Recognizing our IT Professionals for their Role in Transformational Projects

Often behind the scenes, IT professionals are critical to the success of any organization. They are the masters behind internet security, software development, programming, servers, networks and so much more that goes undetected in typical business life.

The truth of it is, we owe a great deal of our success and business operations to our IT team members, who keep things chugging behind the scenes. 

This month, we’re highlighting a few of our IT professionals who play an indispensable role at Essential, Aqua and Peoples.

Lisa Folino is a manager in financial applications with Peoples Natural Gas in Pittsburgh, Pa. She started her career in accounting and fell into the IT world almost accidentally when she took a position in SAP security at Bayer. She is currently the financial functional lead for technology.

Jeannette Davis is a manager in asset management applications who started her career with Equitable Gas in 2001. She joined the Peoples team after the merger and has been in an IT role for her entire career, beginning as an IT lead for SAP application. Prior to Equitable, she worked as a systems analyst at US Steel during and after college, and then for a consulting company.

Sandya Kaushik is a corporate systems analyst for Aqua and has been with the company for 19 years. Her background is in electronics engineering, but she took an interest in computer programming. Prior to joining Aqua, she was an Oracle database programmer and a programmer analyst for AT&T and Merrill Lynch.

With no shortage of business growth on the horizon, it’s clear that professional development is celebrated and encouraged throughout Aqua and Peoples. The message is simple: if you like the work, there is plenty of opportunity. Sandya elaborated on this, stating “I like to seek things out that challenge me and allow me to be a problem-solver and critical thinker. I don’t limit myself to one thing – I love to try new things, even if it’s outside my comfort zone.”

All three were in agreement that a key factor in their individual success is the ability to build relationships and bridge the gaps between systems and departments. “If you can talk both languages and understand how the system works, understand the business process, and bridge gaps in communication, you’ll be successful in implementing new projects,” said Jeannette. “You need to be able to talk to the developers in the same way that you would talk to the business users.”

They also spoke to the importance of building relationships and being flexible. “Building relationships is paramount,” said Lisa. “You could be the smartest person in the room, but if you don’t have the ability to build relationships, your career will suffer.” Sandya agreed, stating “one of the most crucial things I learned was that everyone has a different style. To be successful, I needed to learn how to adapt to different working styles and be flexible.”

When it comes to their current work and transformational projects, it’s clear that all of their work is crucial to the overall success of the company. Lisa’s current role is helping to drive the business forward by transitioning Aqua to SAP. “This is a huge priority, giving them a chance to use the best technology to be more successful,” she says. “I take pride in all of my work. Company-wide initiatives and driving change are things that make me proud, because I can see the impact that I have on the business.”

The biggest project of Jeannette’s career was the Equitable Gas conversion into SAP for customer relations and billing systems. “This conversion went as smooth as a project could and provided a ton of learning opportunity for me,” she says. “At Equitable, I was customer relations and billing focused. Once I joined Peoples I switched to enterprise asset management, which was a whole new world for me. Being able to take what I knew and use that as the basis to learn a new business really had a profound impact on me.”

Sandya plays an instrumental role as well, focusing on application integrations and making sure data is flowing from one system to the other accurately. Once she switched from programming to a business analyst, she got more interaction with the business. “The business users are our internal clients,” she says. “This was intriguing to me. I love moving things forward and finding solutions.”

When asked what they like most about their roles and the company, all three responded similarly and spoke to the importance of growth, respect and responsibility. “We make people’s lives better by providing a service that helps people,” Lisa said. “The company truly cares about its customers. Volunteering is very important, and we are provided with many opportunities to impact our local community.”

Sandya is fond of the stability and work environment, remarking that the visibility at Aqua is great. “I really enjoy working with all different groups of people. In IT, you’re not working in a silo; you have an opportunity to collaborate as a big team. Everyone is just so wonderful and comes together with one goal in mind: to get the job done.”

Jeannette agrees about the people and the fulfillment of helping make their lives better. “I’ve worked with a lot of business users over the years, and the best part of the job is seeing how you make their lives easier. You truly see the impact of your work! That’s the best part.”

The fact that so many opportunities exist to grow your career with the company is just icing on the cake. “There are plenty of cross-functional opportunities to move around the company since we are in so many states, Sandya remarked. Jeannette agreed, adding “the ability to change between different areas of the business provides for a more well-rounded experience.”

Of course, any good organization knows the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Aqua and Peoples are no different. Jeannette noticed the deliberate focus on making it a priority. “This is the most critical first step – acknowledging it and increasing awareness. We know that diverse backgrounds and perspectives are so important.”

Lisa shared her own thoughts on it, stating frankly, “everyone should be treated the same, period. Fairness is really important, having respect for each other, having conversations with management, and supporting each other – we need to have these conversations.”

Fortunately, Sandya has been there long enough to see changes of the DE&I initiatives. “I feel welcomed at the company. We celebrate and respect everyone’s culture, race, religion. We have employees from all parts of the world, and that is a good thing.”

The company’s IT team members are essential in every sense of the word – vital, indispensable, crucial and fundamental to the success of our company and our mission to provide the world’s most essential utilities. We celebrate them every day. Thank you to Lisa, Jeannette and Sandya for sharing your stories. 

This is part of the Essential People and Culture blog series.