We’re celebrating Women’s History Month this March by introducing you to 10 women who help power your life at Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. They advance our company with their vision, talent, hard work and creativity. These trailblazing women – including a nuclear engineer, astrophysicist and lineman – reveal inspiring stories of persistence, pluck and achievement in largely male-dominated fields. A diverse workplace isn’t just a nice idea, it’s a competitive necessity. Today, meet Joie McCutchen, an associate vegetation management specialist, Florence, S.C.
What led you to this career?
I’ve loved the outdoors as long as I can remember. Early in my career, I studied to become a medical assistant but never really felt fulfilled in that role. I always knew I wanted to work in a field that would take me outside –and I knew I loved trees. I was that kid always climbing high into the canopy of trees and coming down with pine sap in her hair. Growing up, my mom always told my sister and me, “Find something that you love to do –then figure out a way to get paid to do it.” So that’s exactly what I did. I heard about a career as an arborist and enrolled in school for natural resources management. It wasn’t easy, and it’s a very competitive field, but here I am.
Why does a power company need an arborist?
We have thousands of people working for Duke in vegetation management. Our main focus is maintaining vegetation so that everybody has safe, reliable power every day. We don’t just prune trees; we have an herbicide program that establishes native grasses for wildlife. We also serve as advocates and a resource for our customers. If you aren’t sure what to plant in your yard, call us. We’ll recommend something horticulturally appropriate that will grow slow and low. We’re here to promote plant health care and symbiosis with nature.
What does your workday look like?
It’s always changing; it’s always challenging. Sometimes I’m in the office managing a multi-million-dollar budget or making sure I’m hitting the targets in my annual work plan. Sometimes I have to tromp a mile into a swamp to reach a power line that needs pruning. We’re out in the elements year-round so I wear a hard hat, a safety vest and steel-toed boots. I wear long pants because of ticks, briars and any other wildlife I may come across. I’ve encountered all kinds of animals – snakes, wasps and so many birds, which is wonderful, because I’m a birder, too. Power lines have taken me to some of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen.
You’ve also blazed a trail at Duke Energy, right?
I’m one of the first female vegetation specialists to work for Duke Energy in South Carolina. Being one of the first is great, but we need to do better. Women bring a valuable perspective and a different touch in dealing with our customers and communities.
Why do you do what you do?
I love the earth and environment, people and a good challenge. I love my job and couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Managing vegetation around power lines is crucial, for both the reliability of power and the safety of our customers. And the way we do it is important, too. We strive to balance our vegetation management goals while also respecting our customers’ property. People put a lot of emotional stock in their trees and I get that. I still distinctly remember the oak tree I swung in as a child. When I speak with customers, I want them to know I hear you, I see you, I understand your concerns. We love nature, too.
“When I speak with customers, I want them to know I hear you, I see you, I understand your concerns.”
Click here to meet our other extraordinary employees at Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas.