Basin Electric executive shares wisdom, inspires others at national women’s conference

Susan Sorensen, Basin Electric vice president and treasurer, shared her experiences as a leader in the energy industry at the EUCI Leadership Conference for Women in Energy. “It’s good that you’re different. That’s what brings value to the table,” she says.

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.”
~ Margaret Fuller

Knowledge sharing at work happens in a variety of ways. It can be as easy as asking coworkers for feedback and insight. And it can also happen outside the office with people sharing best practices and sidesteps.

Susan Sorensen, Basin Electric vice president and treasurer, recently shared her experiences as a leader in the energy industry with more than 200 women at the EUCI Leadership Conference for Women in Energy.

This event helps female energy professionals advance their careers in a traditionally male industry by connecting women to “share their industry knowledge, strategies and experiences on how to accelerate positive organizational change and personal growth.”

Sorensen was invited to serve as a panelist, joining three other women in the energy industry to talk about skills and techniques for becoming a better leader.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Sorensen says. “It’s all women who work in energy. Part of the reason it’s such a fantastic conference is that the women who spoke are powerful. They made you sit back and think, ‘Wow! They can do this, and they just taught me I can, too.’”

Sorensen notes the other reason the conference excels is due to the mixture of people, representing different stages of a career and job functions. “It’s not just for executives or people who achieved a certain title. Some attendees were just starting in their careers and others were up and comers. Plus we represented the various functions in the industry.”

Here are some of the tips Sorensen and her fellow panelists shared:

On being the only female in the room or at the table

“If you’re invited into a room, you’re invited to the room for a purpose. That purpose might be to sit, listen, and learn. That’s OK. But you’re invited to be at the table for a reason, own it. Take advantage of it. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you’re surrounded by 20 men. As a female, you may bring a unique perspective or approach that ultimately adds value to the purpose of the meeting.”

On setting goals

Sorensen and her fellow panelists had different views on goals. One panelists was a die-hard goal setter who executed to achieve those goals.

Sorensen’s message was different. “I never have and never will set long-term goals because too many things can change,” she says.

She instead offers these words of advice:

  • Don’t box yourself in.
  • Stay on the balls of your feet.
  • It’s great to have goals, but they don’t necessarily have to be tangible (like a certain title, position, or dollar amount associated with them).
  • If you are a person who has to have a very tangible goal, be OK from diverting from that and taking an alternative path. And don’t view it as a failure, but as seizing an opportunity.
  • Work hard and stay true to your character.

On being your authentic self – instead of feeling like you need to be one of the guys

“It’s good that you’re different. That’s what brings value to the table. Have the courage to own it. If you’re invited to the room, bring those positive traits. Being female certainly doesn’t make us better, but it surely doesn’t make us less competent either. As a female, we need to remember to get out of our own way.”

“Have courage. Be confident in it. Don’t be intimidated. Ask the questions that aren’t getting asked even though it may be uncomfortable. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

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