Powering up a Substation Design Career
February 15, 2022
Cassie Polman, previously Associate Director for Substation, was promoted to the Director of Automation, Integration and System Protection – a newly formed department at Ulteig to better serve our Systems Integration and SCADA clients – in January of this year. After attending North Dakota State University for her electrical engineering degree, Cassie began her career in Ulteig’s Minneapolis Office working on substation projects including physical electrical and protection and control design. After a few years, she was presented with an opportunity in substation design at another company and decided to make the jump over to the client-side of substation engineering. 12 years passed and she found herself in a bit of a plateau at a company with few women engineer leaders, and ready for a change.
Cassie was able to connect with Sarah Beckman, who was leading a technical department at the time. Sarah highlighted the investment Ulteig made in her career growth and was able to show growth and mobility improvements across the organization. In the Q&A below, Cassie shares what brought her back to Ulteig, her career trajectory since returning and how this company supports employee-owners.
What aspects drew you back to Ulteig?
“I had come to a point in my career where I was ready for a change and an opportunity to grow outside my existing role into a more formal leadership role. I didn’t see a lot of these mobility opportunities where I was at, and right away, I thought about Ulteig and wondered how things were going at my former company.
I had heard positive feedback since Doug Jaeger became the CEO – and was put in touch with Sarah Beckman, whom I had never met previously, and learned that Ulteig had supported her mobility from a transmission line engineer, to manager, to different director roles. Ulteig had growth opportunities and was willing to invest in its employees. Ulteig also had the people-focused culture that I was looking for, and I decided that I was up for the challenge of a new place. I took the risk of leaving a company I had been at for 12 years to return to a previous firm and became a Technical Manager in the Substation Department at Ulteig.”
Can you tell us a little more about your experience and career growth at Ulteig?
“The past five years have been a whirlwind in the best possible way. I started as a Substation Technical Manager in 2017 overseeing a team of about 8 full time individuals, and as Ulteig grew, so did my team to about 16 people. While our team grew, so did our Substation SCADA/Network expertise and service offerings through our newly formed SCADA Technical Group (STG), which was co-led by myself and Seth Maslowski. The STG mission was to develop standards and tools to ensure we delivered a consistent and high-quality project experience to our clients. This then translated into a focus area under our previous strategic plan, which I also had the opportunity to co-lead. Our strategic initiative ensured that “all things SCADA” continued to be an area of growth and expansion for Ulteig. I’ve appreciated the opportunities I’ve earned at Ulteig to lead initiatives, bring value to clients and create strong internal and external relationships, especially as a Client Team Lead for three clients, where I can help to ensure Ulteig is meeting our client’s needs by understanding what drives their business and ensure the partnership is successful for everyone.
In 2020, Chris DeWall, Wylie Wenschlag and myself were promoted to Associate Directors for Substation, and I was able to leverage my network to influence and accomplish work through a highly collaborative approach. I had a team of technical managers that I could rely on to help ensure that we were focusing on the right things for not only the department, but also for Ulteig, and also to deliver on strategic initiatives and projects as a whole. As Associate Director, I continued to co-lead our Systems Integration and SCADA initiative which included finding strategic partners for service offerings that we didn’t currently provide to our clients. This eventually contributed to our major acquisition of NLS Engineering (now known as the Hamilton team) last year. To ensure the success of the acquisition and that the NLS team members had a voice and a support system in place during the transition period, I served as Integration Lead and facilitated all the groups across Ulteig to ensure successful onboarding.
This experience prepared me for my newest adventure as Director, and I am thrilled to be leading a team of about 80 individuals that span both the United States and Canada in Automation, Integration and System Protection. The new department focuses on Systems Integration, Metering, System Protection as well as Water/Wastewater electrical engineering. Automation and Integration is truly the way of the future, and our team is made up of individuals who are dedicated to adding value to Ulteig and to our clients. I am sure that we will continue to grow our service offerings and support our clients on a continuous lifecycle.”
How can others grow their career at Ulteig?
“I’m a huge believer that if you Raise Your Hand and take ownership of your career, Ulteig will back you up and support your career growth. Ulteig is constantly growing in the right areas. As the company grows, more opportunities are available for internal mobility and career growth and in my opinion, it’s an exciting time to be part of Ulteig and watch this unfold.
Here’s my advice to someone starting their career here: I encourage you to start career conversations with your manager to ensure that you are both on the same page for your career development. Let them know where your interests lie and what initiatives you may have a passion for. Watch for problems or things that aren’t working well around you and create an opportunity for yourself. Finally – practice self-awareness and know your areas of strength and development and be willing to take constructive feedback and grow from it. Understanding these areas and truly working on yourself can help maximize your potential.
Growing up with a mom who was a teacher and a dad that had 10 other siblings who couldn’t afford college, the emphasis was always placed on education and doing the best that we could, knowing that some didn’t have the same opportunities that I did. It became so important for me to continue to challenge and improve myself both personally and professionally. I will always encourage others to read a book, listen to a podcast, take a LinkedIn Learning course and speak up in meetings so that we can constantly learn and challenge ourselves together. At a company that offers development through a vast number of resources (like the UTech platform, mentorship programs and leadership development training opportunities, to name a few) and values feedback of employees – every employee-owner has the chance to improve themselves as long as they take initiative.”
Fast facts about Cassie
Engineers love to build and problem solve, so it makes sense that Cassie loves crafting, scrapbooking her travels, making homemade cards and has even dabbled in woodworking. In her free time, she enjoys visiting her parents on Maple Lake where she grew up outside of Alexandria, MN, reading, hanging out with her nephews, traveling and of course the occasional glass of wine!