked on formalizing the campus program. In this time, we have had the pleasure of welcoming over 100 students in a variety of business units – Engineering, Sustainability, Health and Safety, Operations, Finance, Accounting – to name a few. We have been successful in fostering an environment of learning and development through challenging projects and tasks, regular lunch and learns, networking opportunities, and e-learning courses available to our students.
We welcome the knowledge and diversity of thought that these students bring to the organization and we truly value their hard work and dedication. Our intention is to support the learning, development and growth throughout their work term(s) and have been fortunate to have several return back for another term or join us part-time, full-time or on contract.
Below you will find stories from three of our co-op students who have very different, yet interesting journeys with Liberty.
I work as an Associate Internal Auditor at Liberty’s Office in Oakville, Canada. I graduated from Sheridan College from their Professional Accounting Graduate Certificate Program in December 2020, and joined Liberty to work in a full time capacity in March, 2021. But my journey doesn’t start from here.
How it all started
It was 6th January, 2020, and I was starting my first day as an Internal Audit Co-op with the organization. I still remember the very first day I walked into this amazing building, visible from a very distance, and as soon as I entered, I saw people passing by or getting their coffee from the café downstairs, and finally gearing up to start their work day!! Soon I found my way into the orientation room and got myself familiarized with everybody. Everybody was so welcoming and helped me out in all the ways possible. From that day my daily hustle started where I was attending meetings, working on different projects, attending different festival celebrations and many more things. The Internal Audit team offered me such a wide variety of tasks and supported me in any way possible, which brought out the best from me. After the completion of my co-op work term, I was offered a Part-Time position to work with the team, which brought on many more challenges, as well as new opportunities to learn, understand and gain more exposure. With all the support from my team, I was able to perform to the best of my abilities and excel.
How it is going so far:
One thing I loved the most about Liberty is its people. You would never realize that someone is your senior or if someone is your junior. I would like to share an experience, where we went for an event at Holiday Inn (pre-covid scenario) and I was right there sitting at the same table with the Directors, Senior Vice Presidents, and Senior Managers, altogether and having the best of the conversations and learning about their experiences. So, yeah you might come across so many people on a daily basis with whom you would have the best of your conversations. They would never disappoint you with their interactions.
The journey so far has been exceptional. I have learned a lot in the past one year. There are many things that I never heard of before in my life, which I did after coming to Liberty. Also, my learning has been a combination of various technical as well as soft skills, like communication skills, time management, stress management, which I think has benefitted in every way possible and which will help me to grow further in my career.
It has been altogether a life changing experience at Liberty until now, and I know that this graph will surely have a bullish run in the future for me. It has been an honor to work at an amazing organization, and I see that for many forthcoming years!
- Akshay Mathur, Associate Internal Auditor
My name is Carter Eady and I am a student from the University of Waterloo in the Environment & Business program. My role is Compliance Analyst working within the compliance department. I have been working with Liberty for a little over a year now and have had the opportunity to be involved in the amazing co-op program. Being involved in a co-op program is such an incredible experience that can lead to hands-on knowledge and development of new skills.
When I first started my co-op placement at Liberty, I knew that this was going to be one to remember. Having the opportunity to work in the office and meet several new colleagues and students in my field of study, allowed me to feel comfortable and confident from the get-go. Liberty does such a good job at making the onboarding process smooth for newcomers, whether that be a student or full-time hire. Within the first few weeks of my placement at Liberty I had quickly noticed the strong connection and passion for diversity in the workplace.
I can remember being involved in International Women’s Day and all of the inclusion involved. Chinese New Year was a celebration with fun games and commitment to learning more about employee cultures. As a student, it was excellent to see all employees coming together to celebrate holidays year round. As mentioned earlier, I had known this co-op was going to be one to remember.
Only 2 months into my placement at Liberty, the pandemic began and COVID-19 began to slowly change the world. This was a major obstacle that everyone had to overcome and working with Liberty made it easy to transition into the work from home lifestyle. Throughout my time working with Liberty as a Compliance Analyst Co-op, I gained so many new skills that have allowed me to enhance my potential and grow as an individual. Upon my co-op placement ending, I was given the opportunity to extend my time with Liberty for another 4-months, helping and supporting projects and acting as the policy administrator.
As time has gone by, I have met so many wonderful people that share the passion for diversity and inclusion in the workplace and have made my time at liberty that much more fulfilling. I can now say as a co-op student who has now been brought onto the Compliance Team full-time, I am more than ever excited to continue my growth at Liberty and further my skills and passion for renewable energy.
- Carter Eady, Compliance Analyst
Working at Liberty for 3 co-op terms has been a wonderful experience for my personal and career development. I was looking for a placement where I can grow as a safety professional and Liberty is the place to do that.
