Erica Bennett - Electrical Engineer

Can you talk a little bit about your background?

I was born and raised right here in Richmond, Virginia – aside from college, I’ve lived in the same house my entire life! In high school, I attended a specialty center for engineering studies. This inspired me to pursue Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in May of 2015. I’ve been working for Dominion Power at Chesterfield Power Station ever since graduation.

You are still very much a young professional - what has your career path been like so far? In what direction do you see your career heading?

I started my career with Dominion as an intern the summer after my sophomore year of college. I interned with the Electrical Engineering group at a corporate office in Richmond. The next summer, I worked at a power plant in Chesterfield. I found that I very much enjoyed the power plant environment, and was thrilled when I was offered a full time position in the same location. I’ve been working full time as a plant engineer since August of 2015, and I am still learning new things every day. I love being able to work alongside craftspeople, engineers, operators, and managers to see projects through to completion. Being in this position has given me a unique window into the world of power generation. Eventually, I would like to focus my career on renewable energy generation, but for now I love my current position.

What was your favorite class, or what class did you find to be the most useful and applicable to the “real world”?

Of course, as evidenced by my career choice, my Power Systems courses were always my favorite! I loved that in my final two years of college, I was able to choose my own education path. Virginia Tech offered several concentrations to Electrical Engineers, and Power Systems courses involved learning about generators, transmission lines, and relay technology. I found these courses to be the most applicable to my career, but I also enjoyed them because my professors were always great. It makes a major difference in education experience when you have a professor that is dedicated to helping their students learn!

What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends? Do you have any hobbies?

My favorite weekend hobby is baking. I love trying new recipes and making new things, I am always in the kitchen cooking something up! Making cheesecake is my favorite, because you can add so many different flavors to change the overall taste of the dessert. And during the spring, I’m also super involved in FIRST Robotics. I’m a mentor for my former high school team and help them to plan fundraisers, work on the team business plan and prepare presentations to local businesses for sponsorship. I love working with the students and seeing them grow as they learn. And if I’m not baking or hanging around the robotics lab, I can usually be found trying out a new restaurant or brewery in or around Richmond!

What’s your current favorite TV Show? Any good reads lately?

In keeping with my other hobbies, I’m currently binge watching the Great British Baking Show on Netflix! I’m a total sucker for the beautiful desserts they create each week. I don’t know what I’ll do when I run out of episodes! I also just finished reading The Girl on the Train (has anyone seen the movie? Is it good?!) and am now working on To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve never read it and it was recommended to me by a good friend. I am enjoying it so far!

Do you have any role models? Mentors? Do you have any advice for younger girls who may be seeking a mentor?

Many of my mentors are former teachers from both high school and college. I believe the key to building a good mentor relationship is to always stay in touch. After I graduated high school, I continued to visit and communicate with my former teachers and robotics mentors. They helped me navigate through my college education and are still guiding me today. Cultivating a mentor relationship takes time, and it is important to put effort into appreciating your mentors and all they do for you.