Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

From undergraduate to vice-president

Meet Kelsey Gormley ‘07, University of Redlands trustee, president of the alumni association board of directors, alumna, and vice president of grid integration at Grid Subject Matter Experts (SME), an energy project solutions company. Recently, Bulldog Bites sat down with Kelsey to discuss her life’s journey and relentless Bulldog spirit.

 Bulldog Bites: Can you tell us about your journey and experiences leading up to your current career or endeavors? 

Kelsey Gormley: Graduating into the job market after the Great Recession allowed me to say "yes" to opportunities out of necessity that I otherwise would not have pursued. I graduated from U of R thinking I would become a history teacher, but since most school districts were laying off teachers and not hiring them, I decided to take a part-time internship in local government while I was still a student at U of R. I had decided to pursue a double major in history and government later in my college experience, mostly because I thought a history major might not be marketable by itself. Thankfully, my advisor, Barbara Morris, allowed me to use my local government internship experience to help meet the requirements for a second major in government. After graduation, I continued my internship because it made sense for me to see where public service could lead. In that role, I was introduced to the world of energy and had the chance to write my first grant application to support energy efficiency projects at city buildings. From there, I continued to network with professionals in the sustainability space and make the connections that would ultimately lead me to the role I have today. 

BB: What inspired you to pursue the path you're on today? 

KG: I've always been inspired by learning new things. I very much consider myself a lifelong learner, which has been instilled in me since my time as a student at Redlands. Once I started working in the energy field, I quickly realized that there were so many different facets of the industry that I could go into and learn about. I started working in energy efficiency, moved into energy generation, and now I work on the utility-scale generation, transmission, and delivery of electricity to the grid. I've also been inspired by the possibilities that clean energy technologies will unlock for us in the future. I feel like the work I am doing is making tangible progress toward a more sustainable future with every megawatt of clean electricity we bring onto the grid!

BB: Can you share any significant milestones or achievements from your career or personal life that you're particularly proud of? 

KG: I am most proud of the mentorship work I have been able to do with young women who are interested in careers in STEM fields. I participate every year in the Redlands Chapter of the American Association of University Women STEM Conference, speaking to eighth-grade girls from local school districts in Banning, Beaumont, Yucaipa, and Redlands about opportunities for them in the energy field. I hope someday to hire one of these young ladies to come work for me. 

In my capacity as a University trustee, I have had the opportunity to lead the University's efforts to enhance sustainability on campus — leading the Energy Task Force. We are working to install more energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning equipment and looking to install up to 1.5 MW of solar on campus in the future. It's been so fulfilling to be able to use my expertise in this area to benefit the University community that has given me so much. 

BB: How have you overcome challenges or obstacles, specifically those related to gender or other aspects of diversity? 

KG: The energy industry is traditionally dominated by males. I have been on conference calls where I am the only woman on the phone and it's my role to lead a difficult conversation or bring resolution to a challenge that the project is facing. It can be intimidating, but what I've realized is that treating everyone with respect and being confident in my skill set and knowledge base has gone a long way in making sure my male team members see me for what I am, a knowledgeable, trustworthy, subject matter expert who is acting in the best interests of everyone on the team. 

BB: What advice would you give to young women who aspire to follow in your footsteps? 

KG: I hear from a lot of soon-to-be graduates about what expectations they have for their first job out of college, and I have to admit, they are graduating into a much friendlier market than I did. Sometimes it seems like they have a specific role or idea in their head that they are willing to hold out for. I always tell them not to let an opportunity pass you by, especially if someone is willing to train you and mentor you. Being in the energy field never once crossed my mind while I was a student at U of R, but saying yes to an opportunity that wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted to be doing led me to a fulfilling and exciting career. 

BB: How do you balance your professional and personal life, and do you have any strategies for maintaining that balance? 

KG: I am fortunate that I get to work from home, but that does come with challenges as it relates to finding balance. It's really easy to stay in the office on my computer answering emails until 7 o'clock at night, but I have started a new habit of turning off my computer, closing my office door, and putting my phone upstairs once my workday is over and my family is home, so I don't get distracted. We are all entitled to unplug, even if we work remotely! I am so thankful that my husband, Steve, supports my success and career, and that we share the responsibilities of raising our family and taking care of our home. I also make time to stay connected to my other passions, outside of work, like running, reading, and traveling.

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