The EHS team is full of strong leaders and problem solvers. It has been great to be a part of many important projects that focus on keeping people safe at work at home. Throughout the pandemic, the co-op program at Liberty has been extremely supportive and brought many opportunities to make connections and grow my knowledge.
- Olivia Kijak, Environmental Coordinator Co-op
Did you know that companies with at least 30% representation of women on their board show better climate-related performance? It’s true – diverse companies are more likely to set clear climate governance strategies, show higher levels of data transparency, and are more likely to pursue sustainable business practices and opportunities. In fact, in a study of over 11,000 global companies, corporations with at least a third of female directors showed emissions growth of 0.6%, compared to 3.5% from firms without any women on the board.
So why is this the case? Research shows that diverse groups foster more innovative thinking and promote broader perspectives, resulting in stronger climate governance and performance. Diverse companies also tend to make more investments in renewable power generation and energy efficiency improvements.
At Liberty, one of our 9 ESG Goals is to exceed 30% women in leadership roles. We are proud of the meaningful progress we have made on this goal, and will continue empowering women in the workplace and promoting diversity across the enterprise. We are also proud of the strides we’ve made to improve and manage our environmental impacts; we have achieved our goal of reducing GHG emissions by one million metric tons, and are in the process of adding 2000 MW of renewables by 2023!
It is clear the diversity across the organization leads to better ESG performance, and we at Liberty are proud of all our employees in leading us to a greener future. We all have a role to play in fostering positive environmental impacts, and we encourage everyone to carry the spirit of Earth Month forward by continuing to bring innovative, diverse ideas to the table!
To learn more about diversity at Liberty and our climate approach, please check out our 2020 Sustainability Report and 2020 TCFD Report: https://algonquinpower.com/uploads/docs/APUC-Sustainability-Report-2020.pdf
Liberty is currently evaluating our electric network for biologically sensitive areas and species to enhance conservation initiatives via our vegetation management (VM) program. Biodiversity exposure assessments help us to better understand the direct effects that our VM programming has on the natural environment. Within the last few years, Jason Grossman, VM Manager, Liberty (Central Region) and Peter Stoltman, VM Manager Liberty (West Region), partnered with Grow With Trees to perform biodiversity exposure assessments within their service territories. Results from both assessments are being evaluated for ways to enhance our Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) programming to protect and conserve natural resources and sensitive plants and wildlife species.
For many years, Liberty has employed an IVM program to selectively eliminate incompatible woody species beneath our transmission lines while promoting the growth of compatible low-growing wildlife-friendly plant communities. Employee engagement is central to our success. Vegetation management training and regular monitoring has increased the efficacy of Liberty’s IVM program which has resulted in enhanced customer service and satisfaction, and enhanced mindfulness, pride and ownership with which we perform our work. Knowledge of sensitive species on our network has not hindered our efforts; in fact, this knowledge continues to strengthen our program. Liberty’s rigorous monitoring program will experience a boost this year by adding the Monarch Pollinator Scorecard which contributes to nationwide monitoring for Monarch butterfly habitat via a recently approved Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA).
Enhancing our IVM programming has had a number of positive outcomes, e.g. increasing the use of selective IVM treatments, development of wire zone-border zones, enhanced pollinator initiatives on rights-of-way and fee owned lands, and building stronger communities within Liberty and relationships with our customers.
I work as a Sustainability Specialist in Liberty’s Office of Sustainability. I am a graduate of the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) program at the University of Toronto, and joined Liberty in April, 2020.
Shortly before I began my new role at Liberty, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened and created uncertainty for all of us. I, myself, was nervous about what it would be like to start a brand new role completely remotely. Thankfully, the team at Liberty was patient, accommodating, and incredibly supportive in ensuring that my onboarding was seamless. I’ve been in this role for exactly a year now, and despite never having met the majority of my colleagues in person, I can safely say that my coworkers and the company culture have made it easier to get through the challenging year that was 2020. Not only am I supported by my colleagues to thrive within my role and my team, I have also been able to apply my personal interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion through mentorship opportunities and involvement with employee business resource groups. Knowing that people in the organization are always willing to help and empower their peers is an integral part of why I love working at Liberty.
As a Sustainability Specialist, I work with the Office of Sustainability and other business units to advance Liberty’s sustainability commitments through the development and implementation of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) – related programs and initiatives, as well as through meaningful and authentic annual sustainability reporting. My experience in this field has taught me the importance of not only procuring credible ESG data, but also taking meaningful steps to put sustainability in action. It’s clear to me that Liberty recognizes and understands this, and I’m proud to be a part of our journey in sustainability.
