Ruth Prideaux - Mechanical Engineer
Tell me a bit about your career path thus far. What did you study, and how did you come to be in your current position?
After I graduated from Virginia Tech with a Mechanical Engineering degree, I was hired on at Dominion Energy (then Virginia Power) into the Nuclear Licensing group. I’ve moved several times in my career - from the Nuclear Support team, to Commercial Operations, Energy Efficiency, back to Nuclear, then to Mergers and Acquisitions, and finally into my current role as Director for Generation Construction Projects. I enjoy working for Dominion Energy because although there is no pre-approved rotation plan. If you want to move within the company, you have every ability and opportunity to do so, as long as you branch out and network to find what interests you.
Looking back 5 or 10 years, would you have seen yourself working in renewable energy today? What has been the most challenging part of your current position? And how have you managed or overcome that challenge?
10 years ago I never would have guessed I would have a career in renewable energy – Dominion had a very small renewable energy portfolio until a relatively short time ago. Now, as the company has grown organically with the decreasing cost of solar installations, the most challenging part of my job is keeping up with the fast-paced construction timelines. A solar project spans only the course of a year, with hard deadlines due to federal regulations. Construction can take as little as six months, and the key to success is finding and maintaining a dedicated team willing to put in the time and get the project done on schedule.
What are the most important decisions you must make as a Director for a large company?
Finding the right people to make up a successful team is the most critical aspect of being a leader. A perfect candidate is not just one who looks great on a resume, but someone who has the right skillset and diversity of thought to bring new perspectives to the team as a whole. It doesn’t help my team or me to hire someone who has the same background or who thinks exactly like me – you need someone who will bring a completely different set of skills to the table. Because once you build a good team of diverse and talented individuals, together they can do anything.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a leader? What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? What is the key to developing the next generation of leaders?
I don’t think I ever realized that I wanted to be a leader; I just grew into it over time. I had great supervisors along the way that continued to give me projects and responsibilities that helped me to grow into the leader I am now. I think that every leader should be a great listener. Sometimes, as a leader, I know the least about what is happening with any given project. If everything is going well, my team doesn’t need me. It’s when they run into problems that they may need my help, and I need to be able to ask the right questions, understand what is going on, and help address the issue in the best way I can.
If you could recommend a restaurant or favorite activity in or around the city for a new Richmonder to try, what would it be?
I would say spend a whole day in Carytown! I enjoy walking up and down Cary Street, stopping in some kitschy stores, listening to the street performers, enjoying a nice meal at a local spot, and getting some ice cream at Bev’s! Carytown is eclectic, fun, and a great snapshot of all Richmond has to offer!
Do you have any advice for young women about to begin a career or an education in the STEM/Engineering fields?
Try things that are out of your comfort zone! Too often, young women aren’t being taught to be courageous. Trust me, science isn’t scary! Resolve to learn more about the field, and find what really sparks you. We need more women in STEM fields. Bringing them into technical discussions helps make all solutions more complete. Women bring so many things to the table – we need to encourage young women to study math and science and coding, even when its complicated... Just be persistent to power through setbacks.