Energy Utilization Marketing Manager | Memphis, Tenn.
Shana Woods can describe herself perfectly in two simple words: “Change agent.” It’s what she aspires to be—and in many ways what she already is, as her role oversees all of TVA’s home energy management (EnergyRight) and renewable programs (solar, wind) for the west Tennessee territory.----
“Uncertainty excites me,” she explains. “Nobody knows what the future holds for the energy industry—it just takes one thing to change everything.“
Woods says we need to embrace change and make it work to the Valley’s advantage.
“I guess I see a lot of things happening on the forefront…and it looks good!” she says. “That’s because we’re working together with the local power companies and communities to ensure everything we do is beneficial to the Valley as a whole.”
Woods expects change to bring plenty of opportunity for TVA. “Everyone will need the grid, no matter how many solar panels they have on their homes or solar farms that are built,” she says “ We will always be delivering on our mission to make lives better in the Valley.”
She spends much of her day on the phone with businesses and residences trying to help them understand the true costs of solar. It can be tricky, she admits, especially given the advertising climate we’re living in.
“We are up against salesmen, who are trying to sell their product,” she says. “We are trying to make lives better. They are trying to sell you a situation in which you don’t have to pay anything to get everything. That’s just not the truth.”
While solar is a great clean option to add to our already cleaner energy portfolio, Woods says “there is magical thinking about solar.”
The remedy? “Education—it’s so important, and it makes everyone’s lives easier,” she says. “Telling the truth and working in earnest to help people meet their goals is what make us the trusted energy advisors. We are working to help educate everyone on how to use energy and solar efficiently at home and work. I talk a lot about the Tennessee Valley Solar Calculator.”
Education and communication are her watchwords in everything she does. Woods is the TVA touch point in customer delivery for 22 local power companies, including the largest in the Tennessee Valley (Memphis Light, Gas & Water) and the smallest (Forked Deer in Halls, Tenn.).
She works hard to keep her relationships up to date. “I like going out to lunch with my LPC folks and getting to know them on a personal basis—I learn so much,” she says. “I can’t stand sitting next to someone over a meal and talking only business. Those personal connections can really come in handy when times are tough.”
The bulk of her efforts right now are focused on MLGW. “There have been some changes in staff there, and an opportunity to think about things in new ways,” Woods says. “I usually give myself the title of being in everyone’s business because I have to know about all facets of LPC and community activities to help connect the dots at times.”
Her skills are being put to the test right now, as TVA has recently donated $1 million to MLGW to match its Share the Pennies Program, which allows its customers to round their bill up to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to limited income households to help meet energy needs. With the new TVA-MLGW partnership, the matching funds will be used to weatherize inefficient homes of limited-income families—setting right conditions that may put have been putting an undue burden on them during the hottest and coldest months of the year.
It’s good work that should garner some good will in a town where TVA could use some. “Right now we are trying to strengthen our relationship with Memphis,” Woods says, calling Memphis is “a different tiger.”
Woods sees that as a chance to do more education and communication.
“A lot of people here don’t know what TVA is,” she says. “But that’s an opportunity for us to show what we do in a positive way. We have been Batman for a while, and now we can come out of the shadows and show what we can do!”
Woods, an Alabama A&M grad with a degree in mechanical engineering, was a power utilization engineer prior to her current position. “I got to do energy audits, so I saw all this stuff face-to-face,” she says. “That engineering side of myself comes in handy even today. When people start talking techy, I can keep up with the game.”
Her first job at TVA, however, didn’t require that bachelor’s degree. “I was hired in at Paradise Fossil Plant as a fossil technician, better known as a pipefitter,” she says. “My proudest moment at TVA was when I completed my first weld.”
The experience was eye-opening for Woods, who wouldn’t trade it for the world. “I got to use machinist’s tools—it’s stuff nobody can take away from me,” she says.
“Now one of the things I want to do is work on exposing the uses of trades and labor. You can push college, but you need to push trades and labor just as hard—they are beneficial jobs and they are coming back around. You can make just as much money in trades and labor.”
She’s also proud to be a spokesperson for African Americans in energy jobs. “There is not a lot of representation of the African American community in the energy field, and it’s empowering to go out and represent TVA,” she says. “I’m not making big history, but I’m making small history by doing that.”
She paraphrases a line from poem by Maya Angelou, Our Grandmothers, as inspiration: I come as one but I stand as ten thousand. “Diversity is a key thing in the heads of all the powers that be at TVA, and it makes me feel good to work here. I like to show it.”
As for where she’d like to go from here, as a change agent, she’s holding tight for the ride. “I do know that I am someone who would like to help others accept change,” Woods says. “And I’d like to be a stronger community leader—I was nominated to be on the leadership circle for external relations, and I want to grow from there.”
With her attitude, experience and skill set, there’s no where to go but up.
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