Being your own biggest fan and surrounding yourself with a dream team are a few ways that Alanna Tremble has found success. Listen as she talks about her journey as a young Detroiter to Work Week Field Leader at Consumers Energy.
Bill Krieger: The views and opinions of the guests of the “Me You Us” podcast do not represent the views and opinions of Consumers Energy.
Bill: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Me You Us, a wellbeing podcast. It’s another wellbeing Wednesday here at Consumers Energy. I’m your host, Bill Krieger.
Today, my guest is Alanna Tremble. She is a workweek field leader here at Consumers Energy. Alanna, if you’d introduce yourself, we’ll get the conversation started.
Alanna Tremble: Like Bill said, my name is Alanna. I was born and raised in Detroit. I still am a Detroiter. I work for Consumers Energy outside of the Royal Oak headquarters as a workweek fielder leader. I am a graduate of Wayne State University. I have a Bachelor’s in Industrial and Systems Engineering. I’m currently an MBA student as well. You’ll find that I do a lot of stuff.
Alanna: I’m working on my MBA. I took a little break during COVID because there was just a lot going on. I have four classes left, taken to this semester. Hopefully, I’ll be done before 2023 is over.
I also serve as an advisor for the National Society of Black Engineers, for their regional board, so helping regional college students plan conferences and have programming. I just do a lot, but I’m not used to being still. It is a part of my personality to do a lot of community work, and I thoroughly enjoy it.
Bill: What do you do in your spare time, then?
Alanna: Sleep, community service, I’m also a member of a sorority. I’m a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. It’s the first Black female sorority founded at Howard University in Washington, DC. I do a lot of community work with my sorority as well.
This past weekend, I was volunteering. We did a big collection drive and donation to COTS. It’s a shelter in the city that houses moms and families that are trying to get back on their feet.
Bill: Oh, my gosh. I was kidding when I said on your spare time. You do things in your spare time.
Alanna: I do. I really do. That’s why I usually tell people, in my spare time I take naps.
Bill: Naps are underrated, let me just say that.
Alanna: They are.
Bill: Let’s go back a little bit because I want to talk about being a workweek field leader at Consumers Energy. A lot of our listeners hear people come out, and they talk about what their job is. No one has any idea what you do. This is your opportunity to say, “This is what I do for a living.” What do you do for a living?
Alanna: I’d like to say the workweek field leader position, at least for me, it’s like a hybrid. It’s logistics mixed with being a field leader. I work with the field leaders. I work with the field, but I don’t have any direct reports. I assign work. It’s catching barriers before the field gets to the job.
I run with the site checkers and making sure the site is ready. Doing coordination’s with our scheduling partners. I also have added these little details to my role to help with the processes of our department.
Most places have a T?one site check. They get their work checked a week in advance. Because [inaudible 3:36] so busy in the metro area, you can check a job today, and it could be completely different tomorrow.
We do a T?zero site check. I get all my jobs checked again 24 to 48 hours before it goes out to make sure it’s still good. I do a lot of interacting with customers and municipalities. Sadly, we cut down a lot of trees.
It’s because, usually, municipalities, for beautification, they plant trees in a right?of?way, but it’s above our mains. I interact with them just so they know, hey, we need to cut this tree now.
I work with our partners in restoration. As well as damage claims to make sure that we are making our customers whole again. When we’re maybe messing up your sidewalk or your driveway, I’m following up and bridging that gap, so that our field leaders can spend a lot more time in the field with the crews.
I’m handling all the logistics and the background work to make it fluffier when they get there.
Bill: It sounds a lot like you help us to have to not go out more than once to do something, right?
Alanna: Yes. [laughs]
Bill: That repeat workout. I remember, as a field leader in the Southeast post. I was in Livonia for a little while. That was always a headache. We’d send a crew out. They couldn’t do the job, because either something got missed on a site check or it changed. Like you said, things change all the time.
It sounds like you’re that stopgap to make sure that when they get there, they can do the job, and they have the stuff to do it.
Bill: That’s awesome. I’m glad you’re here then. I’m glad you’re getting that done. Let’s talk a little bit more, too. There was a lot of stuff that you talked about. You’ve got your bachelor’s degree. What does that degree do?
Alanna: Industrial systems, it used to be like industrial manufacturing at certain schools. Industrial engineering to me, I say it’s the happy engineering. I come from a semi?engineering family. I have two older sisters. They’re also engineers. One is mechanical, one is industrial. My husband is also mechanical.
