Women in Energy: Emily Shults, Vice President of Energy Supply

Work hard. Prioritize relationships. Be kind. Be authentic. Be confident in yourself and your purpose. 

These aren’t just trite sayings. These are the values Emily Shults, vice president of Energy Supply at SDG&E, lives by. The values her mother instilled in her at a very young age, and how she chooses to live her life. 

Recently, Shults spoke at a women’s networking event during the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) conference in San Diego where market leaders, utilities and policymakers connect every year to further advance energy storage technology to provide a cleaner, safer and more reliable energy grid.

During the inspirational session, Shults opened up about her career path, leadership goals and the values that have helped ground her in mostly male-dominated fields in the energy industry.

Path to leadership

Right out of college, Shults got a job in public accounting with mostly oil and gas industry clients, which was her first exposure to a very male-centric industry. A strong work ethic and eager attitude eventually earned her the respect of leadership, which became a pattern in Shults’ career.

Through her 13-year career at Sempra Energy, SDG&E’s parent company, Shults did what she could to create her own opportunities that led to positons in asset management, energy trading, construction services, and now as the vice president of Energy Supply for SDG&E.

In this role, Shults oversees all aspects of acquiring, dispatching, operating, maintaining and payment for energy to serve the needs of our customers in the region.

“It’s an exciting time to be in my position and in the energy industry,” said Shults. “We get to be innovative and entrepreneurial in the utility space. We are searching for the best technologies to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers and opening possibilities for the future.”

Democratic leadership style

Strong leadership is intentional. It’s proactive. It’s collaborative. It’s empowering.

“I see leadership as being able to step out of your comfort zone into unknown territory, being confident, taking risks and driving change,” said Shults.

Shults is open about her democratic leadership style—including her team in the decision-making process. She aims to create a safe environment and build a foundation of trust that encourages people to share their opinions and ideas. They celebrate successes as a team and work through losses together.

Throughout her career, Shults has often been the only woman in the room. To ensure her voice is heard, she always comes prepared to speak up. She has worked hard to earn the respect and confidence of others while maintaining her own confidence and sense of purpose.

She presses herself to learn new things, utilize mentors and expand her network so that she has more to offer.

“The utility business is evolving at a rapid pace,” said Shults. “We need to be able to change along with it to be successful and remain relevant. This is no time to be stagnant. We need to keep pushing ourselves to be better.”

Steps to successful leadership

Shults closed her remarks to the room of professional women with some key takeaways that have helped in her own path to leadership:

  • Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, your area of expertise. If you are willing to try new things, consider new thoughts, you can go far.  A new, unknown or uncomfortable situation will always provide a learning opportunity. 
  • Be open to taking constructive feedback. Embracing those sometimes-tough discussions with your peers and leadership team that is meant to further develop your growth potential is necessary. It can be a gift – a gift given to you to make you better. Find a way to glean out the teachable nuggets.  And don’t forget to give that “gift” to someone else along the way.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do – always! No matter what.
  • Don’t underestimate the power and the value of face time and building relationships. In this day of advanced technology, too many of us hide behind on-line communication for ease and comfort. If we look up from our devices and actually talk with people, we will certainly learn something and perhaps build or expand our network and hopefully find some friends along the way.