Débora Pagán-Díaz: Blending problem-solving and psychology for effective management
Debi Pagán-Díaz, Vogtle 3&4 ITP Balance of Plant manager, grew up helping her father with projects around the house, including designing and installing the light system on their terrace.
“I always liked to solve problems,” she said. “I liked hands-on projects and learning how things work.” She was also interested in how people behave and react.
So when it came time to choose her major at the University of Puerto Rico, she narrowed the choice to psychology or engineering. She opted for the more practical, hands-on option of engineering.
“I’m still interested in psychology, though,” she said “I enjoy understanding what makes people behave the way they do and how they think. I apply this all the time in management; it helps me determine how to tailor my message/feedback most effectively.”
Upon graduation, she decided to leave Puerto Rico. “My parents always taught us that in order to get better, you have to get outside your comfort zone. That way you learn different thought processes, different cultures and different ideas that will make you better. I also knew I could bring a different perspective to my peers based on what my culture had provided to me,” she said.
She accepted a job offer from Plant Hatch and made the move to Georgia. She found language to be one of the biggest cultural challenges. “I could speak both languages pretty well,” Debi said, “but you always prefer the language you’ve spoken the most. Not having people to constantly share the language with was difficult.”
She also missed her family, but her co-workers at Hatch were warm and accepting and soon became her new family. “My team has always been my family,” she said. “We hold each other accountable, not to bring each other down, but to make each other better.”
After four years, Debi requested a transfer to Vogtle 3&4. “I was intrigued by how much the personnel that had helped build the plant knew about our systems and the history of some of the challenges we faced,” she said. “I wanted to get that same level of knowledge and experience of bringing up the systems and programs from scratch.”
In an ironic twist that echoes Debi’s early years, she is once again working with her father. Her parents came from Puerto Rico recently so her Dad could help build Vogtle 3&4 and get the units operational. “I never imagined I would be working with him again, at least not here,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be able to enjoy having lunch with him at work. It’s a treat!”
Debi is grateful for Hispanic Heritage Month and the chance to share her history and culture with others. “It’s a time to look back and look at the history behind our people and remember how diversity makes us better by contributing to our nation. Every American has worked together to make an impact on our society, which enables us to look at things differently and get better results. It’s a reminder for all of us to share our culture and what we can bring to the table. For me, every day is heritage day, because I value my culture.”