Mechanical is more so of, things. That’s the more common one. Your nuts, your bolts, your fluids, but industrial is people engineering. It’s your ergonomics, it’s logistics. Manufacturing plants, they write labor. In construction, we send people out, and we try to make sure our employees are skilled enough to make decisions.
Manufacturing industrial engineers think for people. When I worked as a co?op student and I would write labor for GM, I would literally say, “Use your left hand, grab two bolts, place two bolts and we can calculate the times based upon verbiage. Industrial engineers also are largely they’re financial engineers as well.
You’ll see a lot of industrial engineers tend to be in leadership at organizations because part of our curriculum is the human side of engineering, but then also financial. I always say, you live in a difficult place as an engineer or as an industrial engineer because you know you work with people and you care, but then also your job traditionally cuts labor cost.
It’s not to make jobs unsafe, but in that process sometimes you tend to get rid of people or you have to move jobs around. You may combine things, you may break them apart, and you also may decide what goes to a contractor versus what stays. Industrial engineering to me is so great. I’m a huge introvert.
Probably does not sound like it, but I’m a numbers person, and a lot of other engineering capacities are huge science and I hate science, which is funny as an engineer that I would hate science but I like numbers. I love that.
Bill: Works out. It sounds like your degree pertains to what you do then. That’s wonderful because some people get degrees and then they end up working in something completely different. That leads into the next thing, getting your MBA makes total sense, then.
Alanna: It does, but my MBA is way different. [laughs]
Alanna: It is. I enjoy my job. I enjoy thinking, but one thing my oldest sister will always tell me is, throughout life, your priorities will shift around like a Rubik’s Cube. Within being at Consumers and maturing in my career, I fell in love with more of the people aspect of it. Recruiting and ERGs and all that community outreach.
I’m doing a double concentration for my MBA, entrepreneurship, and human resources. The entrepreneurship is because I was like, “Let me pick something fun.” [laughs] If I have to go to school, I might as well pick something fun. Then the other side is, where I see the next part of my career going within employee experience is something I’m interested in and recruiting new talent.
Bill: Those are both great areas to take a look at with all the things that we’re doing as a company. You did talk about, too, I think it was Alpha Kappa Alpha, correct?
Bill: They came out of Howard University, which is what we term an HBCU, historically Black college and university. What are some of the things that you do in that realm that help people of color?
Alanna: I became a member while I was at Wayne State on the collegiate level. We have collegiate level and we have graduate level, which makes it different than your traditional sororities and fraternities. When I went at Wayne State, a lot of the overarching sororities. Once you graduate, you’re considered alumni. You don’t do work.
You may donate, but in our NPHC world, you graduate and you continue that work. We do a lot of like I said, community work. For our organization, I’ll start with, we had a new administration change this summer, so we’re still working on those programs, but under the last administration, the last two, we have really large HBCU initiatives.
Historically, the government hasn’t funded those schools properly as they should. They need a lot of donations to stay working and providing for those students. We had two big initiatives. One was our national president, who’s also…At the time, who started it was the president of Tennessee State University.
She had an initiative where we started endowments at every single HBCU to make sure they had the financial means to keep going. Each university, including the two?year HBCU colleges, there is a few of them in the South, they receive funds from the organization. Then we have other initiatives.
We had Little Dresses for Africa. We took pillowcases. Over a four?year period, you would sew the pillowcases into dresses for girls and T?shirts for the boys. We do community work here. Like I said, for MLK Day, we had the activity. We have financial programs where we support Black businesses, women?owned businesses.
The initiatives are forever and ever, but there’s so much great work that we do. I’m excited for the new administration and what we have going on. I implore everyone to check out aka1908.com. You can see all the list of our programs. We work on them for four years. Then when a new administration comes in, they can keep some of the old programs, they can align new ones.
We have a plethora of partnerships with different organizations. In the past, we partnered with American Red Cross. We did one with Heifer International when I was in college. We bought a goat for a village.
Bill: [laughs] Really?
Alanna: Yeah. Heifer is a really interesting organization. You could purchase animals and then they take them to different villages. They give them to women so that they can either sell products from the animals or use them for food and stuff for their family. My college chapter, we bought a goat.
