This month we introduce you to Bill Slade, Emerging Issues Specialist at Con Edison of New York, one of the members who helps make our network so unique.
1. Why did you join NAEM?
I was practically a charter member of NAEM back in the early 90’s when I worked for the New York Power Authority. At the time, I was looking for a way to increase the visibility and credibility of our environmental staff because we were all part of the Engineering Department and all the engineers thought we were somehow less important because we didn’t have access to any sort of professional associations. In fact, I was on the committee that interviewed Carol!
2. What do you like about your job?
In my current job, I am constantly fascinated by the intricacies of three levels of government regulation, three types of utility businesses and dealing with a hugely diverse workforce.
3. Has your environmental program received any awards or recognition? If so, what?
Con Edison has won more awards for environmental excellence than I can recount, mostly for waste reduction and carbon emission reductions.
4. What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
The biggest challenge in my current effort is dealing with the uncertainty of regulation and its impact on the cold, hard facts of capital investment. It is extremely challenging to convey the nuances of federal, state and city decision-making to a wide range of internal stakeholders.
5. What motivates you at work?
In my current position I am a bit of a “grey beard”, and I enjoy giving my younger colleagues some sense of the history behind events in our industry and in the regulatory regime. I like to be correct, and so I am motivated to have a lot of background understanding when I delve into a new subject. I believe environment, health and safety (EHS) people should be in this line of work as a profession, not just as a job on the way to something else, so I try to highlight that perspective to those I deal with in my corporation.
6. What advice would you have for someone entering the field today?
If by “the field” you mean the utility industry, I would recommend they spend a lot of time understanding the inputs and outputs of the industry, including fuel, funds and people. If you mean the field of “EHS management”, I would encourage newcomers to try to continue to grow their understanding of both parts of that title: Be an expert in everything “EHS” but also have a strong management background and understand your company’s business model from a financial standpoint. Also, get comfortable with public speaking, because you can only make progress towards your professional goals if you are willing to stand up and talk about it to other people.
7. What makes you happy? What are you passionate about?
I guess my primary passion is my family and my church work, but professionally, I am determined to see action on climate change and ocean acidification – I’ll argue the need for industry action on these points to just about any one!
8. What are the three words your spouse/colleagues/best friends would use to describe you?
Curious, stubborn and consistent.
9. What aspect to the natural world/environment impresses you the most? Why?
Anything saltwater – sailing on Long Island Sound and reef snorkeling in the Caribbean leaves me more passionate about the natural environment every time I get to do it. There is something intrinsically awe-inspiring in watching all the reef creatures interacting in a way that has been going on for thousands of years.
10. What are the topics you're most looking forward to discussing at NAEM events?
The best part of NAEM events for people like me (e.g., in the utility industry) is that it gives me a whole new set of situations and solutions that I don’t normally get to see. I liken it to a person who has always shopped at a general store who finally gets to Neiman-Marcus – the variety of possibilities is astounding! Utility types tend to get stuck in traditional modes of problem-solving, and seeing how leading companies in other industries are solving problems really helps you think outside the box when you go back to work.