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 Jessica Hamm, a Technology Development Manager based in Charlotte, N.C.
What do you do?
I work on a team that’s looking at trends and technology that are five to 15 years down the road from impacting Duke Energy and its customers. We are monitoring things before they get hyped, before they’re all the rage. We’re looking for the innovations that could change, disrupt, or transform our industry and help us serve our customers better. Our group’s mission is to use all this insight to inform the long-term strategy of the company.
How do you determine what’s coming down the road?
A lot of different ways. We look for signposts. We meet with external groups, partners and thought leaders. We’re constantly scouring current events and world trends, and we’re also attending conferences, monitoring academia, policy changes and the trade press. We’re trying to figure out what the future will be and how we should position ourselves in that future. We’re constantly brainstorming about how new technologies or trends could improve the way we operate and how customers use our products and services. It’s a lot of detective work and connecting of dots, but it’s really exhilarating work.
What new technologies are exciting you right now? And what should customers be looking forward to?
As someone who loves the environment and believes in the science of climate change, I am excited about a cleaner energy future. Solar can be a strain on the grid so what I’m most excited about is the work we have underway to put more intelligence at the edge – closer to homes and businesses. That intelligence will allow us to better operate the grid and ultimately integrate solar more effectively in the future.
What led you to this field?
My undergraduate degree was finance and supply chain at North Carolina State. I worked in finance at IBM for a couple of years and then moved over to Duke Energy. My dad also worked in the energy industry and while he was surprised at my move, it’s been terrific to be able to talk “shop” with him. At first, I worked in finance supporting the distribution organization, such as the line crews, for example. Ultimately, though, I wanted to get closer to the field and the people and not just run analysis. I started working in Distribution and did project management for our Reliability and Integrity programs. I joined Emerging Technology shortly after starting my master’s degree in sustainability. A perfect fit.
What inspired you to get your master’s degree in sustainability?
Well, as a lifelong Girl Scout and Gold Award recipient, I’ve always been an outdoorsy, environmental kind of person. I credit Girl Scouts with my approach to life. Helping others before yourself, leaving things better than you found them. The graduate program really opened my eyes to both the opportunities in sustainability and the way that Duke is a leader. I love the idea of being an environmentalist in a large corporation and helping affect change from the inside. It’s important to me that I pursue my passion and reinforce my values through my career.
Is this an exciting time to be working in energy?
Absolutely. There’s so much momentum in the development and deployment of technology – not just in our country but in the world. Amazing work is being done to electrify the world with cleaner energy. The world is changing very quickly, especially compared to the past.
What advice would you offer girls interested in pursuing a career in the sciences or energy sector?
I think it’s important for women to have mentors. Having someone to talk to when something doesn’t go well. Or someone who can tell you when you could have handled something better. Also, the best jobs are the ones you’ve never heard of, that you don’t hear about on career day. So remain open to new opportunities, don’t box yourself in, and be sure you meet new people, shadow people, understand them, get out and ask a lot of questions!
What would your 9-year-old self think of what you do for a living?
Well, I think she would be shocked that I wasn’t a marine biologist. I had a lot of dolphin posters on my wall back then. But she’d be pleased that I’m doing something to help the world’s environmental health and pursuing my passions.
“Amazing work is being done to electrify the world.”