Field Engineer Experiences Co-op’s Scope
During Week-long Experience in Driver’s Seat
If anyone was counting but me, they know my tenure as a United employee has now added up to more than two decades—21 years. I was an employee with Johnson County Electric Cooperative prior to its consolidation with Erath County Electric Cooperative—when United Cooperative Services was formed in 2000. Coming through the consolidation is something that I will always be proud of, because it gave me opportunities that I am not sure would have been available had it not taken place.
From day one of the consolidation, new doors were opened to employees who were willing to come together across United’s suddenly expanded service territory and work together to build one culture and one company that would become a standout among electric cooperatives. This reorganization allowed me to view the cooperative and its operation from many different vantage points, and through an important evolutionary period. I was able to gather information, skills and best practices from many different leaders at the organization, and I learned what being a cooperative employee meant to each one of them.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to serve on a variety of departmental and process committees, as well as to serve as a representative of the employee group. These settings allowed me the opportunity to interact with other employees and to hear their different thoughts and opinions on ideas and topics that the cooperative was dealing with, or planning to deal with.
I recently had the opportunity to represent the employee group as Assistant CEO of the Week. Like so many other learning venues that are afforded to United employees, being selected to the honorary post provided me some fresh new experiences. Among those were; the experience of attending a United board meeting, a Brazos Electric Cooperative workshop and a Brazos board committee meeting, and, of course, visiting many of the departments within the cooperative.
I don’t think most people could fathom the amount of intricate work that is conducted daily at the cooperative. As described earlier, I’m no stranger to the co-op’s workflows, but even I wasn’t completely familiar with many of the details that encompass United’s immense work scope until I had the chance to spend a week looking at our operation under a microscope.
And that said, I can’t imagine there are many business organizations that provide employees an opportunity to sit in at a board meeting to see how the company’s business is regularly conducted. The United Board of Directors is experienced, and it is well-informed about the day-to-day work that takes place here at United. At the meeting I attended, the group’s interaction on a long list of topics was eye-opening. Nothing presented on the agenda is taken for granted. Every item is weighed and discussed.
The directors also demonstrate a high level of respect for each other and the decisions that are made for the organization. Every decision that is made is balanced against what is best for the membership and the employees of United, and based on data that is measured and verified.
While every board member expressed his or her appreciation and respect for each employee at United, it is worth noting the employee group at United could not have achieved what it has without the leadership provided to it from directors who realize good employees bring great value to cooperative members. It is special to see, first hand, the dedication that the board of directors has for United and the members it represents.
Moving on to Waco and business conducted at United’s wholesale power supplier Brazos Electric Cooperative, the Brazos board committee meeting I attended was somewhat similar to United’s in the sense that Brazos operates as a cooperative, just as United does. Every member cooperative has a representative sitting on the Brazos board and each board member seemed dedicated to finding solutions that were best for the cooperatives and the members they serve. A significant amount of discussion took place before any decisions were made. And it was obvious to me that each member of the board were committed to protecting their respective cooperatives’ interests, as well as the interests of Brazos collectively—none any more earnest than Larry Bays, (United’s board representative).
Through the years, I have worked with multiple departments within the cooperative in the performance of my daily duties. So I was interested to see if any of those departments could teach me something new during my week as the Assistant CEO that I didn’t already know. I can honestly say I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about the work every department does.
The opportunity to sit down and see what actually takes place behind the scenes departmentally was intriguing, even for someone who has worked for many years with and around the folks he was shadowing. I was aware each department overlapped in a variety of ways, but not to the extent that was shared with me while visiting with each department representative. The communications and information exchange that has to take place for the cooperative to accomplish its many objectives is extensive.
One thing that wasn’t a surprise was the cooperative’s high performance standards. Each department is always looking for ways to get better and wants to obtain the best possible result from each task that is performed. In order to do this, data is stored, tracked and constantly reviewed so that United does not move backwards, but instead, forward. We make mistakes, but we try not to make them twice.
I can see other employees realize what I do. As our cooperative continues to grow at a rapid pace, we must continue to work together “safely,” and to find new and better ways to serve the needs of our membership—meeting our continuing goal which is to “provide exceptional service and value to our membership.” We know that part of our job will never be finished.
Overall, this opportunity further instilled in me the belief that everyone connected with the organization is completely determined to make the cooperative the best it can be. My week in this honorary post reassured me that we all have the expectation that we will be the best at what we do, and that we will never settle for anything less. We may never reach perfection, but we will never stop trying to find ways to perfect our many roles and responsibilities.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the employees at United as Assistant CEO of the Week. It was a great experience, and one where Irealized I still have some more to learn.