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AEP’s Outstanding Women: Sara Vestfals

by on April 5, 2017

Sara Vestfals

AEP is featuring a series of Q&A articles in March – Women’s History Month — to recognize some of the exceptional women in our work force and among our suppliers. This story features Sara Vestfals, who is Wilkes/Lone Star Power Plant manager in Avinger, Texas.

Vestfals started her AEP career in 2005 as Welsh Plant systems owner, and in 2007 was named to a plant’s maintenance supervisor position. In 2010 she transferred to Wilkes/Lone Star Power Plant as maintenance supervisor. She took her current role in 2016.  She holds a mechanical engineering degree from LeTourneau University, and is certified as a Professional Engineer in the state of Texas.

Q: How did you become interested in your career choice?

A: Growing up, I tended to gravitate more towards subjects that were heavy in math and science. I liked the designing and problem solving aspects that the engineering field offered and the potential of doing field work versus being in an office all day.

Q: What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction/fulfillment and why?

A: The part of my job that gives me the most satisfaction is finding solutions and continuously trying to make things better.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced and overcome in your career at AEP?

A: The biggest challenge I have faced so far in my career was my transition from Welsh to Wilkes. Wilkes had a new person coming into each supervisor role at that time. Everyone was on a steep learning curve and we had to learn it together. That, coupled with multiple unit issues, made it feel like you were barely keeping your head above the water most of the time.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge for young women entering the workforce today?

A: The truth of the matter is that there are still not a lot of females pursuing STEM related careers. I believe for engineering, women make up less than 20 percent of the career field. There is a lot of opportunity for women in engineering fields.

Q: Have you had a role model or mentor earlier in your career or when in school?

A: Fortunately, I’ve had the benefit of working with a lot of great people in SWEPCO and AEP. I have benefited greatly from people who have invested the time to teach and to make me better than I am. I truly believe that you are a product of your surroundings. When you are surrounded by great people, it pushes you to want to improve.

Q: Who was your role model/mentor and how did they impact your career?

A: Growing up, my parents made the most impact on me. They taught me the importance of a strong work ethic. They didn’t do this with hours of lecture. Instead, they showed us (two other siblings) by setting the example. They taught us if you wanted something in life worth having, you have to be willing to work for it, and they lived it.

I also played sports growing up. Sports taught me a lot about self-discipline and team work, and were a huge part of my life even through college. I’m a believer that involvement in sports or other school activities gives you an opportunity to learn so many “life lessons” if you are willing to pay attention.

Q: How is your career field different now than it was when you started, especially for women in your field? What things have improved, and what needs more work?

A: There are more women in supervisor positions now at the plants. I don’t recall hardly any when I first hired on. However, there still aren’t that many women interested in the plant type careers.

Q: What’s the best career advice you have ever been given, or that you have learned from your experience?

A: Never stop learning. There is something to be learned every day. If you aren’t willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. And, you may not always be right, but you can always be fair.

Q: What advice would you give early to mid-career women to encourage them to stay and succeed in their careers?

A: The only difference between a person who fails and a person who succeeds is that the person who succeeds was willing to hang on just a little bit longer.

 

From → News From AEP

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