From Graduate to Chief Executive

Chief Executive John Pettigrew joined National Grid as a graduate nearly 26 years ago. Here he reflects on what he’s learned along his route to the top.

Nearly 26 years ago, I walked across Blackfriars Bridge in London, a fresh-faced, excited economics graduate heading for my first day with National Grid. Today I walk to work as Chief Executive – and I couldn’t be more honoured.

During those 26 years, I’ve worked in pretty much every part of the business, in at least 12 different jobs and moved house seven times. This included spending three years in the US as executive vice-president of Distribution and Generation (ED&G).   

With each move, my responsibility increased and my understanding of the business deepened. I’ve had many experiences and met many incredible people.

Reach out for opportunities

One thing I learned early in my career was the value of networking. People I established links with 26 years ago remain part of my network of colleagues. Some work in National Grid, some have moved elsewhere, but I still rely on them.  

Getting a broad range of experience in my 20s and not being too impatient about moving up the ladder was also valuable. I think a career is like a pyramid; the broader the base, the higher up you can climb. And at the top you need those experiences, skills and knowledge.

You also have to take responsibility for your own career, reach out for the opportunities and make a career path for yourself. Thanks to National Grid, I’ve been able to reach my potential while loving what I do. For that I’m grateful. It’s simply a great place to work and I know from responses to our employee survey that many of our people feel the same way.


It’s an exciting time to be in the energy industry too. The scale and pace of change is unlike anything we’ve seen before. This is why over the last 12 months we’ve spent time defining our purpose, vision, values and strategic priorities, which will position National Grid for the future. 

I’m a strong believer that an organisation like National Grid needs to be a purpose-led organisation – purpose matters to our customers, our employees and the communities where we live and work. Our purpose is to ‘Bring Energy to Life’ and, together with our vision and values, it will guide the organisation on why we exist and what we stand for.  

The simplicity and clarity of our purpose, vision and values will bring tangible benefits. We expect it to help us attract and retain the best talent and guide our business on where and how we need to improve performance.

We’re encouraging our employees to put our stakeholders at the heart of everything we do – and instilling in them a greater sense of social responsibility. This will help us to be a more progressive and successful organisation.  

At National Grid everyone, from the leadership team to the frontline, has a vital role to play.

Here’s to creating our future – together.

Published: June 2017