Asset Management Is For Women Too (featuring Kathy Allard)

March 9, 2020 Judi Hess

One thing I have been noticing more and more is the number of women entering the field of Asset Investment Planning & Management (AIPM). In fact, many of Copperleaf’s clients are women who are taking a leading role in their organizations in planning and managing their asset investments more strategically, to minimize risk and create the highest value for their organizations.

Certainly the prevalence of women is not evident by attending an asset management conference…yet. But it occurred to me that this is a great role for women in a field where you might not expect to find many women! And I believe this is the beginning of an exciting trend and would like to highlight some of these women—and the interesting work they’re doing—to establish some role models and shine a light on this as a possible career path for young women.

In this article, we are featuring:

How did you get involved in the field of asset management?

Throughout the first 12 years of my career at Manitoba Hydro, I juggled between project management and maintenance engineering. I always struggled with what I observed to be a gap in the understanding of each areas’ reasons for proceeding with work. The dialogue and healthy debate would often result in good decisions for the company and our customers, but often it would take precious time that the assets were not able to endure.

As our infrastructure was aging and our load requirements were increasing, we started to see a shift to increasingly reactive maintenance and project execution, with less time available for the negotiations between the two areas, and to gather the right information to be able to really understand what the right work at the right time was.

Each time I flip-flopped between maintenance and projects, I became more aware that my skill set was in Asset Investment Planning & Management—gathering and analyzing information in order to forecast when and where we should be investing in our assets and the business requirements to keep them running efficiently. 

What attracted you to this field?

I have to confess that I wasn’t initially attracted to this field, but I was very fortunate to have been recruited and mentored by a few of my previous leaders that were in this field. Gary Bishop, Nick Read, and Don Ans were my greatest influencers in helping me understand what asset management is and that my skill set was useful and required in an asset-centric business. 

It was actually during C55™ training that Nick and I started talking about how we could use the solution to better understand what we should be working on and when. I think that’s when he realized I could support his vision. I started in what was then called “capital planning”, about four months after my first exposure to C55.

I’ve really enjoyed being a part of enhancing and expanding the use of C55 over the years. What keeps me at Manitoba Hydro is our corporate vision of an enterprise-wide asset management strategy with consistent application of tools, decision-making processes, and asset lifecycle strategies. 

What excites you most about this field?

The thing that excites me most is how perfectly all the pieces fit together—asset management is like a 55,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Every piece is complicated and messy but when you put them together you see how important each piece is and it just all makes sense. 

What are the most rewarding aspects of the work you do?

When you can successfully demonstrate the merits of consistent use of tools and alignment of process. The best reward is when you get to observe this through management and executive endorsement of change that comes from something produced out of AIPM. 

Where are you (and your team) making the biggest impact?

I think the biggest impact we're making is in demonstrating the impacts of various levels of spend, which allows our leaders to determine the right level of investment for the environment we are operating in.

Would you recommend asset management to other women as a career?

Yes, I'd recommend asset management to anyone who understands that physical assets degrade, business environments change, and both have needs. It's important to the success of an asset-centric business to pay attention to those needs in order to continue to serve their customers. I would especially recommend it to anyone who acknowledges the gaps in priority between those trying to operate and maintain the assets and those trying to execute projects on them. 

To learn more about other women making an impact in this emerging field, check out the rest of the articles in this series here.

About the Author

Judi Hess

Judi has been the CEO of Copperleaf since 2009. She recently won the BC CEO Award, was named BC Tech Person of the Year, and was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women. Learn more about Judi here and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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