Energizing Your Future

Back to School Flashback with Trevor & Kathryn: What ATC team members wanted to be when they grew up

Editor’s Note: Now that students across the country are back in the classroom for a new school year, we asked American Transmission Co. team members to reflect on their youth and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Their stories represent paths to careers that ultimately help keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong.

Trevor Stiles, Senior legal counsel

Age: 7 Grade: 1

At the age the photo was taken, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an archaeologist, spending half my time studying Middle Eastern ruins and the other half of my time lecturing at the University of Oxford. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I decided on Oxford, but that was my childhood dream.


As a 7-year-old boy, my twin loves were history and digging holes. My three brothers and I lived in Florida for a few years where the soil was sandy and easy to dig in. We were constantly digging holes to bury treasure, build traps or construct fortifications of various sorts. At one point, I asked my mom what job I could have if I liked history and digging holes, and she recommended archaeology as a way to combine both of those loves.

How did you end up in your current career?

I entered undergrad as a pre-med biology major. We were required to take a broad slate of electives, and I was in a class studying Islamic history my freshman year when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. At that point, my elective course became much more of a focus for me. I changed my major to religious studies, with an emphasis on Islamic Gnosticism. While I considered pursuing a Ph.D. and teaching, my mentor recommended professional or grad school to evaluate other options—law seemed like a natural fit and has always been an interest of mine. So I applied to law school and attended Northwestern University.

As to why energy law, my dad is an environmental consultant who owns a small business. I grew up seeing pictures of power plants on the walls of his office, and I spent my college summers climbing smokestacks across the Midwest to do emissions testing.

Given that background, energy/environmental law made sense, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

I love working at ATC—the people are great, the culture is incredible, and I enjoy the variety of work that I get. I didn’t quite end up doing what I dreamed about as a farm kid in rural Ohio, but I’ve never regretted it for a second!


Kathryn Erdmann, Consultant regulatory project manager

Age: 10, Grade: 6

At the age the photo was taken, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had no idea.


At that time (in the late 1960s), from my perspective and based on my limited exposure, the career choices for girls seemed to be nuns, nurses, teachers, and secretaries – and I wasn’t really keen on being any of those.

How did you end up in your current career?

I was the second oldest of seven kids, and had no idea what to do after high school. My family did not have adequate funds to help me go to college. Yet, somehow I always knew I would eventually go to college at University of Wisconsin-Madison, because that is what my older sister did. After high school, I moved out to a ski town in Sun Valley, Idaho, for a couple of years. When I returned to Wisconsin, I qualified as a self-supporting student and was eligible to receive government grants and loans for higher education. Still now knowing what I wanted to be, I started a curriculum in the occupational therapy program at UW-Madison.

During my second semester, I had a major crisis, as I realized I had a great fear of public speaking and was starting to fall behind in the class. So, I decided to drop the class and change my major. A classmate on my dorm floor was studying to be a geologist, which I thought sounded really cool, though I was clueless about what a geologist really did. Coincidentally, my boyfriend at that time (and now husband), was taking an introductory class to geology and was constantly sharing his excitement about the lectures and the field of study. So, I switched things up and soon found myself heading down the path to become a geologist.

I also worked in the geology lab at Madison for many years processing glacial till samples. I conducted tests for grain size analysis, carbonate content and X-ray diffraction. I loved that I was finally connected with the outdoors again and participated in every field trip I could possibly afford.

After graduation, I worked in the field as an on-site geologist for a company doing uranium exploration in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Later, I moved back to Wisconsin and worked for 18 years at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – first as a water supply specialist, sampling and inspecting private and public water supply wells and systems, and then as a hydrogeologist-project manager in the remediation and redevelopment program, focusing on the clean-up and remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater and the redevelopment of brownfields. One of my colleagues there was exploring new job opportunities and was offered a position at ATC in the environmental department. Soon after, I found myself submitting an application to ATC, knowing that a window of opportunity had opened. The idea of learning a whole new industry had me rapt. The next thing I knew, I was offered a position at ATC in the state regulatory affairs department, which paired well with my nearly 20 years of experience at a regulatory agency.

I love everything about ATC and am proud to say I work here. I feel blessed to work in an environment where the values of the company have always and continue to reflect my personal values.