September 14, 2021

Tech Leaders Hiring Well featuring PPL Electric Utilities


Episode Highlights

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Data analytics is prevalent everywhere in today’s world. Abhijit Bhatwadekar is the Head of Data & Analytics at PPL Electric, the electric utility company for the state of Pennsylvania. Abhijit has a unique vision on how to utilize data analytics to utilize green energy, manage the grid, and deliver safe, reliable energy. Abhijit is responsible for growing a team focused on the Internet of Things, machine learning and AI. We dive into how PPL Electric utilizes data, their culture, and what to expect when interviewing with them.

Episode Transcript

All right. Welcome Abhijit Bhatwadekar, head of data and analytics over at PPL Electric utilities. Thanks for joining Tech Leaders Hiring Well. Really happy to have you! Thanks Zac. It’s always a pleasure. It’s great to be here.

Abhijit, just wanted to kind of connect with you, understand how you’ve grown into the position you are in today. Yeah, thanks. Great question. I would consider it as part experience and part luck, right?

You have to be at the right place at the right time to kind of get an opportunity as well. But I think that the foundation of it has always been a solid educational background and then a variety of experience across the board. So whether it’s heavy technology focused or diving into like the business strategy and then exploring new ideas and new initiatives.

Those all have led me to where I am currently over at PPL Electric. Okay. Awesome. That’s great. In your role at PPL Electric, what is the position? What do you guys do over there? So PPL Electric serves the Pennsylvania community and we are a transmission and distribution company for electric utilities. And what we do here is that we make sure that we have safe and reliable electricity provided to our customers. And at the same time, on the flip side from an employee perspective, safety is our number one priority. So anything that we do safety is of prime concern.

So it’s pretty much rooted in our values. That’s very high level what PPL Electric does. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. How does data and analytics play into all of that? Yeah. Good question. So PPL Electric is going through a digital transformation and as part of that, one of the core areas is to invest in the data and analytics area.

It’s primarily driven with two or three things, right? One is, we want to continue to enhance our grid and enhance our smart grids that we currently have. And as part of that, we get a lot of data that gets produced as part of the grids being smart. And how do we actually take that and apply it back to the grids to maintain them, to ensure that they are working at an optimal level so that we can continue to provide even more reliable energy.

Then the second aspect is we’re moving towards a clean energy initiative as well as distributed energy resources. So layering in those aspects where we don’t just have the power plant generating electricity, but really having electricity come into multiple sources and how does all of that come in and ensure the reliability of the grid are some of the major initiatives.

Wow, that’s fascinating. And where is PPL Electric as a company right now? Are you guys in growth mode? Are you looking to hire? Yes. So we are in tremendous growth mode. So PPL Electric if you look back, like we are a hundred year old company but it operates like a startup, right? There are several initiatives that I just talked about, right,

focused around the grid, smart grid enhancements, going through and investing in the clean energy and then also distributed energy resources. So all of these activities that we’re looking to advance on requires capabilities that are unique. Part being that utilities has grown tremendously over the past few years, and it’s almost turning the Horner.

So from a data analytics, as well as overall, we’re looking at growth opportunities for PPL Electric. Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. What are some of, kind of the challenges you guys are facing today that you’re looking to tackle and how are you looking to solve that with some of the hires you’re looking to bring on? Any specific positions that you guys are excited about bringing on?

That’s a tough one. There are always challenges when it comes to talent, right? What we’re looking for is diverse talent, right? We’re looking for talent that comes in from a variety of industries, right? People who have experienced in other industries, not necessarily utilities. They bring a new perspectives, new ways of thinking,

right. We’re also looking for a global experience, individuals who have worked in global companies bring in a different view in terms of cultural adoption, right? If you work with global teams who work with different cultures, you can bring some of that back into PPL Electric. So those are some of the areas that we’re looking for from a talent perspective.

Okay. Yeah and I mean, you came outside of the utilities business as well.

How has it been adapting to kind of working with PPL Electric and what’s exciting about it? Yeah, so prior to PPL Electric not having utility experience, but I have to tell you, like PPL Electric from a company culture perspective is very warm and open. What I noticed right off the bat is, everyone was welcoming me to the company and me being based in Chicago and started off remote, adds a little bit of a complexity as well. But the company overall has a good sense of belonging as well as taking care of their employees.

So that company culture is good everywhere. So for me to get situated and get familiar with PPL Electric was very, very easy. And it’s almost to the point that it’s infectious that new people are starting on after I joined. It’s the same trend that I’ve seen. Okay.

That’s great.

As far as going through the interview process with PPL Electric, what would you recommend to folks that are considering PPL Electric as a career move and maybe moving towards an interview process? Any recommendation from your own experience or as a hiring manager yourself?

Yeah. So I’ll take that question in two parts. So when we hire at PPL Electric, what we try to do is we try to look at the candidate from a 360 view. So in the technical space, what we do is we do a technical screening based on the role description. We also then supplement it with like craft exercises and some design thinking exercises. So that gives us a view of are they flexible? Can they think outside the box and so on. And then we top it off with behavioral based questions. That really gets us to know their personality and how they are viewed as from within their team as well as from the outside.

So that gives us a complete 360 lens on the candidate. When we do hire them, we know that we found the right candidate. Okay, awesome. Awesome. What challenges are you looking forward to in the next 12 months or so at PPL Electric that could maybe get potential candidates excited?

So data analytics is a hot space in which we’re investing heavily and the challenges that we’re facing is moving towards enhancing our smart grids. So anything related to IOT, anything related to distributing energy, clean energy, those are key areas where analytics is at the forefront.

We’re looking at analytics to help operationalize as well as redefine and refresh some of our ways of working, right. And so it’s an extremely interesting space that we’re in and over in the data and analytics organization, we’re looking for anyone and everyone, right?

We have roles open from data architecture to data engineers, to technical leads, to data governance analysts, machine learning engineers. So the whole spectrum is available because it’s such an interesting space and it’s poised for growth. Awesome. Awesome. Anytime I hear that IOT, I know it gets everybody pretty excited.

So excited to hear that you guys are getting more involved in that. Awesome. Well, is there any positions, I know you talked about some right there, but any positions specifically you want to promote here before we wrap up or anything specifically you can fill us in more on PPL Electric that may be worth knowing about for potential candidates applying?

Yeah, absolutely. So a couple of things. One, I’ll give a couple of, I’ll give a few positions that are key. So we’re looking at data architects and IOT architects to help us with some of the things I mentioned earlier. As well as on the flip side, looking at the machine learning architects, engineers, and AI based analytical models,

right. So help in that space are- so those are the two areas that we’re actively hiring for. From PPL Electric’s perspective, I mentioned a little bit about the culture of being warm and open. From an employee perspective, the culture is also, we call constructive culture, which means we allow the employees to innovate and be themselves, right? At the same time deliver results.

So it’s kind of an open atmosphere for people or open environment for people to actually, thrive in. We also then, for the employees have a plan talk, thrive, sort of a framework that does regular check-ins with their employees or with their managers and they get feedback from the managers as well as

other areas or other team members that they work with on a regular basis. So this helps in their advancement of career as well as we offer them wellbeing and support. So all in all, this wraps up how the employee experience would line up at PPL Electric. Awesome. Well it sounds like a phenomenal company. Sounds like you’ve landed in a great place and really appreciate the insight and kind of sharing with us kind of your experience and evolution over time.

Really appreciate you joining Tech Leaders Hiring Well Abhijit. And best of luck moving forward. Well thank you Zac for having me here.

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