More Power to Her
“I was going to be an astronaut,” Sheila Ketterer, currently working as director of distribution project and construction management with PPL, said. “Working at a utility company wasn’t in my plan at all.”
Yet, working with a utility company is exactly where she finds herself today — and she has found it to be a sometimes challenging but also very satisfying and rewarding experience.
Ketterer grew up in Ocean City, Maryland, and attended Georgia Institute of Technology on an NROTC scholarship. She majored in mechanical engineering with a minor in German.
“I graduated from Georgia Tech in 1991 and received my commission in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Adak, Alaska, for my first duty station as a cryptologist,” she said.
She then took orders that moved her back to Maryland, and while working at Fort Meade there, she met her future husband. They married in 1997.
Today, her husband is retired military, currently working for the Department of Defense, and the couple has three “amazing” sons, Ketterer said.
In 2007, she went back to school to obtain a master’s degree, which she completed in 2011. Ketterer nurtured a career with Verizon from 1996–2015 before she began working for PPL EU in 2015.
“I had intended to stay in the Navy for a career,” she said. “When I met my husband, however, I reevaluated that and decided to leave the military and pursue something in the civilian world that was aligned with my education and the skill sets I developed in the Navy.”
Working with Verizon for nearly 20 years fit that bill nicely, but when she decided to look for a change, Ketterer was excited to find a position at PPL that was the “perfect opportunity for me,” she said.
Her first assignment with PPL would be to head the meter replacement project, and since she had been responsible for the fiber build for Maryland/Washington, D.C./Virginia for Verizon, it was exactly the right fit to begin her career with PPL.
In 2018, Ketterer moved into her current position with PPL.
“Day to day, I’m focused on providing assistance, support, and direction to my team in order to deliver on the goals and objectives we have for the coming year, as well as preparing for future needs,” she said.
A few of the current projects she is working on with her team include process improvements surrounding workflow and work optimization, efficiency improvements in the inventory process, and looking for innovative ways to ensure compliance to policies around their third-party pole attachments while overseeing ongoing maintenance of the large number of utility poles covered in her territory.
Of course, no matter what else is happening, her “overall goal is to keep the lights on for our customers,” she said.
“We all have key storm roles and responsibilities, so that when there are significant storm projections or any inclement weather impacts to our customers, our sole priority is to restore service safely and efficiently.”
Preparedness is key. Ketterer recalls that the biggest unusual event she has ever been involved with during her time at PPL so far was Winter Storm Riley.
“We do a number of drills and exercises to prepare for events like that, utilizing lessons learned and hearing what worked well across the entire company,” she said. “Being a part of an organization that knows what to do, has practiced it, and then executes it to make sure our customers receive the service they require is very exciting and rewarding.”
As a professional woman with a STEM background, has Ketterer found that her gender has been a challenge throughout her career so far?
“I would agree it has been a challenge, although not in a negative way,” she said.
Having studied engineering, a predominantly male discipline particularly in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Ketterer is glad to see that now, 30 years later, women in STEM fields are more accepted.
“I was always very aware that I had to fight harder to be taken seriously and work harder to prove that I deserved to be where I was,” she said.
The field she chose during her military career, cryptology, was predominantly male as well, and at the time she served, she was “not allowed to be assigned to the same surface commands as my male counterparts,” she said.
Things have changed, and Ketterer considers that she might have stayed in the military if she had some of the opportunities that women have now.
“I am so encouraged by the focus on inclusion that has taken hold,” she said.
Watching an idea move from a concept, to a plan, to execution, to having a positive impact for her team and the company is one of the best things about her job, Ketterer said.
“It is always amazing to me to see a team come together; bring their experience, knowledge, and drive; and turn a concept into reality,” she said.
Although her current team is fairly new and consists of a variety of folks with very different backgrounds, Ketterer is “very excited to have all of these different personalities and experience levels,” she said.
“That is so important to innovation and creativity.”
As for her management style, she firmly believes that “if you take care of your people, they will take care of the work. I provide them clear direction, challenging goals, and the support to achieve them … I learn something new from everyone on my team, and I’ve been able to grow a great deal in the last few years,” she said.
Throughout her career, either with the Navy, in her work with Verizon, or in her current position with PPL, Ketterer has always been happy to provide guidance to people who “were looking for mentorship,” she said.
A firm believer in community involvement, through PPL, Ketterer participates in team efforts that work to support various school and community entities. She also recently joined the board of directors for Turning Point of Lehigh Valley and is “thrilled to share my continued commitment and support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association locally in Lancaster,” she said.
An avid motorcycle rider, Ketterer belongs to the Lancaster Harley Owners Group (HOG), where she and other members of the group are “definitely linked with the MDA and do a number of fundraisers, rides, and annual events.”
Additionally, she is excited about the fact that “as I track my volunteer hours for MDA with the local HOG chapter, PPL graciously donates $1,000 if I volunteer over 40 hours in a year. I couldn’t be more proud to work for a company that supports our communities in so many ways.”
Along the way, Ketterer said that she has definitely “learned that I am resilient, that I can learn from my mistakes and move on … I can do anything I put my mind to. I’ve had such a diverse career, changed jobs regularly, made difficult decisions for me and my family, and experienced setbacks as well that have brought me to where I am today.”
She doesn’t know for sure where she’ll be tomorrow, but she does have one goal that she has every intention of reaching: to ride across the United States on her motorcycle, starting in Ocean City, Maryland, and making her way to Sacramento, California.
As Ketterer said, “Growing up in OC, and seeing that sign every day — Sacramento, 3,083 miles — put the idea in my head, and I’ve never been able to shake it — so I’ll have to do it!”