- Momina Sumbal
After recently moving back to New Hampshire with my two sons in 2013, I was looking for my next career move that would afford me work-life balance. In August of 2013 I filled a temporary Customer Service Representative position with Liberty. I became a permanent employee in March of 2014 and was promoted to a Lead Customer Service Representative September of 2014. Since then, I’ve worn a number of hats, helped interview new applicants, train new hires and participate in many different projects across departments. I’ve also advanced to my current position as a Customer Service Supervisor where I oversee and assist customer service employees in the performance of their daily duties. These past eight years with the company have helped me become a better person, employee and leader.
The most important qualities I work to instill in my team each day are professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. I’m most proud of helping them further develop their skillsets and professional careers and ensure that they thrive and succeed within the company. As someone who takes pride in improving employee engagement while getting the job done, it’s important to me to go above and beyond to ensure that all of my direct reports feel appreciated, respected and safe in their roles.
- Kristen Lange
I started my career with liberty in October 2013 as a part-time Customer Service Representative. At the time I was a single mother and going to school full-time. The part-time position allowed me to be there for my daughter, focus on college, and start my career while I was still in school. In July 2014 I accepted a full-time Customer Service Representative position which I stayed in while I completed my degrees.
I graduated in December 2014 with a degree in Business Management and Human Resource Management. The week of graduation I accepted a position in the System Reliability department as the System Reliability Administrator. When I accepted the position, I had no idea the impact my time as a Customer Service Rep. would play on my new role. I was responsible for outage data, monthly reporting, and annual reporting - along with other day-to-day tasks, data request, or data related inquires we may have received. There were many times my training and experiences in customer service helped while I was in System Reliability.
In August 2020, I accepted a position in Talent Acquisition as the Talent Specialist for our Central Region in Joplin, which is my current role with Liberty. I primarily focus on helping our hiring leaders find top talent for individual contributor roles, primarily customer service positions, which is very special to me because that is the position that allowed me to start my career with a Liberty. I know the value of the position, how difficult the position can be, and how rewarding the position can be. I truly feel honored that I’m able to bring new representatives into the role. I know how my time in the contact center touched me as not only an employee but a person and love that I get to give others that same opportunity.
- Jessica Montgomery
The Midwest experienced extreme and prolonged winter weather conditions in February, with temperatures dipping below -20 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. The bitter temperatures caused waterline leaks and breaks at customer homes and businesses throughout the Pine Bluff, Arkansas community. This led to an increased water demand and decreased water pressure that stressed our system and impacted our customers.
Crews responded immediately, but their response was hampered early on by close to 20 inches of snow on the ground and continued extreme cold and winter weather. At the onset of the event, we notified customers asking them to report waterline leaks and to conserve water where safe to do so. Customer communication continued throughout the event.
As the event progressed, more than 90 Liberty employees from across our commodities, and service regions including Arizona, California, Missouri, and Illinois responded to assist our Arkansas crews in canvassing the community for leaks and addressing them. In addition, more than 30 contractors from engineers to leak detection experts assisted in the response. The Pine Bluff community participated as well, providing help from their police and fire departments and wastewater utility.
Recovery efforts included a wide variety of technology. Drones searched for leaks from above. Crews used detection tools to test water for signs of fluoride to determine if it was water from our system. This indicated a leak rather than water from melting snow and rain. And, leak detection experts used sensitive listening devices, similar to a stethoscope, to detect leaks.
The amount of water leaving our system initially, a more than 50 percent increase, indicated a major waterline break or more. However, as the recovery continued, we found or had reported close to 400 customer homes and business with waterline breaks caused by the extreme cold and countless other homes and businesses that repaired their issues without much fanfare. We continue to respond to new reports of customer leaks daily. To date, we have repaired approximately 70 leaks. Water pressures at our three water distribution plants serving Pine Bluff have returned to normal and the plants continue normal operating conditions. While pressures at times were extremely low, at no time during the event did we lose pressure or water distribution. As a result, we did not have to issue a boil advisory.
We know how critical and essential safe and reliable water is for our customers. In an effort to help residents of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County with the cost of repairing or replacing the waterline breaks at their homes, Liberty announced a $250,000 donation to customers experiencing hardship. After consultation and collaboration with Pine Bluff and Jefferson County leaders, Liberty partnered with United Way of Southeast Arkansas to help distribute these funds. That work is ongoing. Liberty also held three bottled water distribution events in Pine Bluff. Liberty volunteers from departments such as Business and Community Development and Safety staffed the events and gave out three semi-trailers of water – that’s over 114,000 bottles!
There’s always much to learn as a result of emergencies or crisis. In the days ahead, we’ll certainly study this event and our response, document our lessons learned, and adjust and continuously improve. But, we also learned, or maybe a better word is witnessed, how remarkable our Liberty team is. When we called, they showed up without hesitation – from across the country. Those who couldn’t come stayed behind and stepped up to fill in for those who responded. That’s teamwork. That’s commitment to service. That’s the heart of Liberty.
