Mary Ellen Paravalos
Director, Strategy & Performance, National Grid
Interview with EUCI conducted September 12, 2016
-What was your first job?
Going way-way back it was picking strawberries in the fields for a local farmer (and promptly spending my modest earnings at the corner candy store). Then I graduated to delivering newspapers on bicycle, and then waitressing on the day I turned age 14 at a family restaurant in town. Things got more interesting the summer after graduating high school when I got a job in the “big city” at a not-for-profit organization training Boston young people on workplace skills. I had to get up and lead classes for students that were older and wiser than me – that took some confidence building on my part!
-What does the first hour of your day look like?
I start each day with a big glass of water – must have the well-being basics covered! Next I do a quick scan of my text and emails for urgent items, and then take our dog Cocoa for a walk – he is a big curly brown labradoodle and such a love. I make sure my two teenagers are up and on track for school, then it’s off to the office. During my commute I usually listen to local and world news channels, and decide on the few most important things I want to achieve that day.
-Looking back, what one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
“Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”
-What is one book or reference you recommend to be a better leader?
The Values Factor by John Demartini – This book helped me focus on what’s important to me and why. With more clarity, identifying and reaching for higher goals becomes easier and more natural, and I find I am able to bring others along the journey too.
-Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Leading in the energy industry. Helping others reach their potential in their lives and careers. I really love the energy space; it’s so vital to our society and we need leaders who care deeply about our communities now and far into the future.
-Where do you see women in the industry in 5 years?
Making quantum leaps – right along with our energy systems.
-When I hire, I want?
Self-starters. Hard-workers. Opinions. Aspirations.
-Do you recall any advice that shaped your career?
1) Aim high.
2) Take steps forward to achieve your goals, not matter how small they may seem at the time. Also take some big scary uncomfortable steps.
3) Write and say out-loud the end-goal. This magically helps to make it happen!
-What does success mean to you?
Success in the industry means providing energy that is accessible and sustainable for all. Success personally means to me that I am stretching my own human potential as well as those around me and following after – my family, community, and those I don’t know personally.
-Tell us about your biggest flop?
I don’t usually think in terms of ‘flops’ – but rather feedback loops and learning! My biggest past regrets usually stemmed from when I DIDN’T act or speak out. I remember a time years ago when an industry executive whom I respected very much was at a big meeting presenting on an energy issue, and afterwards he came over to me and asked why I hadn’t spoken up to help him make his case during his presentation. I realized then that I had sat on my own ‘personal power’ – mostly because I wasn’t sure of the “perfect” approach to take at the time. Here was this highly respected executive who could have used my help! I now remind myself to highly value my own personal power and use it often, even if not perfectly!
-What does your power suit look like?
A confident and focused mindset.
-What is the one character trait you can point to that made your success possible?
Believe in the positive and the possible.
-What is your take on Work- Life Balance?
Your life is your life. You’re in the driver’s seat.