Join us each month for a series highlighting the unique career journey of employees.

This month, we talk to the Director of Energy & Utilities Practice, Pat McMillin

1. When did you start with Centric? Tell me about your career path.

I joined Centric Consulting (actually Practical Solutions, the Energy & Utility focused predecessor of Centric) in July 2003 after one or two missed opportunities and I’m very thankful for extra chances to get it right.

My first job following college was with Peoples Gas Light & Coke – the gas utility for the City of Chicago. After a short introductory project, I moved over to support the utilities’ mainframe assembler Customer Information System. Ironically the names and technologies have changed, but this is the core business capability I still work with today over 30 years later.

Immediately preceding Centric I bounced around with a venture capital funded energy-tech startup and energy consulting practices as the tech and Enron bubbles burst.

2. How did you end up in consulting?

In 1999 we made a lifestyle move from Chicago to Fort Collins, CO. Leaving Chicago provided the catalyst, coupled with a strong desire to focus on mission-critical client engagements, I made the move from industry to consulting.

3. If you had to pinpoint a definitive moment in your career, what would that be?

My career took a definitive turn in the late ‘90s. I’d been with Peoples about 9 years establishing a positive corporate reputation when the company embarked on a business process re-engineering journey.

I joined the program as we were exploring the first two process areas revenue assurance and service provisioning. The subject and urgency were invigorating, but the team is what made this a turning point for me. Working with our internal team, senior people from Arthur Andersen, Andersen Consulting as well as C-level executives from Peoples was eye-opening. I had the consulting bug and was motivated to work on sequential generational capstone projects for clients going forward.

4. How does your current role fit into your career path/goals?

In my current role, I get to solve problems and create every day. Just as our energy & utility clients and industry we serve are changing so is our practice. We are transforming from a systems-centric to a more process-centric management consulting practice. We are shifting to increase the emphasis on process excellence, change management, analytics, and digital capabilities. Delivering on this shift with our clients and consultants will increase our sustainability into the future.

5. What are some unique, funny or interesting stories you can share about your career journey?

Looking back on 30+ years in the utility industry – I’m delighted with where I am, but it wasn’t always so bright. I took my first job out of college kind of out of desperation (finishing college and getting married right away) I needed an income. Searching for the dream job wasn’t possible.

My First stop was to be brief – two years with the natural gas utility in Chicago – then I’d change to something more exciting and rewarding.  Two years turned into ten then twenty and thirty. Looking back I’ve gotten to work with great people at great companies, and things have changed…

  • Ratepayers became customers.
  • Deregulation looked like the choice but has given way to technology enabling customer choice through disbursed generations, storage and ultimately independence.

I’m excited to support our clients through the current and upcoming changes.

6. What motivates your career and drives you to keep going?

I enjoy working with people, learning and solving problems. My goal is to be a good teammate whether it’s 1-on-1, as part of an internal or client project, our practice or Centric as a whole.  I see this in two parts reliably and responsibly pitching in to contribute at all levels. Secondly from a communication front listening, keeping all informed and supporting others participation.

7. What is your job like? Describe what your typical day.

I’d love to say I’m all in with the latest deep thinking approach, coming up with a set of objectives at the end of the previous day and executing on those plans while staying away from my email messages until 10 AM.

Maybe tomorrow – realistically my time can be grouped into four activities. First, my day starts early reactively reviewing email and checking in with consultants and client projects. Then ongoing management and client initiatives to foster communication and collaboration follow. Thirdly I try to proactively spend time identifying and talking with past and prospective recruits and clients. Finally, along the way I’ve gathered a basket of to-do items to complete.

The order and emphasis on the four items above may change but are pretty close to my daily script. I enjoy the opportunity to do some different things during a typical day – it makes the job interesting and rewarding.

8. What did your recruiting process look like?

I was introduced to Dave Rosevelt by a shared friend Jeff McGrath. We talked a couple of times in the 2000-2002 timeframe. Even before Centric’s Core Values, you couldn’t miss Dave’s excitement, passion, and I knew I wanted to join PSI/Centric, but we were unable to get aligned on opportunity timing.

In mid-2003 the consulting company I was working for was wrapping up – Dave was my first call. The details are a little foggy, but again the timing wasn’t perfect.  Without an immediate billable assignment for me, Dave offered a ~5-week business development opportunity. The objective was simple he and I worked at finding an assignment and at the end of 5-weeks we’d separate or reassess.

Dave was able to staff me for a couple of months with Peace Software on the Xcel Energy CIS replacement project. I started in a contracting role and became a full-time employee sometime that fall during a six-week assignment in New Zealand.

9. Is your practice currently hiring? If so, what positions are open?

We are always looking for experienced energy & utility project managers, business analyst, and architects in our traditional meter-to-cash domains as well as business process improvement, organizational change management, analytics and digital transformation people.

If someone has a marginal experience fit and has a great attitude, is willing to work hard, learn and grow we will turn every stone to find a match.

10. What mix of skills, personality, and values do you find most important for a consulting role like yours?

  • Have fun and be real people matter most.
  • Do projects with clients, not to them.
  • Listen to learn in every exchange not just waiting for your turn to talk.
  • Own an oversized portion of the responsibility and undersized share of the credit with your clients.

11. What tips would you share with future Centric recruits?

Invest in yourself. Make the time to develop yourself. Now more than ever you’ll get from your career what you put into it. I tell my older children that they will never regret taking the time to learn something new – and they hate these dad-quotes.
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. — debatable origin

12. Given that Centric values work-life balance, please share some of your hobbies or special interests outside of work.

My special interests outside of work when I joined Centric were Ryan and Eric (both now 24). I was there and participating at scouts, camping, skiing, soccer, baseball, roller hockey, the odyssey of the mind, choir, band, hiking, biking, WAVE, football, swimming, diving and dozens of things I cannot remember but wouldn’t have missed. As my older sons become adults, I welcome two more children Emily (18 months), Evan (1 month) and all of their interests I look forward to in the coming years.