Stay Basin: Helping people grow personally and professionally

Stay Basin Chelsy

At just 28 years old, Basin Electric photographer/archivist Chelsy Ciavarella has already been with the cooperative for eight years, holding five positions, most of them as an intern while earning three of her four college degrees.

She says she didn’t know much about Basin Electric until a teacher told her about an internship opportunity with BTInet [Basin Telecommunications, Inc., a former subsidiary] working on servers in the data center. Since she was finishing up her computer support and sciences degree, she applied and was hired. After about six months, her then-supervisor asked her what her interests were –­ in computer sciences or web design. Having always been a creative person, she thought she’d like the design aspect better. He talked to the web design team and was able to get her an internship in that department, which worked well, considering she planned on pursuing a web design and development degree, as well.

During the year-and-a-half she was in that position, she saw an opportunity to expand her skills when the co-op’s photography intern graduated and moved on from Basin Electric. “I wanted the photography experience, so I offered to take on that position in addition to the web services one,” Ciavarella says. “It was a great opportunity and I learned so much from Steve [Crane, Basin Electric’s longtime photographer].”

After finishing her third college degree in graphic design and communications, Ciavarella was hired as a graphic artist and back-up photographer. When Crane retired, she was approached about assuming that position, and she’s been the head photographer ever since. “Steve left some big shoes to fill, but after two years I feel more comfortable,” she says.

In addition to taking photos ­– lots and lots of photos – Ciavarella has recently been doing a lot of illustrations and digital animations for videos, a service that many members have been requesting. “I really enjoy it,” she says. “It allows me to draw and be creative, which I love.” It also allows her to use her fourth college degree – a bachelor’s in digital design and animation, which Basin Electric paid for after she was held full-time through its educational assistance program.

Ciavarella says one of the things she loves most about her job is that it allows her to see and do things many people don’t – like putting on a bee suit and watching her camera get covered with hundreds of bees during a photo shoot at the Glenherold Mine for a story showing how the greenery and flowers growing on the reclaimed coal mine provide nourishment for bees. Or being able to watch huge transmission poles being flown in on sky crane helicopters. And getting up close and personal with the massive equipment that runs Basin Electric’s power plants during the routine maintenance outages she photographs.

“I get to see a little bit of what everyone here does, and get to know people in every part of Basin Electric, which is very interesting,” she says. “It has actually changed the kind of person I am. I have always been very shy and introverted, but having to go out on photo shoots and meet so many people forces me out of my comfort zone. I talk to people I never would have met otherwise, and it has helped me feel much more at ease in social settings.”

In addition to all the opportunities she has received during her employment, Ciavarella says one of the things she likes best about working at Basin Electric is the community and family involvement the cooperative encourages, such as Brave the Shave, Rebuilding Together, and the United Way Day of Caring, as well as all the events it holds throughout the year that bring employees and their families together. “My friends can’t believe everything Basin does for its employees, their families, and the community,” she says. “Everyone knows Basin is a great company, but you really don’t understand until you work here.”

Chelsy-bees

Chelsy Ciavarella sometimes gets put in unusual situations as part of her job as a photographer for Basin Electric, such as the time she had to put on a bee suit during a photo shoot at the Glenherold Mine. 

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