Alanna: It was quite interesting. We were like, “Oh, they could use it for milk and stuff.” I have no idea what people do with goats, but it was helpful. Then we also put into our members. Also, as a student, I was a leadership fellow. If you’re a STEM major and you have a certain GPA, you go to a week?long training process sponsored by GE.
They flew me out to New York to their research facility. You got to meet with different leadership. They train you to get ready to graduate and enter the workforce.
Bill: That’s all very exciting, right?
Bill: [laughs] Here’s the other thing, too. I don’t know that people think about this. When we look at underrepresented populations, for instance, in the workplace, it doesn’t start when we post a job and hire someone.
It starts at that college or even high school level, of having people understand what the jobs are going to be and what kind of education they need to get and make sure they get that education. Kudos for that group for setting up endowments because there are so many people who would love to go to college but just don’t have a way to do it.
Alanna: Absolutely. It’s so expensive.
Bill: It is. Believe me, I have three children.
Bill: I know exactly what you’re talking about. Then let’s move on a little bit too to what you do here. You’d mentioned ERGs. For the folks listening who don’t know what an ERG is, that’s an employee resource group. We have eight of them here at Consumers Energy.
Alanna, why don’t you talk a little bit about the ERG that you’re a part of, and what some of the things are that you’re doing.
Alanna: Cool. I’m currently the chair for the Minority Advisory Panel, affectionately known as MAP. [laughs] We do a lot of work around our ethnic minorities. Making sure they’re welcome, making sure they feel trained, making sure they’re mentored.
Creating a safe space for them to not only flourish, but for them to learn, for them to bring problems for us to help them, for us to learn about one another because it’s not just a Black organization, we cover all the ethnic minorities.
Also, providing them access to leaders that they traditionally may not have just because Consumers is so spread out. You could work in Royal Oak, but your leadership, they may be in Jackson. Making sure that we’re creating, for me, I like to say a pipeline of minority talent. That not only are we attracting them, but we’re maintaining them. I think that’s very important.
Bill: Yes. Attraction and retention in training are all very important. If you think about it from a business sense, it costs a lot of money to hire someone, train them, and then have them leave, especially for something that we probably could have addressed or made better for them.
Now, I know MAP has been around for a while. I saw a picture of…I think it was the first group. I don’t think they were called the Minority Advisory Panel at the time, maybe they were, but I saw that picture. It looked like a ’70s or ’80s style of dress. There’s a pretty rich history of the work that MAP has done at Consumers Energy.
Alanna: Yes. Originally, you had MAP. It was started in the ’80s. A group of employees got together and they said, “We really need some support,” because they were scattered out. They felt like, “We don’t have anything.”
Granted, minorities tend to flock together out of experience and culture. They were like, “We got to find a way to retain our friends. We see them leaving, we see people getting fired, we see they’re not getting support.” They came together and they started the group.
Then you have HOT that was started as well, which was the Hispanic Outreach Team. Eventually, in the 2000s, they merged together to make sure they had enough support. They put their funds together and kept going with the programming.
It is a rich history. We still have a lot of people that come back over the years that have retired and they’re interested in what we do. When we have our annual peach cobbler event and things of that nature, they come back. They like to see that MAP is still going and what’s new.
Bill: I want to talk a little bit too about what you said, that the Minority Advisory Panel encompasses all people. Many times, people look at employee resource groups and they think of them as exclusive. “I have to be Black,” or, “I have to be Hispanic,” or, “I have to be whatever in order to be a member of the Minority Advisory Panel.” That’s simply not true.
Bill: Anyone can join the Minority Advisory Panel. Can you talk a little bit about that as well?
Alanna: Yeah. Anyone can join. I would say it’s a safe space for minorities, but we do have a lot of programming where anyone can learn. We currently have, and in the past, we’ve had White members on our steering committee. They have a voice. They can say, “Oh, that’s a good idea. That’s a bad idea.” Or, “What do you think about this?”
We listen to them as well. They’re included in the conversation. We have members of all different backgrounds that join our programs. When you’re joining an organization that is targeted for minorities, just like if you would join an organization targeted for women or any of the other ERGs, you just have to be open as to where your stance is within those conversations.
Anyone’s allowed to join. They’re allowed to hear the information. I think that’s very beneficial. As “a minority or person of color” as well as being a woman, throughout my career, I’ve had people advocate for me. It’s very important to have allies, but if you want to claim that you’re an ally, you want to make sure you’re educated.
