Puget Sound Energy CEO Kimberly Harris has been with the Bellevue-based utility provider for almost 20 years. Before she joined the energy organization, she worked as a lawyer.
“I got hooked on the energy industry in my first job out of law school,” Harris said.
Following grad school, Harris worked at a firm in Abilene, Texas, where she served as outside counsel for a local electric company. “That was it,” she said. “I was captivated by the dedication of individuals in the field. They were the first responders who were absolutely committed to customers.”
Pair that with engineering, physics, and the essential infrastructure the industry provides and, Harris said, she couldn’t ask for a more intellectually challenging and personally rewarding career.
Harris said one thing that stands out about PSE is the organization’s ability to transform with the ever-changing industry. During Harris’ tenure with PSE, the organization has done everything from implementing new technology to better serve its customers, to serving as an early leader in renewable and clean energy, having invested billions in renewable energy sources over the past 10-plus years.
“To sum it up, PSE is a different company than we were five years ago,” Harris said. “Our industry is changing, from what customers need and expect, to the sources of our energy. So we’re changing, too.”
While Harris is proud of PSE’s numerous accomplishments, she said it’s the organization’s employees that are her favorite part of the job. “It was the people who drew me to the industry in the first place, and (it’s) the people who keep me here today,” she said.
For Harris, her best days on the job are spent out in the field, wearing a hard hat and steel-toed boots, visiting one of the organization’s power plants or substations, or out for a ride-along. “I learn so much from our employees in the field,” she said. “And as CEO, I take that back into my daily work to help PSE better serve our customers and continue to innovate and grow.”
We asked Harris to share some lessons she’s learned over her career. Here’s what she had to say:
Never stop stretching. “The job of a CEO is to challenge assumptions, ask the tough questions, and continue to champion innovation and push the thought leadership of the organization.”
Surround yourself with great people. “Nothing is more rewarding than watching employees knock it out of the park.”
Celebrate success. “This one is hard for PSE. We’re a company of completely devoted, lead-from-your-heart first responders. We’re always pushing ourselves and are very focused on operational excellence — so much so that we sometimes forget that we need to stop, celebrate, and have some fun together.”