Not many colleagues can say they raced a concrete canoe together in college. But ATC’s Joe Barritt and Tim Leonard can.
Joe is now a transmission line engineer with ATC, and Tim is an associate scheduler with ATC’s project controls office. The two met while they were pursuing their bachelor’s degrees in engineering from UW‑Milwaukee. As students, they were both active in the American Society of Civil Engineers, which holds an annual concrete canoe race near the University of Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend, Ind.
Roughly seven years after graduating, now they’re in the same boat again – not as students this time, but instead as colleagues. And it’s no coincidence.
Joe and Tim are just two of the many employees who work at ATC thanks to the referral of a friend, family member or professional contact.
Joe started at ATC in 2011 after another friend who worked at ATC recommended that he apply. Then, six years later, Joe encouraged Tim to submit his application for an open scheduler position.
At the time, Tim was on the job hunt looking for opportunities for career growth with an organization that provided flexibility for him to be there for his two‑year‑old son.
“I knew Tim was looking for something,” said Barritt. “We’d been talking for years before about ATC and why I enjoy working here – the culture, the fact that we have excellent work‑life balance. I wouldn’t have suggested he apply unless I was confident he would like it here and that he would be a good fit.”
After submitting his application and interviewing, Tim was hired in March 2017.
“It’s even better than what I thought it would be,” said Tim. “I can’t say enough good things about the work‑life balance. I have the resources to be successful in my position, along with the flexibility to be with my family.”
In fact, 25 percent of new hires at ATC from January through June 2017 were referred by a current ATC employee. Nick Robinson, ATC safety manager, is part of that 25 percent.
Nick was searching for positions that would allow him continued growth in his career in safety. His mother, Kathi Robinson, special projects administrator, had been with ATC since 2005. She encouraged Nick to apply.
“I knew we had some openings in the safety department,” said Kathi. “Because I’ve worked here for so many years, I have a good sense of the kinds of people who excel here – people with plenty of drive and people who give 100 percent. I knew that was Nick.”
Nick applied to a number of organizations. But he decided on ATC because he recognized that safety is a top priority throughout the organization.
“Safety is somewhat unique in that it can be very rewarding or very frustrating. It comes down to the organization, structure and leadership. It’s very evident how deeply ingrained safety is to ATC’s culture. I interviewed at dozens of organizations, and ATC’s commitment to safety truly stood out to me.”
Nick said that after he started at ATC, that commitment to safety became even more evident.
“I would be walking around and employees I hadn’t even met yet would come up to me, shake my hand, and tell me how glad they were that I was there. That really resonated with me,” he said.
Though they’re colleagues, Nick and Kathi work in different departments at different offices. They don’t report to the same leaders, and they say they hardly ever see each other at work.
“We have our own niches at ATC, and that’s how it should be,” said Kathi.
Both Nick and Tim say they’ve been learning more about ATC as an organization and about the utility industry as a whole since their first days. They both say they’re looking forward to growing in their roles, developing their skills and contributing to ATC long‑term.
“Being in the atmosphere of the project lifecycle, I am learning about many different aspects of ATC. I know there are opportunities for growth here, and it’s good to know that as I progress, I’ll be able to move around to those different roles,” said Tim.
“This has been a great move for me,” said Nick. “We are fully staffed and operational, and we’re hitting the ground running. My role in safety has always been to make the organization more successful, and we’re doing that here.”
This year, ATC ranks 25 on the national list, which is based on more than more than 385,000 employee surveys from companies across the U.S.
Great Place to Work® evaluated more than 50 elements of team members’ experiences on the job. These included employee pride in the organization’s community impact, belief that their work makes a difference, and feeling their work has special meaning.
ATC is proud to give back to the communities where employees live and work. Our employees are generous supporters to local United Way campaigns, Habitat for Humanity, United Performing Arts Fund and many more. Protecting the environment is very important to all of us at ATC. Our environmental stewardship includes financial support for numerous environmental programs and groups, and our Matching Gifts Program supports employee donations to arts, environmental and educational organizations.
Scroll through the gallery to see some of the ways employees showed they care about their communities in 2017.
Middle school students throughout Wisconsin have some big ideas about how cities could be better designed in the future. Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students shared their ideas at the Future City Competition last month at Milwaukee School of Engineering during Wisconsin’s regional competition. And American Transmission Co. employees had the opportunity to share in the students’ positive energy.
Future City is a national program that encourages students to use science, technology, engineering and math to solve real‑world problems. This year, students across the country designed a city that addressed age‑related accessibility issues. They created a virtual city, wrote a 1,500‑word essay, created a physical scale model, drafted a project plan, and presented their city to judges. The team from St. Alphonsus School in Greendale, Wis., won the Wisconsin regional competition. The team is headed to Washington, D.C. to compete in the finals in February.
For Wisconsin’s regional competition, the Southeast Wisconsin chapter of Project Management Institute chose to offer its own award, the PMI Planning Award, to a team that presented an outstanding project. Three ATC employees who are members of Project Management Institute, Cerise Reed, senior desktop administrator; Devonne Wilhoit, business relationship manager; and Cheryl Nowak, business relationship manager, helped select the winner of the PMI Planning Award.
“The criteria for the project management award included showing consistent understanding of communication, collaboration, planning, prioritizing, effective problem solving and time management,” said Wilhoit.
The team from Golda Meir School in Milwaukee won the PMI Planning award.
“It is so inspiring to see the energy, compassion and technical curiosity that these young groups bring to our community,” said Wilhoit. “The ideas presented were very well thought out. It is an honor to support our leaders of the future and to be a part of their forward thinking of how they can contribute to what is to come.”
ATC is committed to supporting quality STEM education. ATC employees frequently visit middle and high schools throughout ATC’s service area to share their own stories about successful careers in STEM. ATC also helps schools design projects that give students real‑world experience solving engineering problems.
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, each American Transmission Co. office held a Soup-er Bowl to help support local food pantries. Employees stirred up their favorite recipes for soup and chili and shared them with co-workers in exchange for a donation to help feed the hungry.
Together the donations totaled $1,108.81, benefiting Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin, Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay and St. Vincent De Paul food pantry in Iron Mountain, Mich. That is truly Soup-er support for our community!
Gail Wagner, consultant system control operator, has been with American Transmission Co. since it was founded in 2001 as the nation’s first multi-state transmission-only utility. She says she has stayed with ATC all these years because she knows the company cares about her and about what’s most important to her.
Today, Wagner works in ATC’s control center, operating the grid in real time. She helps move electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s needed through ATC’s network of transmission infrastructure, coordinating with crews performing maintenance in the field. While careful planning goes into operating the grid, when storms arise or the unexpected happens, Wagner and the other system control operators must be ready to respond.
“I love what I do. I love the hectic pace it could bring. I love the interaction with the people out in the field. Every day I come to work, it’s going to be different. I do take a lot of pride in my job,” said Wagner.
Thinking on her feet comes naturally to Wagner. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Emergency Medical Service in Lake Mills, Wis. When she goes out on a call, Wagner may administer medications and help start intravenous fluids for people in medical emergencies.
“It matters to me that ATC does value my work as a Lake Mills EMS volunteer. ATC did support our fundraiser this year, gave a nice donation to our organization to help that cause,” she said.
Since she started at ATC, Wagner has moved to four different positions, learning the organization and what it takes to operate the grid. She says that ATC is a great place for motivated individuals who are willing to learn.
“ATC will open the doors, give you all the training you need, and from there, you can become whatever it is you want to become. You have your future in your own hands,” she said.
If you’re interested in working with Wagner and other talented system operators at ATC, check out our careers page to search open positions.