Not only educated to make sure you have the tools to be able to push back when you hear those undertones of racism, sexism, or whatever it may be, but educated to know that when you’re in those rooms, that you’re also not being offensive by telling people what their experience is. It’s important for you to listen, for understanding, but not to rule their conversation.
Bill: This is taking a little bit of a turn that I wasn’t anticipating.
Bill: That strikes me that you said to be in the room but not to tell people what their experiences are because I think a lot of times, that happens. Again, I don’t want to speak for people, but I watch that unfold at times.
It’s very interesting to me that sometimes we don’t listen to the people who have experienced it. We just take what we think that experience is. That’s what it is. That’s where the truth lies.
It’s so great that you would say that. “Sit back and listen. Listen to learn.” We talk about that all the time here at Consumers Energy. Don’t listen to ask your next question or to make your next point. Listen to learn.
In full transparency, I’ve been a member of many of our different ERGs. That has been key to my journey, to listen to people, because I know when I walk into a room, we all do this. We all have that implicit bias. We already know what we know.
To sit back and put that aside and listen to people, I have learned that a lot of things I thought I knew, I didn’t know because I listened to the people who have experienced it. Thank you for making that point. It’s so very, very important.
Now, as we talk about the Minority Advisory Panel and some of the work that’s been done, I know there are so many exciting things coming up this year. Before we get to that, I want to talk about this peach cobbler we got because I heard about this last year. I did not attend. Then someone talked a little bit about it. I’m like, “That might be something I want to go to.”
Alanna: Last year we started the Frank Johnson Scholarship. The peach cobbler event spun out of Frank’s group of friends. He came to the peach cobbler and he spoke. He said that it started because him and a group of friends that worked at Consumers, they would go golfing.
Of course, as men do, a lot of people do, as they were golfing, they started talking smack to each other and someone said, “I make the best peach cobbler.” Then someone else said, “No, I do.” Then they turned their annual golfing outing to, “You bring your peach cobbler and we’re all going to taste it,” and then they will vote on who had the best one.
Originally, peach cobbler wasn’t a “MAP?sanctioned event.” It was a group of employees that had a panel, and then they would plan the event, and then minority employees would attend it. It was a weekend of socializing and networking. It is an event where there is a golfing side for the golfers and a bowling side for the bowlers. I am a bowler. I cannot golf.
Alanna: I’ve tried. I tried really, really hard. It’s just not…
Bill: I’m with you, Alanna. I own golf clubs. I don’t play golf.
Alanna: See, we’re aligned. Throughout the weekend, there’s a social so you have a hustle instructor teaching dances, and there’ll be finger foods and networking. Then the next day you have your golfing and bowling tournaments, and then there’ll be a lunch. You’ll give out awards for who had the highest pin count and the lowest and fun activities and socializing.
Then there’s a peach cobbler competition still. 2022, there was a few peach cobblers. They were interesting. Someone made a vegan one. It was quite good according to people. I don’t eat each peach cobbler so I couldn’t vote, but it still occurs to this day.
Again, it’s a opportunity for employees and minority employees to get together over the company because we are so spread out as a organization. Just like when I walk into a room, like, “Oh, we can finally see each other in person.”
You see people on teams, and it’s a good opportunity to see people in person and figure out maybe you have career questions. Maybe you’re experienced something and you don’t feel comfortable typing it, but you may feel comfortable talking to a person, or hey, with my husband, he works at Consumers as well.
He was a eat. He’s a local Detroiter and being a part of that he was able to find people around him. We had to live in Grand Rapids or Saginaw. It’s a way for you to build your network and your family in your area, your support system.
Bill: To eat peach cobbler if you’re so inclined. I’m glad you put that all together because I envisioned this little get?together where people eat peach cobbler and voted on it, but there’s a whole lot more that goes on here that started out with the peach cobbler.
If you work here at Consumers Energy, look for some information coming out about that this year. If you are not a member of Consumers Energy, is there a way for folks outside of the company to be a part of this?
Alanna: We haven’t mastered that [laughs] simply because we tried to keep it as a opportunity for internal employees, so it’s no confusion around who you’re networking with and what those opportunities may come from. Outside people have come in the past as a spouse or a guest of an employee.
Bill: All right. Good to know. This will be Internal Consumers Energy. If you work here, check out the website, check out MAPs page. There’ll be information coming out about that. The other thing I want to talk about, too, is that, you are a Detroiter. I love Detroit. I’m there as often as I can be.