Being a Customer Service Representative is arguably one of the most important and most challenging positions within a company. Customer Service Representatives are the face of a company to the customer and are often the only contact a customer has with a company. Below are 5 tips for CSRs to keep in mind when delivering great service:
- Kara Fouts
March 8, 2021
It all started with a book, an idea and a small group of women who wanted to support each other and maybe challenge gender bias a little…(okay maybe more than a little). My leader Dainna Datchko, Director of Learning and Development, was one of those women. Being the great leader that she is, she challenged me to start facilitating Lean-in circles, which was out of my comfort zone. Dainna and her peers were inspired by Lean-in circles, where small groups of women meet regularly to engage in peer support, learning activities, and accountability partnerships. We started facilitating these circles informally in 2015, beginning with our Liberty Oakville office. As it turns out, women were interested and I quickly felt ‘in’ my comfort zone, leading circles. In 2017 we were ready to come out to the world to spread the joy with others across the organization.
This is when we reached out to the business to seek volunteers across the organization to lead Liberty Lean-in circles. A small group of passionate women decided to jump in. For many of them, it meant coming out of their comfort zone and learning new leadership and facilitation skills to become the local Liberty Lean-in leaders. We ended up with eight active circles across the U.S. and one in our head office in Canada.
In 2019 we received great news; we became one of three Business Resource Groups under the leadership of our newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Council. Also in 2019, we started expanding our circles to our allies and it has been a great experience. We believe allies are part of the solution and we appreciate them ‘leaning in’.
In 2020, women and allies who are involved in Liberty Lean-in, shared their ‘why’ with us. Here are just a few:
“…because it is both the right thing and smart thing to do. On a personal level, it is essential that my colleagues, teen girls (3) and wife have equality and empowerment. I believe that men have a role to play while women increasingly lead. Men need to listen, think and learn, and then act. Men need to challenge other men to understanding and advance equality and empowerment.”
Senior Vice President, International Development and Liberty Lean-in Sponsor
“…from my first Circle session, I met a non-judgmental ear... Having a supportive environment where we know someone has our back is a powerful boost to push us towards the best empowered version of ourselves.”
Oakville (ON) Circle Leader
“…I want to encourage my daughter and those around me to have the courage to step up when it counts, even if they find themselves in the minority, and continue to thrive in both the workplace and in life.”
Lake Tahoe (CA) Circle Leader
“…I wanted a way to “give back” to the younger generation. I’m so proud to be a part of an amazing circle where the members learn both professional and person skills in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.”
Londonderry (NH) Circle Leader
Unfortunately in 2020, we took a bit of a step back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many of us were forced to focus on other priorities. We currently have five active (virtual) circles and a Committee of very dedicated leaders to continue supporting our initiative. Despite the fact that we cannot meet in person for now, we are hopeful that we can continue to grow and provide women and allies in our organization, opportunities to keep meeting online. In fact, we are currently working on developing a support package that can enable all our offices to establish their own Liberty Lean-in circles both virtually and in-person, to empower women and allies across our enterprise.
See p.60-62 of our 2020 Sustainability Report for more information on our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion and more specifically on p.61, to gender diversity.
Personally as a Program Leader, I am encouraged by the possibilities and the dedication of our Liberty Lean-in Circle Leaders and Diversity & Inclusion Council to support gender diversity in our organization.
- France Poirier
February 26, 2021
I am an Engineer in the Substation department at Liberty. I hail from India and came to the United States to pursue my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. I have been working with Liberty since June, 2020.
When someone asks why I love working at Liberty, the simple answer is “people”. I wake up every day with great excitement to work. I am treated with respect and my Team Lead constantly believes in me. She pushes me to endeavor on tasks that I thought were way beyond my expertise because of my knowledge and tenure in the company. Everybody here is very kind, always ready to jump-in to help. They put their needs and jobs aside to help a co-worker understand a task and answer all kinds of questions, with a lot of patience.
I am a part of Substation Physical Design and I work closely with Electrical Engineers. My job responsibilities involve planning, designing and reviewing various projects to ensure accurate and cost-effective completion, in some cases cost-effective solutions. Liberty believes in and supports continuous improvement and process improvements in order to stay current. There is constant reinvention and willingness to try new ideas. I am currently working on design tool upgrades for the Substation department in our Central Region.
I feel my work is of vital importance because we put all our ENERGY to bringing light to people’s lives and we do everything in our POWER to keep our people warm. I am proud to be working for Liberty and I am honored to be a part the Liberty family.”
- Swathy Jayaralamuni