Interview Series – Paula Gold-Williams

paula-gold-williamsPaula Gold-Williams

President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CPS Energy

Interview with EUCI, conducted September 16, 2016



What was your first job?
• I was a cashier at a Texas-based grocery store chain, HEB, for about 18 months before I started college.

What does the first hour of your day look like?
• Usually, I hit the ground running with a breakfast meeting with someone I need to catch up with. If not, I try to be on the computer by about 7:00 a.m. every day to work down my backlog, as well as to review the morning operational and safety reports.

-Who are your role models? Mentors?
• My parents were my biggest role models. They were modest, down-to-earth and honest people. They didn’t believe that education makes someone a better person. They felt that being a good, law-abiding person was just a commitment you have to work on yourself for your entire life.

• Another great role model for me was Milton Lee who was the General Manager/CEO at CPS Energy when I first came to the company 12 years ago. Milton was always so authentic and candid. He thought me a lot about the importance of learning the energy business and building strong relationships.

-Looking back, what one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
• Know that the risks you take are the only way to make progress. No risk, no reward. Even so, it is not about reckless abandon. It is about leaning in thoughtfully to career opportunity.

-What is one book or reference you recommend to be a better leader?
• The “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” by Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite books. It is a simply read, but captures the trials and tribulations when a team is not truly aligned, as well as what decisive action may look like to get everyone on track.

-Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
• I was recently named permanent President & CEO for CPS Energy. Accordingly, I look forward to a long-term future here. There are plenty of significant initiatives and strategies to work on for the next five, ten, and even 25 years out.

-Where do you see women in the industry in 5 years?
• We are making tremendous progress in this industry. I think women will continue to progress to an increasingly larger share of executive-level positions.

-When I hire, I want?
• I strive to hire passionate people who have a healthy intellectual curiosity and a deep desire to continually learn.

-Do you recall any advice that shaped your career?
• My immediate predecessor, Doyle Beneby, impressed on my that even when you are an executive, you need to know when to move from the strategic to detail. Basically, he reinforced that it is important to “Trust But Verify,” which was also a well know recommendation of the late Ronald Reagan.

-What was an “Aha moment?”
• I can tie two moments together. I remember being in algebra class in high school and thinking I will never use the class techniques in real life. Then one day I had to “gross up” a payroll check; I had to solve for the unknown value, exactly how I was taught in high school. I learned that it is important take in all that you can when someone is taking the time to teach you because this information is destined to be helpful sometime in the future.

-What are your goals for 2017?
• My goals are to further evolve CPS Energy’s 155 year legacy in a time when the future is both full of opportunities and extreme uncertainty. Most immediately, we are:
o Working on long-term projects to improve our customer service,
o Facilitate economic development,
o Integrate our new Automated Metering Infrastructure system,
o Develop new products and services and
o Enhancing our information security and safety.

-What does success mean to you?
• I gauge success through my ability to help others. This includes:
o Helping employee grow and develop,
o Ensuring customers receive the great service they deserve,
o Giving back to the community whenever we can.

-Tell us about your biggest flop?
• I have made multiple mistakes in my career. I think mistakes, while never desirable, are the very best way to absorb life lessons. The real fallacy is to think you can avoid mistakes. More experience and very thoughtful execution can reduce, but not eliminate, the likely of mistakes. This all said, some lessons I learned from my biggest mistakes include:
o Again trust, but verify.
o Document major decisions.
o Never think or want to be the smartest person in the room.

-Do you have any hidden talents?
• I would say no. I am pretty much an open book. What you see is what you get.

-What was your childhood dream?
• I thought that I was going to be a teacher at first. I eventually became a tutor in college. Simultaneously, took a few accounting courses along the way and knew that I needed to become an accountant. This said, I strive for the best of both worlds. I am always interested in sparking a team member’s intellectual curiosity.

-What does your power suit look like?
• Actually, I like bursts of color so a suit is not my normal go to when there is something special. Solids, and bright reds and blues often do the trick.

-What is the one character trait you can point to that made your success possible?
• A very strong work ethic has always been the foundation for me. I have always worked hard and given it all I have.

-What is your take on Work- Life Balance?
• Make sure that you strive for what works for you. Strong ambition often requires going above and beyond. Even so, you are the master of your calendar. Negotiate with your boss and team to ensure your family and friends see you at the times that are important. Most bosses these days will be accommodating, especially if the employee has a good plan to ensure things do not go fully awry when you are not in the office.