I know growing up Detroit was a scary place to go, at least that was the rumor, but I don’t feel unsafe when I’m there. As a Detroiter, as a Black woman, as someone who is in engineering, do you think that your experience has been different from other folks’ experience?
Alanna: That’s a complex question. I would say yes and no. I am a Black woman and I am from Detroit. I am an engineer, but I also graduated from Detroit Public Schools.
I have had that experience but I know my experience is different because I come from a household where I have two parents that also went to college and also has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and that creates some complexity.
In some ways, I have the same experiences of theirs and the same “opportunities.” I also know my exposure to different things creates a difference. Even though I went to Detroit Public Schools, my mom, and my dad because they are married. Now that creates another layer to this onion, and they’re still married to this day.
Those gaps where people miss things in school, my mom had us in after?school programs. We were in Saturday programs. I spent the summer going to math camp as a kid.
Bill: How exciting?
Alanna: It sounds very boring, but it’s very fun. The program is Math Corps. Now, there’s multiple camps. There’s a camp at University of Michigan, and there’s a camp at Wayne State, and I think there’s a camp in Cleveland. We had college professors that was teaching us math as seventh graders.
You were groomed when you got to college you’re like, “Oh, the same professor I had in the seventh grade is my actual college professor and it eased some things with my neighborhood school friends, even though I went to public school. In public schools and DPS, you have magnet schools, and then you have testing schools when you get to high school. Are you familiar?
Bill: I am not. Educate me. [laughs]
Alanna: This is how I was like, “Now we’re opening up an onion.” I didn’t want my response to be this long, but it’s like, you have to explain. You have magnet middle schools where the class sizes are smaller, the school is smaller, and then the school may have specialties. I went to a school called Halley.
It wasn’t a testing school, but it was a application school. You had to basically say, my child has had this type of curriculum, they have this type of GPA, and they do these extracurricular things, and then they’ll yay or nay you. Then from there, I went to a testing school.
In DPS, all the eighth graders are allowed to take a test when they get to me at eighth grade. You could test into at the time it was King, Cass, and Renaissance. Martin Luther King, Cass High School, or Renaissance. Now, there’s a few extra schools on the test, like Southeastern and CMA, but those schools are considered your high?caliber DPS schools.
I went to a testing school versus someone who may have went to a regular high school, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Since testing schools are put on a pedestal, their funding is different. The class offerings are different. In high school, I was taking AP classes. I had different offerings. That’s why I said it’s a yes and no, depending on what it is.
Even if you went to a regular school…Again, my husband also went to DPS. He was a regular school person. We ended up in the same engineering program. It just depends on if someone takes a interest in you and put in that extra work later to help you make those decisions. He didn’t have that in high school, someone.
He thought he wanted to be a barber. They were like, “Long as you are not a thief or a murderer, a barber sounds good to me.” He’s extremely talented in math. I’m a visual person. I have to look at an instructor write something on the board, and I’m like, “OK, I get it.” He can read textbooks and figure out how to do things. I cannot do that.
It required later on. Someone said, “Hey, I realized you’re good at math. Have you thought of doing engineering versus business or doing college versus barber school?” Whereas my parents, as a kid, mom was like, “Nope, DAPCEP.” I was in the second grade looking at forensic science and doing blood test at DAPCEP, where other kids may not.
Bill: You brought up something else. That is DAPCEP, which is an amazing program. I’ve done some volunteer work with them when they were at Michigan State University. I came away with more than I gave, to be honest with you.
Can you talk just a little bit about DAPCEP? Then, we’ll move on from education. You’re bringing up some things. I’m like, “These are cool, important things that happened.”
Alanna: I like to say DAPCEP is the funnel for any “minority” engineer that you know from Detroit. It’s Detroit Area Pre?College Engineering Program. It started out of the city of Detroit, but they do have camps up at Michigan State, University of Michigan, just all around. They do programming. They literally have engineering and STEM programs for kids kindergarten through 12th grade.
It’s a variety of programs. It could be robotics. It can be math. I recently saw they started a sound engineering thing where they were showing kids the background technology of making beats, podcasting, and things of that nature. It’s a great program. They break down science, math, engineering, all that to that grade level.
Like I said, I was in the second grade. Our eight?week program was figuring out who stole the recipe from the cookie factory. We used forensic science. It would be like one week, we learned about blood types. It was like, “Oh, here’s the scene where the person broke through the window. They left their blood. This is their blood type.”
