Vanessa Locke: 'I pressed on to become the voice for many'

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Vanessa Locke: 'I pressed on to become the voice for many'

March is Women’s History Month. We’re spotlighting Vanessa Locke, organizational effectiveness manager, Farley. She’s one of SNC’s female leaders who is paving the way for other women.

When and why did you become interested in nuclear energy?
"I grew up approximately 10 miles from Farley Nuclear Plant and went to a school that is located about five miles from the plant, yet I never “heard” about the plant being in my backyard. After I graduated from high school, a young lady who worked at the plant shared that Farley was looking to hire new employees. It sounded like a great opportunity so I applied. I never imagined how a short conversation with a stranger could change my life. I started out as a nuclear helper, and as my interest in nuclear grew, I began to progress through the organization and become a strong advocate for clean energy -- not only at the site, but in the industry."

Did anyone mentor or encourage you along the way?
"My mother was the strongest mentor in my life. She instilled in me the character of having an influence on those you encounter in your day-to-day life. Often times, my mentors were unaware of the role they played in my development. I often watched their interactions with others and adopted the characteristics of leadership that seemed most promising to help me be the best version of me."

What advice has a mentor given you?
"While on loan to INPO in 2016, the director of Corporate Performance became my mentor. The best advice that he gave me was to know that it was okay to be a little selfish in my pursuit of personal development. Further, he shared that I should write down my personal goals and aspirations and share them with the appropriate people. I did that, and it was well received."

What’s it like to be a woman in a predominantly male field?
"When I hired on in 1991, there were few women in positions of leadership, moreover there were few women that looked like me. I am encouraged to say that I no longer see an obvious difference because I believe that maturity has occurred on a grand scale here at Farley."

I understand you hold a senior reactor operators certification. Were there any other women in your class? What was it like working as an operator?
"There was one other female in the class with me. The SRO class was a challenge in that I had to learn to speak the operations language first, then gain understanding of the importance of each system and how they interrelate. This knowledge affords me the opportunity to help identify and correct unwanted behaviors that could adversely impact station and industry performance."

What does it take to succeed in the nuclear industry? 
"In my mind, the greatest tool to have is respect for the nuclear industry as a whole with the understanding that we play a significant role in its advancement or demise."

Have you encountered any obstacles?
"Much earlier in my career, there were times when it did not seem that my voice was being heard and I considered giving up, but I realized that would constitute giving in – and that was completely against what my mother taught me. So I pressed on to become the voice for many."

Do you have a funny anecdote about being a woman in a predominantly male field?
"Some years ago, I worked as a painter material handler at Farley. In that position, team members are asked to back up tractor trailers. This activity seemed to come more naturally to my male counterparts. The team learned that we would have to train on performing this evolution because of the potential risk that this activity could introduce if not performed correctly. A little intimidated at first, I practiced performance of the activity at home with a smaller trailer. During the training, the instructor shared with my male counterparts that he thought that my performance was the best of the team. Of course I smiled a lot."

What advice do you have for other women who want to follow in your footsteps?
"If there is someone who is telling you that you can’t – because you are a woman – let them know that you can because you are a child of God and He said that all things are possible. Now that may include a little practice…"