When Jay K. Grewal officially started work in June as president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC), she already had a plan.
“When I came in, I had a 90-day plan that I’d developed and discussed with the board in advance,” she said. “My focus was accelerating my learning.”
Grewal described a number of benefits from the plan.
“I think it’s a way to help organize my thinking on what I needed to do as quickly as possible, but as completely as possible understand the business, opportunities and challenges,” she said in an interview with The Hub on Sept. 29.
The goal to accelerate her learning was not about utilities, because she noted she understands utilities from having worked in them.
“It was really to understand NTPC as a business and as a utility,” she said. “So one of the things I did was I spent a lot of time in the regions, both in the hydro and thermal regions. I’ve been to 12 of our sites and spent time there. I’ve stayed at Snare in the camp. And been up to Sachs Harbour where we met with the mayor and council around wind projects and relocating our plant there.”
She has also been in communities such as Whati, Nahanni Butte and Fort Resolution.
“The objective was, one, to be able to assess the operating assets, to understand the conditions in which our people are doing their work, but more importantly than that, talking to the people, understanding what they see as the challenges. What is getting in their way of them doing their job,” she said. “Because my job is to make it easier for them.”
Grewal said she very much prefers directly engaging with employees to hear and understand their concerns.
“I could have sat here and read all sorts of stuff, or I could be out there talking to them,” she said, while in her corner office at the power corp. headquarters in Hay River. “For me, that’s the best way I learn and understand, but I also wanted to open up a dialogue because I think we’ve got huge opportunities and there are also the challenges that we collectively need to address and move forward on. I want us all as NTPC to move forward together.”
Along with hearing from power corp. employees, Grewal’s plan also involved getting to know the communities served by the corporation.
That meant spending time with local governments and leadership, including mayors, senior administrative officers, chiefs and councils.
“I’ve actually loved it, absolutely loved it,” she said of her travels. “It allowed me to see and understand even more about the North and the uniqueness that we have, but with that the challenges.”
Those challenges include how geographically dispersed and remote some of the communities are, and what that means in terms of reliably delivering power.
Prior to being hired as power corp. president and CEO, Grewal had never been to the Northwest Territories.
“The closest I would have gotten is northern Yukon,” she said, noting she spent some time there as senior vice-president for strategy and corporate development with Capstone Mining Corporation.
Grewal said she was first attracted to the position with the power corp. because of the opportunity to play a role in supporting economic development in the NWT.
“Given that the Northwest Territories have not been growing, there’s a real need to hopefully revitalize and create more opportunities for economic development, and energy plays a role in that,” she noted.
Grewal said there is also the challenge of balancing affordable rates and reliability.
She was also attracted to the power corp. by the opportunity to live in the North.
“My husband is from Ontario and I’m from B.C.,” she said. “He’s always worked in the colder climates and I’ve spent a lot of time in the Yukon, so it’s a great opportunity to be up here.”
And recently while in Yellowknife, she also saw the Northern Lights for the first time ever.
Grewal has career experience that has prepared her for her new role with the power corp., including her role with Capstone Mining Corporation, executive positions at BC Hydro and extensive experience as a managing director within the North American finance sector.
The new power corp. president replaces Emanuel DaRosa, who left the corporation in mid-June to become president and CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd.
Grewal and her husband, Dale Fisher, have been living in Hay River for three months.
She said they really appreciate how welcoming the people have been in Hay River and throughout the North.