For Patty Durand M.B.A. ’93, “energy” describes both her business and her drive.
As the Executive Director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), Durand works to build consumer understanding and awareness of our nation’s ever-advancing electric system.
“For a healthy and robust economy and society, it is important to have reliable and affordable electricity,” say Durand. “The conservation of energy and fossil fuels is critical to the future.”
SGCC is a national non-profit organization headquartered in Atlanta, dedicated to educating consumers about the smart grid. In its simplest form, smart grid means applying computing and telecommunications technologies to the electric power delivery system. For consumers, a smart grid enables awareness of household energy usage leading to a wide array of benefits not possible with traditional one-way technologies.
“The smart grid offers both consumer empowerment and sustainability” says Durand. “With this technology, homeowners will be able to go online and manage their energy use. Much like you weigh your purchase decisions at the grocery store, smart grid will allow users to set a budget, purchase green energy, and create a pricing plan based on the real cost.”
In a powerful field typically dominated by men, Durand has shined. She was recently named one of the “Fierce 15 Women in Energy” by Fierce Energy, a leading resource for energy industry executives. The honor “pays tribute to those female executives who are guiding the growth of the energy industry via their passion, drive, dedication, energy, leadership, knowledge, and experience,” according to Fierce Energy Editor Barbara Vergetis Lundin. In late 2011, Fierce Energy named Durand one of 15 “Most Influential People in Energy.”
Through Durand’s leadership, SGCC membership has grown more than 85 percent since she joined the organization in January 2011. She has also organized a comprehensive smart grid branding and educational effort.
“While grassroots efforts are important, businesses have to be on board for smart grid to be successful,” says Durand who appreciates how valuable her MBA training is in her current role. “SGCC’s success will only come from bringing together the utilities, businesses, and other non-profits focused on energy. My William & Mary degree helped me gain skills at working collaboratively, and it gave me the confidence to take challenging positions.”
Durand’s professional aspirations didn’t start with an energy focus. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1988 with a degree in business, she worked for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control before deciding to pursue a graduate degree.
“William & Mary offered a rigorous degree program, high-quality students and faculty, and a top-notch reputation,” says Durand.
After graduation, Durand held several information technology positions.
“It became clear that IT was not a good long-term fit for me,” says Durand. “I wanted to work in a world were passion and personal interests mattered.” Starting as a volunteer, then an entry level position, Durand worked her way up to State Director for the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club where she focused on energy policy and programs.
“All non-profits need business experience — finance, management, accounting,” says Durand. “At the end of the day, non-profits must compete for visibility, talent, and scarce dollars just like any other business. I rely on my Mason MBA all the time. The William & Mary degree has opened doors to opportunities I would not have otherwise had, and enabled me to be successful once I was given the opportunity.”