Christy Fanous has a word of advice to anyone who’s currently job seeking: Who you work for is just as important as the work you will be doing.
“If you can, choose your boss over the job,” she says. “I don’t know many successful women who have been successful without the full support of their bosses… You need a boss that will be your press agent.”
Luckily for Fanous, she’s had a lineup of bosses who fit this bill at Southern California Edison — and after 22 years at the company, that’s just one of the reasons she has remained with the company.
“Simply put, I’ve never been bored,” Fanous, today a Managing Director, said. “It’s hard to want to leave a company or work environment when you feel you are constantly learning and being challenged.”
Recently, Fanous shared with us her advice for growing a career you’re truly proud of — no job hopping required.
How long have you been with SCE? What about it made you first want to join?
I’ve been with SCE for just over 22 years. A family member worked for SCE and encouraged me to apply for an analyst position in the corporate philanthropy group when it came up on the job board. I wish I could say it was part of a strategic plan or aligned with my long-term goals, but the reality is that I was nowhere near that thoughtful or forward-thinking… I was in my early 20s and trying to figure out how to land a job with a reputable company. And I am happy to say, I’ve never looked back.
Tell me about your current role. What about this role most excites you?
In my current role, I am responsible for the compliance, vegetation, quality oversight, training, and support services associated with planning, constructing, operating, and maintaining SCE’s transmission and distribution facilities. As a result, my group has a role in nearly every project and initiative connected with delivering power to customers in Southern California. In addition, we play a critical role in mitigating wildfire risk by leading our vegetation management activities. It is incredibly exciting to know that I have a seat at the table as we think about safely delivering clean, affordable energy to my family, friends and the communities throughout our service area.
The other thing that excites me about my job is being the first female executive to join the Transmission & Distribution senior leadership team in nearly 10 years. It excites me to think that I get to help pave the road for other women leaders to follow.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career without job hopping?
I’m fortunate to work for a company that has a wide variety of jobs – from installing a new pole to flying helicopters to being a fire scientist – I am always amazed at the variety of skills we have within the company. This has afforded me the opportunity to have a variety of positions over my career: corporate philanthropy, information technology, supply management and distribution pole program management, to name a few. I feel like this varied experience has been a big advantage for me; I’ve had the opportunity to see the company through many different lenses. This experience allows me to bring a well-rounded perspective to the table when discussing issues or problems facing the company.
Does your company have a formal program in place for mentor/sponsorship, or is it more of a casual thing that happens organically?
We have both formal and informal networks at SCE. Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to be part of a couple of formal mentoring programs where I was paired up with more senior executives in the company. I truly treasured those relationships and gained incredible insight from a couple of women who were further ahead in their careers. Equally as valuable is the informal mentoring that happens outside of a formal framework. I have been mentored by and have had the opportunity to mentor others through more casual, organic relationships that have formed naturally over the years. Sometimes, that just-in-time feedback can be even more valuable than a scheduled or structured mentoring discussion.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at your company?
Simply put, I’ve never been bored. I’m grateful to have worked for bosses who kept me on my toes. I was blessed with bosses who paid attention – they could tell when I had mastered my job or had started to become complacent. When that happened, they put me on new assignments or gave me more responsibility. As a result, my work has always been interesting and I find myself regularly feeling challenged. It’s hard to want to leave a company or work environment when you feel you are constantly learning and being challenged.
What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should?
SCE is a values-based company. We regularly talk about our values and are consistently striving to do the right thing. We place an equal focus not only on what is accomplished, but how it’s accomplished.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
I’ve been fortunate to work for some great bosses over the years. An attribute they all had was that I knew they cared about me – both personally and professionally. When you know someone cares about you, you are willing to go to great lengths for them and know that any feedback you receive – positive or negative – is coming from a good place.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
If you can, choose your boss over the job. In other words, who you work for is oftentimes going to be more important than what job you have. At the time I first heard it, I’m not sure I understood the advice or even agreed with it. Now that I am further in my career, I realize where this insight was coming from. I don’t know many successful women who have been successful without the full support of their bosses; it is very hard to be successful if your boss is not your No. 1 cheerleader. Your boss provides your performance review, advocates for you in talent planning, helps you establish a network and provides visibility for you to others. If you do not have a good relationship with your boss or your boss isn’t ready to advocate for you, it is going to be a challenge being successful.
If you find yourself working for someone that you don’t think you will ever have that type of relationship with, it may be worth exploring other positions to work for other people. You need a boss that will be your press agent.
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