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Electric Vehicles Are Changing The Talent Game for Utilities

On June 6th 1884, Nikola Tesla arrived in New York from his native Europe.

He was one of many talented engineers eager to participate in the nascent American electricity industry. They all aspired to work with the likes of Thomas Edison to invent and improve generators, distribution systems, light bulbs, motors – the basic building blocks of power grids, still in use today.

The utility industry in the late 19th century was much like the dot-com era in the late 20th century. Frenetic experimentation was the norm; world-changing technologies appeared; fortunes were made and lost.

Utilities were also a magnet for talent: brilliant minds such as Nikola Tesla crossed oceans to join the best and brightest in the industry.


From Exciting to Humdrum

As the industry grew and electricity became available to all, experimentation gave way to increased focus on scaling, safety, and reliability. The power transmission and distribution businesses became the trusted, regulated monopolies that we know today.

And, somewhere along the way, utilities lost some of their appeal to workers.

For the past decade that our ZappyRide team members have been involved in the utility industry, we kept hearing the same old complaint: utilities are facing a talent crisis.

Our industry has been portrayed, sometimes not without reason, as being slow-moving, with antiquated technology and processes, restrictive regulations, and not much room for innovation. Ergo, we are told, talented workers are more interested in working in Silicon Valley or Wall Street than at the stodgy utility. Industry observers all have a view on how to solve that problem.

But change is afoot.

Electric vehicles (EVs) may be the Trojan horse that re-opens the talent floodgates.

Electric Vehicles Are Changing the Utility Talent Game

In helping utilities with EV customer engagement, our team has been lucky to collaborate with many leaders in utility EV groups. And we have been consistently impressed by the caliber of our clients and partners.

Case in point, a director at a major investor-owned utility, who is growing her EV team, shared that her group is the most attractive talent magnet in her company. She can pick from the best resumes, and her team’s performance is stellar as a result.

Beyond the senior ranks, we worked with several EV team members who wield large budgets and significant influence in their organization, despite their relatively junior title — which, if anything, is the mark of true leadership.

Go to any utility EV conference, and you’ll witness such leaders: articulate, sharp, passionate, determined, and pouring their talent into making utility EV programs a success.


But, What’s So Special About Electric Vehicles?

EVs are attracting talent for a lot of good reasons.

EVs Are Growing. Most power markets in the U.S. are experiencing flat energy sales, and therefore the bulk of the utility business centers around maintaining existing systems. EVs are different: they drive load growth, and come with growing infrastructure capital budgets to manage. And that, of course, is exciting.

EVs Are Innovative. The EV market is still young, and there is plenty of experimentation going on. How do you design the best EV rate? How do you optimally deploy charging stations? How do you engage customers? Many questions have yet to be answered satisfactorily.

EVs Are Aligned With The Utility’s Mission. In contrast with distributed solar power, which initially faced ferocious opposition from some utilities, EVs are taking nothing away. They are rather adding value and reinforcing the utility’s relevance in challenging times.

EVs Connect To The Bigger Picture. EVs curb global and local pollution, enable healthier communities, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. In an economy where workers are more than ever thirsty for meaning in their job, EVs offer deep personal satisfaction.


Top Talent is Fueling a Bright Future for EVs

Given all these factors, it is no wonder that EVs attract talent at all levels. Beyond utilities, we also see extremely talented professionals joining the ranks of automakers (Tesla comes to mind, of course), charging station manufacturers, industry groups and leading non-profits.

It has been said that individual talent is humanity’s best resource.

Much of that resource is currently going to transportation electrification, and ensuring its bright future.