Championing diversity and hard work

As one of the first female technicians in our US Gas business’ Maintain and Construction division, Rea Plummer has been a torchbearer for diversity. Rea describes how she’s progressed her career by keeping an open mind to personal development and through hard work.

I joined the company in 2009 as a gas meter reader in Brooklyn, New York. And although I also had a spell in customer services too, it was the technical side of the business that attracted me – I’m practical and like to work with my hands.

I was sure to let people know I was interested in opportunities to develop, so when I got the chance to try for a field role as a technician I took the test and passed.

That meant working on 30” and 48” gas mains pipelines out in the field – tough work and often in tough conditions, as it can get really cold in New York. This sort of role had traditionally been done by men, so having a woman turn up to join the team took some adjustment for them.

It was difficult at first, as it was all very new to me. And I was the first woman in the Maintain and Construct division of our gas business. But we’re in a new age of diversity, with greater equality and more opportunities opening up – I stuck to it, and over time I progressed to become a B mechanic. If I hadn’t eventually switched to a new role as a supervisor earlier this year, I’d still be doing it and I’m sure that I’d have been on course to be an A mechanic by now.

In my view, a career’s not really a career without there being challenges in it.

I wanted to continue looking at opportunities, to learn about National Grid and see what it had to offer in what was becoming a more diverse and inclusive environment. I took other opportunities to become really involved in work-related activities, such as committee roles for the union. It all helped me stretch myself and develop. I wanted to expand my horizons further, and I do like a challenge. In my view, a career’s not really a career without there being challenges in it.

You need others around you to support you too. I had great mentors, who always got me to see that however difficult things were, it was just another challenge to overcome. Mentors can pick you up when you’re at a low ebb, and help you see that the challenges are part of everyday life. Overall, it’s helped make me a stronger person.

I’m a mentor too now, as my own experiences showed me there’s so much we can do to help others see the world in a different way.

I feel really good about how National Grid looked at my situation – a female union employee who wanted to develop, and to do field work. The company gave me that opportunity. I’m grateful for that, and also proud that I took the opportunity and worked hard to get where I am now.