The power of leaving your comfort zone

The utility industry can still be considered a “man’s world” in some cases, according to Marcy Reed, National Grid president for Massachusetts. But she said women can still succeed by working hard, taking advantage of opportunities, and being themselves.

Reed discussed her career path and lessons learned at the first Women who Inspire Engineering Leadership Reception, held Tuesday evening at Northeastern’s Alumni Center.

“What you just need to do is not try to be anyone other than who you are,” said Reed, AP’86, during a Q-and-A with attendees following her talk. “Just do a good job because at the end of the day you will earn (your co-workers’) respect.”

The event was part of Northeastern’s Women who Inspire Speaker Series, which is designed to promote the advancement of women in science, sustainability, engineering, and technology.

Among the 70 attendees Tuesday night were about 30 graduate and undergraduate female leaders from Women in Engineering, the Northeastern University Society of Women Engineers, and Graduate Women in Science and Engineering.

Reed graduated from Northeastern with a master’s degree in accounting and worked in public accounting before taking a position as an accounting supervisor at National Grid, an international gas and electric company that today serves about 1.2 million customers in Massachusetts.

Reed worked her way up the company ladder by taking on projects and duties that were outside her comfort zone. She noted that volunteering for projects and staying involved at work are important for career growth. She tackled everything from managing crews in the field to working in government relations, which ultimately led her to be named the company’s Massachusetts president in 2011.

A turning point in her career, she said, was when National Grid’s CEO plucked her out of the office environment after 10 years with the company and put her in an operational position managing those crews in the field so she could gain more experience learning about different aspects of the company’s business.

“It was one of the best learning experiences of my life,” Reed said, “and to this day I take people in whom I see promise and completely move them out of their comfort zone. I put them somewhere where I know they will swim but it will be difficult for them.”

The next Women who Inspire event is titled “Global Entrepreneurs Driving Change,” and will be held Wednesday, Nov. 19 at the Raytheon Amphitheater.