Amanda Sheehe has been part of a team as long as she can remember. Whether it was on construction sites with her father’s fire sprinkler systems business or showing beef cattle from the family farm or as a three-sport athlete in high school (one sport in college), it turns out it was all preparing the Gibson County native for the future.
Sheehe is nine months into her tenure as a Senior Project Manager at Hoosier Energy, where she’s putting all the things she learned into practice. She recently spoke with GridLines about those experiences and more.
Q: What kind of carryover do you see from things you were involved with growing up?
A: My senior year, I was captain of all three sports – soccer, basketball and track. I played AAU basketball as well and was kind of a captain on that team. Those skills, plus with livestock I was on the national board of directors and was president of that for two years when I was 20 and 21.
Those skills of team-building and leadership and divvying up your workload, those things I’ve had since I was a teenager have really helped now as a project manager.
Q: What prompted an interest in engineering for you?
A: My dad had a construction business – fire sprinkler systems – so I grew up around that. He would drag me out to do hydrant testing or he’d have me look at fire sprinklers, so having that construction mind was cool. I grew up on a farm, too, so I was around a lot of equipment and things.
Still, I went in a little undecided to school, which is unheard of at Rose-Hulman. It put me behind a little bit because everything is very structured there. I was on the fence about studying medical/biology and doing the doctor or vet thing down the road, but I’m not good at chemistry. Once I got into some of those classes my freshman year, I decided chemistry was not my thing, so I picked civil engineering. It just seemed like a good fit for what I grew up with, what I understood and what I enjoyed doing.
Q: Tell us about some of your jobs leading up to working at Hoosier Energy?
A: Right out of Rose-Hulman, I went to Florida. I was ready to get away after being born and raised in Indiana. I went to Fort Myers, Florida, and did a lot of wastewater/drinking water modeling and design and reporting for Lee County there. Unfortunately, the economy tanked shortly after that, our other housing crisis hit back then. I got laid off, so I moved back to Indiana.
Then I stuck with storm water and wastewater design and modeling and site development projects all over the state of Ohio. Fortunately, I got to help design a grading plan for a substation in Ohio there, which piqued my interest in the electric field, which was kind of new to me. I hadn’t been shown that part all through college and so on.
I saw an opportunity at Duke Energy back in 2014 and started there, so I worked there for about six years. Then I went to the contractor side overseeing and planning construction for projects connected to Duke Energy before I came to Hoosier. It’s almost 10 years of experience now in the electrical/utility side, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to consulting and design. I’m pretty happy with the project management side of electric and utility work.
Q: What do you find more enjoyable about the utility side of things?
A: The variety of projects. They’re all different. May have different transmission line rebuilds or new lines or new substations, but they’re all a little different. I like the variety. It keeps you on your toes, and you learn something new every time.
Q: How’s your experience been with the cooperative side of things?
A: Duke is all very public and in-house. You don’t have that external customer as often unless it’s for that large, industrial customer. It’s been different to work with the co-ops. I enjoy it because it’s more down-to-earth and more invested. You can tell the difference you’re making with your projects. I feel more valued maybe that way.
It’s just great getting to know those folks and what their priorities are and how to help them.
Q: What’s it like being a woman in a role traditionally filled by men? Has it been difficult?
A: I’ve been conditioned to that, maybe, coming from an engineering school that used to be all-male (until 1995). I’m used to those ratios and even as a kid growing up, spending so much time with my dad on those construction projects and also showing beef cattle from our farm, being around males and having two brothers, I’m used to it.
It does make me sometimes think about how I interact with people and wonder if they will value me. Luckily, I’ve had some great women leaders in my life, including one specifically at Duke who showed me the ropes of how to approach people and use training like the Energetic Women’s Conference I recently attended. That’s a great conference for women in engineering and operations in the utility, electric and gas world.
That conference, in particular, has shown me some of the people skills and how to interact with people, influence people, hold difficult conversations and also how to elevate yourself in your career and empower other women in the industry. I’ve gone to that for a few years now and that’s really helped with the speakers and training they have there. That’s helped to know how to work in that environment and interact with all the different people.
Q: Have you experienced some dismissiveness in your career?
A: I’ve had it happen, in Florida specifically I was very dismissed because I was the woman on site. It happens, and I know it happens to most women in these roles, so you learn how to respond and not get upset. I’m the type that likes to prove people wrong, so I don’t take it personally. I look around the room, and we’re a project team. I’ve got to lead this group of people, so I hope I’ve adjusted better over the years where I used to get upset or let those comments get to me.
Q: Any hobbies when you’re not working?
A: Work is very busy. I have nieces and nephews that show beef cattle now. I help at those shows, and I get out and watch my nieces and nephews play their sports.
I’ve learned to golf, a more low-impact sport now than in high school or when I played basketball at Rose-Hulman.
My family is still in the Princeton area of Gibson County. I live on my grandparents’ property in Odon, sort of splitting the difference between Princeton and Bloomington. It’s very peaceful and relaxing, a low-key area since my previous stops in Plainfield and then near Cincinnati in northern Kentucky, plus there are still some aunts and uncles in the area.