Each week, you got a list of possible thieves. You could cross them off the list, “Oh, they’re type A,” and things of that nature. They also have program in sports. They’ll have fall program, winter program, summer programming. It’s relatively minimum cost. The classes are 20 bucks to 50 bucks, depending on what it is.
It’s a awesome program. It’s been around…I’m 33 now. I’ve only been 33 for two weeks that’s why I kind of paused.
Bill: Happy belated birthday.
Alanna: Thank you. [laughs] I’m so used to saying 32. It’s been around, like I said, since before I was a kid. I highly recommend it. When we were younger, my sister used to do the program at Michigan State. They would take kids. They would stay on campus for two or three weeks at Michigan State. They were like students.
They would teach them engineer courses. They got to be on campus. It’s a variety of programs, highly recommend it. I know WEN ?? shout?out to WEN ?? they do a lot of partners. Last year, we partnered with WEN for DAPCEP for STEM Day at a school on Southfield. We did energy testing for light bulbs. It was cool with the kids.
Bill: It is. For those of you who don’t know WEN, it’s our Women’s Engineering Network. They do a lot of things with robotics and engineering. It’s an incredible group of folks here at Consumers Energy.
The other thing with DAPCEP too is that it’s not your typical after?school program. There’s some accountability behind that. People are expected to complete tests, to do their work, and all of those things. I know that every kid I met in that program has been so motivated. They can’t stop smiling. It’s amazing.
When you talk about all these things that you experienced as a child, and then growing up, and then going through school, one of the things that you said early on was someone to help mentor you or someone to help give you a leg up. I think that’s so important. Can you talk a little bit about mentorship and maybe one or two mentors in your life that have made that difference for you?
Alanna: You’re asking the most complex questions.
Bill: It’s what I do.
Bill: It’s what I do.
Alanna: Can you repeat it?
Bill: Yeah. You had mentioned mentorship. Along the way, there have been people that have helped you get to where you’re at. Honestly, anyone in any company in any position can’t say that they got there all by themselves. Every single one of us have had a leg up to get where we’re at, some form or fashion.
My question is, can you talk about someone who mentored you and how that made a positive impact on your life?
Alanna: I’m going to try to do two. Through the MAP mentoring program ?? Applications are still open right now. They don’t close until February ?? my mentor that was assigned to me last year was Angela Thompkins coincidentally, I think out of my interest. She is a safe space for me to run my ideas by.
Last year, I was vice?chair. I knew that I was going to matriculate into the chair role. Figuring out where I wanted the ERG to go, we have a 10?year plan for MAP, so figuring out what would be my contribution, running those ideas past her. “Is this a good idea, bad idea? What do you think that will make actual impact on our members and organization?”
Having somebody be able to listen to in, interpret it, and not judge you for your thoughts and what you’re thinking, a lot of times it’s important to have a mentor where you can be yourself, feel like, “I need to have the best English right now. I need to be extremely polished right now,” where you could just say, “This month was a wild month. This is where my head is. Can you help me?”
She’s been that person for me. Even though she’s extremely busy, I could always shoot her a email or IM, and she responds. It may not be immediately, and I understand because of who she is, but her being there is like A1. I appreciate that. That’s been helpful.
On the other side, career?wise, I met so many great people. That’s the thing. You have official mentors, and then you have those people that mentor you and guide you, but you don’t have a label for it. They serve in that role.
I’ve had some good seniors and managers in my role. When I first started the work with field leader role, there’s a saying in distribution, if you can make it in Royal Oak, you can make it anywhere.
Bill: I was afraid when I first started. I’m like, what does this mean? Why do people keep saying it to me? When I first started, Pete Matrunola was our manager coincidentally. I graduated college. Consumers was my first job. I was in the tools and work methods group. I was in that group from about three years.
I wanted to do something new. I needed experience. I felt like in that role, I wasn’t getting it. I left the company for a year and a half. I went to Chrysler. When I was in Tools towards the end part of that time, Pete was my manager.
When I came back, I interviewed and I ended up getting the work in the field leader role, he wasn’t in the interview. Then I found out that Pete was a manager. I was like, “That’s kind of cool.”
Anytime I came up with ideas, I wanted to do something and I’m like, “Oh, I need this $100,000 PO approved for this idea,” Pete was like, “OK.” He always was that person that would be like, “If you can explain it and amaze us,” he would go for it.
