Demystified: Director of Strategy at National Grid

Written by Imran Yusuf | Demystified | Monday 13th May 2013 10:39:00 GMT

Steven Tobias, a graduate of MIT, is responsible for expanding National Grid US to meet the needs of its customers.

Steven Tobias studied Materials Science and Engineering, but his passion was always Energy.

Steven Tobias studied Materials Science and Engineering, but his passion was always Energy.

What does your job entail day-to-day?
It’s always changing. I’m part of National Grid’s US Strategy team, which is part of the broader Corporate Strategy and Development team. We are involved in defining the company's strategic direction, and supporting the business plan – both the strategic plan and financial plan. We also look at growth opportunities for the business. One of the things we've been looking at of late is how and where we can expand our gas distribution network to reach more customers in the northeast US.
What kind of characteristics does your team share?
There are different strengths across the team, but generally we each have strong analytical skills, a natural inquisitiveness, and the ability to engage across the whole organization.
What were you up to before working at National Grid?
For about five years I worked at Navigant Consulting. I was in their energy practice, specifically in the Technology Strategy and Management department. I was involved in a variety of energy-related projects, with many closely connected to the electric and natural gas utility industries.  For example, I conducted benefit-cost analyses of new technologies to understand the value that could be created for different stakeholders – utilities, end-users, and society. This included emerging electric utility technologies such as distribution automation, advanced metering infrastructure, distributed generation, energy storage, and high temperature superconductors.  I was also involved in screening hundreds of potential natural gas energy efficiency measures to identify those that would be incentivized in future utility energy efficiency programs.
This experience provided a good foundation when I first joined National Grid as part of the Technology & Innovation team. We were assessing electric vehicles, energy storage... emerging technologies which could have a game-changing impact on the company.
Do you have any tips for students wanting to join National Grid?
As an international electric and natural gas utility there is a broad range of positions available at National Grid. Specifically for the strategy team, we look for students who have a foundational knowledge of the energy industry and are genuinely interested in energy. Have they participated in extra-curricular activities or taken electives related to energy?  Have they taken any leadership roles?
Did your interest in energy develop at MIT?
Well, I have always been interested in energy. I completed a materials science and engineering degree, but I found myself taking plenty of classes outside of my major. For example, I completed a minor in public policy, with a significant energy and environment component. I was also interested in weather and climate change, so I took classes in the earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences department, completing a second minor. So it’s important to take advantage of the broader university, wherever you are. Take classes which are adjacent to your degree – this may help to get the job you want in the future.
What are your plans for the future?
There are two kinds of people: some make long-term plans and plot their next thirty years point by point into the future. Then there are people who take things as they come, and take opportunities as they present themselves. I am in the latter group. When opportunities come up – you just have to take advantage of them!


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