Mary Ackleson: ‘The True Key to Professional Success Is Teamwork’

Job Role: Program Manager

Department: Education, Training and Events

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends and family describe you? What are you passionate about?

Mary Ackleson

I’m the youngest of four children and the only girl. Growing up with three older brothers, I was used to being in the thick of things, so it was really no surprise that I chose a career path in electrical engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. There were two women in my graduating class. I’m sure my family would describe me as a “tomboy.” From day one, I have not been afraid to jump into a new adventure.

My last true engineering role was with Lockheed Martin at the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas. Once my children arrived, they became my No. 1 priority, and I left my career to be a stay-at-home mom…honestly the best job I ever had! As the kids got older, I had the flexibility to enjoy other things I was interested in like tennis and long-distance running. During that period, I trained for and completed three full marathons. When they were all in school, full time, I decided to re-enter the workforce.  

Describe your career at NRECA. What is the core function of your current role, and how does it support the mission of the organization?

I have worked at NRECA for just over 10 years as a program manager in Education, Training and Events. I manage several programs and initiatives that support the mission of the organization, primarily developing educational content for technical staff who work at electric cooperatives. This includes working with advisory groups formed from NRECA membership, as well as other departments throughout the organization.

What drives you professionally, and what do you feel are the keys to professional success?

No doubt the biggest driver that keeps me motivated is working with passionate, competent people both at NRECA and in the cooperative membership. The true key to professional success is teamwork and trusting that team members will do their best effort…when one shines, we all shine!

What brought you to NRECA?

I heard about a position from a friend and applied. After several interviews with folks, I was informed that I was overqualified and over-experienced for the position. Three months later, I received a call from HR, who said there was another position open (at a higher level) and was I still interested in working at NRECA. I was very impressed that the organization thought that I would be a good fit and kept my information on record until the right position became available. This really showed me that NRECA cared about their employees’ ability to be successful in the workplace.

What keeps you at NRECA? What is your favorite thing about your job and NRECA as an organization?

My co-workers in Education, Training and Events are simply the best in the business. Even though some have moved on over the years, we have managed to always hire professionals who truly are a team fit.

If you had a piece of advice for someone who was just entering into the job market, or starting a job search, what would it be?

Know your skillset and true worth to the organization. Just because you may not check every box, you may have other skills that the organization didn’t think they needed. Also, remember during the interview process, you are interviewing the organization just as much as they are interviewing you.

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