We never had an official mentor?mentee type of thing. He always was an advocate for any time I was like, “Yeah, let’s try this. Let’s do this.” If I wanted to push back on a policy or initiative, if I had a good thought on it, he was like, “Cool.”
Then I had Tyrone Knox as a senior field leader. He was the same way. I never had to be extremely polished when I came to him. I could just go to him like, “OK. Now, you know this is a bad idea.”
Alanna: He was like, “Just give it a try.” He was that mentor that talked me off the edge a lot on days where I was like, “It’s wild.” Because if anybody works in distribution, they know with construction and all that goes into it, so much gets piled onto the field. When it piles onto the field, it piles onto the field leadership.
I think that’s where a lot of people miss. They think, “Oh, you guys could just do this. You could just do that.” They don’t realize when you say, “Just do something,” there’s 10 steps and 7 of those belong to the field leadership, and three of them belong to the field.
He was good at talking people off the edge. That’s something I’ve worked on myself personally over say about the last two years of internalizing things and saying, “Give it a try before I explode.”
Bill: She say, give it a try. In our house, we have the no, thank you bite. If we make some food that people aren’t familiar with, they only ask is that you take a no, thank you bite. Then if you don’t like it, great, but at least you gave it a try. Sounds very similar, but on a very simple level.
Great examples of the formal and informal mentorship that you received. Do you think it’s important for you to also mentor others?
Alanna: Absolutely. I always will. Pete, when he was the [laughs] manager, always signed us up for interns. When we got interns into our department, they were always my babies. I always took them. I make sure they were trained. I make sure they have projects, and I make sure what are your interests now, and what do you think you want to do after college?
I would set them up outside of their projects. I want you to go shadow this group. I want you to do this. They had a whole checklist of things so that when they left the company, they knew was Consumers Energy for me or not. Am I interested in energy or not? Where do I want to be and what do I want to do, but also making sure that they had good experience to put on their resume.
As a student, I’ve learned not only through me, but through friends, if you have poor projects or you never got a project and you’re passed along during the summer, it ends up hurting you.
You’re getting a check, but then when you graduate or you want to try something else, if you can’t speak to things that you’ve done, if you can’t say, “I contributed to the organization this way,” it doesn’t help you in the long run.
Between here at work through NSBE where I do that work and mentoring those students as well as through my sorority, it’s important to keep what people instilled into me, to share that information so that someone else has a easier path and journey than what I had.
Bill: Well, and I think that probably someday, not too many years from now, someone could be sitting in that chair and I could ask them, “Tell me about a mentor that helped you?” You would be that mentor that they talk about. It’s important that we have our…I call it, it’s a wonderful life moment because many times we don’t realize how we impact people’s lives.
It’s things like that where we’re just doing what’s right and we’ve impacted their lives. Thank you for sharing all of that. It is, unfortunately, coming up to the end of the podcast. We’re actually running out of time this morning.
Bill: Before we go, Alanna, I’m just wondering, what would you like the audience to take away from our conversation today?
Alanna: I would like the audience to take away, I will say, two nuggets. I always put them in nuggets. Anyone can join MAP. Join MAP, support MAP. If you’re going to join, I would say you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. You have to attend events and do those community service projects, willing to be a mentor or a mentee.
There’s so much valuable information, knowledge, experience, and exposure you get out of being ERG members, out of MAP. Some of my closest work friends and people that helped me definitely came out of my experience with the Minority Advisory Panel. That’s my first one.
Then my second one and general nugget is I think it’s very important to always surround yourself with a dream team. I know it’s so cliché when people say, “Have a board of directors.” I feel like if you surround yourself with people that are always trying new things, going new places, and having new experiences, you take on those traits and you become limitless.
You feel like, “Oh, well, I can apply for that job, and go on that trip, and do that thing.” You’re empowered to say and do things that you regularly would not do. Surround yourself with a dream team, join MAP.
Bill: All right. Two great nuggets. They’re kind of big, so I don’t think they’re nuggets.
Bill: Anyway. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. I always feel like I know people, but then I really get to know them. Thank you so much.
Bill: Thank you to the audience for listening in today. The Me You Us podcast is proudly sponsored by Consumers Energy, leaving Michigan better than we found it. Remember, you can find the Me You Us podcast on all major podcasting platforms. Be sure to go out, find us, and subscribe.
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Transcription by CastingWords