"I was born and raised in the Valley and I want to do my part to make this region successful and prosperous. When the business community works with education we can help grow students that want to stay in the area and make a difference."
What's the most common response we hear when we ask why people get involved in our work? They wish they had more exposure to careers when they were young. "When I was in school I knew I wanted to get an engineering degree but I really had no idea of how many different kinds of engineering jobs existed," shared Colby Wells. Wells is the Public Affairs Manager at Southern California Gas Company and has a deep commitment to making the region a place where people can obtain education that aligns with workforce needs, setting them up to grow and thrive. It's no wonder that one of Wells' favorite events is the Student Entrepreneurship Challenge! SoCalGas sponsors the March event each year and gave our region's students the chance to show off their entrepreneurial talent.
Here's what we learned from Colby Wells (and who knows, maybe a space odyssey is in his future!)
You've been working with the Southern California Gas Company for nearly 20 years! Can you share a little with us how you started your career and what you currently do in your role?
My very first job with SoCalGas was as an engineering intern in the Commercial & Industrial group while I was attending Fresno State. I would perform energy audits for customers and make recommendations on how they could save money through energy efficiency. After I graduated I landed an account executive position in that same group. I handled SoCalGas’ largest customers in the San Joaquin Valley. After several years I transitioned into the Public Affairs group and that is where I am today. I work with City and County governments as well as community and business groups to advance SoCalGas’ company interests.
You graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering - how have you used this knowledge and skills in the work you do now?
The engineering degree has helped me understand the technical aspects of the natural gas industry. It also allows me to better work with our customers on their manufacturing processes and how they utilize energy to make their products. The engineering degree combined with my public affairs experience allows me to communicate technical concepts to non-technical audiences.
Was there a something or someone who sparked your interest in your career field? If so, please tell us about it and how this has translated into where you've found yourself in your career.
I have always had a love for space. When I was young all I wanted to be was an astronaut. After I figured out that being an astronaut was a long shot I decided I would do the next best thing, design their space vehicles. I wanted to be an aerospace engineering from an early age. I held this dream right up until my senior year in high school. That is when the aerospace industry was devastated with massive layoffs. Thousands of highly experienced aerospace engineers were suddenly looking for work. It was not a good situation so I switched to mechanical engineering. I would have never guessed I would end up in public affairs at a natural gas utility but it has allowed me to grow in many different areas and has been a very rewarding experience.
You've been very active in the education and workforce development realms in our region. What has motivated you to get and stay involved?
SoCalGas encourages its public affairs employees to get involved in the communities in which they live. I have always been involved in economic development, workforce development and education. I view those three areas as essential to improving the quality of life in the San Joaquin Valley. I was born and raised in the Valley and I want to do my part to make this region successful and prosperous. When the business community works with education we can help grow students that want to stay in the area and make a difference. Economic development helps attract new businesses to the area so our students have good jobs available to them when they graduate. Workforce development helps employees gain new skills so we keep careers fulfilling and growing. When the three parts work together we create a dynamic workforce that can bring prosperity to a region.
What is one of your favorite career/college readiness projects that SoCalGasCo has sponsored? What resonates with you?
I love the Student Entrepreneur Challenge. It is an event that asks students to come up with a business idea and make a viable business plan around that idea. They are then asked to pitch that idea to a panel of investors. This event allows students to see what it takes to start a business and then have opportunities to talk to current business owners. It has been so fun to see actual businesses start out of these student ideas. When I was in school I knew I wanted to get an engineering degree but I really had no idea of how many different kinds of engineering jobs existed. The Student Entrepreneur Challenge allows students to get a glimpse of the business world and the possibilities that await.
How do you stay current in your field? Are there podcasts, blogs, networks you connect with?
SoCalGas is a large company with a large geographical service territory. Our public affairs group has managers in all areas of our service territory so we frequently share best practices on how to best get our message out to wide ranging demographics I have also taken training courses with the Public Affairs Council (PAC) as well as several other smaller organizations. This has been a great way for someone with an engineering degree to learn the art of public affairs.