March 17th, 2015
The 2013 NAYGN Chapter of the Year, River Bend, was represented by Katie Damratoski, Natalie Wood, and Orlando Rivera, to discuss accomplishments, challenges, and nuclear proms during a conversation with members of the Recruiting and Retention Committee.
[AP] Welcome to the 4th edition of the NAYGN Focus. Today we are going to be interviewing River Bend, who won the Chapter Achievement Award of the Year in 2014. We wanted to start by introducing ourselves: my name is Ana Pisani and I work for Duke Energy. My partner in crime for this interview is Brad Medlin.
[BM] Yes, I am Brad Medlin, and I work for Duke Energy as well.
[AP] For our interviewees representing the River Bend Chapter, why don’t you introduce yourselves? Tell us what you do for River Bend and what role you play in your NAYGN Chapter.
[KD] Well, this is Katie Damratoski. I started with Entergy four years ago. I work in Communications and I recently left the River Bend Chapter to work at our corporate office, so now I am a member of the Echelon Chapter. But I am also serving as the fleet president of NAYGN for Entergy.
[NW] This is Natalie Wood and I have been in River Bend since 2006, and started our chapter in 2008. I am currently the VP Coordinator, and I basically take that to mean I’m like the technical sidekick. I get a cape and everything … It’s like being a superhero.
[KD] Being a sidekick means that she’s a technical assistant to the site’s Vice President.
[AP] Oh that’s great! So, Natalie, you mentioned you started the chapter at River Bend?
[AP] Founding member… very cool!
[BM] So you guys were recognized by NAYGN as chapter of the year. Were you guys were really surprised by that achievement? How do you guys think you compare to the other chapters?
[KD] I would say we were definitely surprised. We felt very honored to receive the award, we worked really hard for it. I think we kind of set our sights on it, and then I think our group worked best when we set a goal like that, so we set some smaller goals here at River Bend for that time period for hours achieved, and celebrated different milestones throughout the year. We wanted to win, however, it’s never guaranteed. So we wanted to put our best foot forward and we knew what we would need to do to be considered for that award. The chapter is really excited, and our site leadership was really supportive of us aiming for that award. It also gave our chapter an even bigger boost to continue to grow for the next year.
[AP] So I wanted to clarify because I heard through the rumor mill that you guys were having a tough time, and that’s why you set such a high goal of aiming for the best to move forward and motivate your membership. Can you share what was going on at that time and why you decided to put your sights on it?
[KD] Sure! So the company was going through a reorganization at the time, and there were down-sizing the number of employees. Of course, that affected each site differently, and at River Bend it was affecting morale overall. We were losing some employees; we didn’t have a huge adjustment period for the NAYGN members and we didn’t lose a lot of young engineers through that process, but anytime a company goes through a reorganization people will get scared and pursue other avenues and leave the company on their own choice. So we were starting to see those signs, and we wondered what could we do to help improve morale, to get people to stop focusing on the reorg and focus on the fact that we have all of this great stuff that we can do— that we can have fun— and make NAYGN the reason they want to come to work every day. We think that you have to have something fun to do at work, not just bury yourself in work. That’s what we tried to create, we got all the chapter together, asked them what they wanted to do, what interested them, what got them going. We have a lot of runners in the group so we all started running together once a week. The chapter started doing things like that, and it was interesting to see how letting them decide what was important to them. Whether it was a charity event. Whether it was running together for health or just getting together once a week to hang out, to brew beer, to go paint an educational center, or to have a crawfish boil at somebody’s house. So we really put it in their hands to decide how are going to make ourselves happy, how are we going to boost morale, and that’s what they decided to do. It just really kind of worked for us there.
[AP] We also heard that you organized a prom theme day to go to work. Can you explain a little bit more about that activity?
[NW] So River Bend has never ever in the history of the site been an INPO 1, so June of last year, we knew the date corporate was going to get the information to whether or not we were going to be a “1”. It was a big deal and we were hoping that it would happen, but you don’t know. So we decided that, if it happened, we were all going to wear prom clothes to work. Because why not? How many opportunities do you have to wear such silly outfits to work? So there were pieces of paper passed around the NAYGN members that said, “If this happens on such and such date, you must wear prom attire. And we weren’t going to find out till 4:00 p.m. so as soon as you find out, everybody is wearing their prom clothes the next day. The next morning everybody is meeting in the parking lot at a certain time and we’re walking in as a group.” It’s a little awkward to walk into the plant with formal attire by yourself. Of course the little note had “self-destruct” messages on them. They were supposed to throw them away in 5 seconds because we didn’t want everybody to find out what we were going to do. We had the site communicator prepared to meet us that morning and she had no idea what we were doing either, but we did. We all showed up in prom wear and wore it all day at work. We wanted them to commit to it so told them not to bring a change of clothes because you’re committing to all-day wearing this prom dress. So … it was fun and, as a whole, we had a good time with it.
[AP] So how did you get through security? Because I know that at least at Duke Energy, heels are not allowed at the plant. So did you guys wear safety boots?
[BM] And I’m curious on how many actually ended up in a radiation controlled area in a tuxedo?
[KD] So they were able to wear tuxedo shoes and high heels because most of them are engineers. Most of them were engineers that participated, so most of them worked in the building outside of our protected area. It’s still part of the site, it’s just outside of the PAP, so you don’t have to go through. But they could have still gotten through the PAP too, actually. Because you can still wear heels over there, you’re still not in the plant. I guess our site was a little more conducive to prom attire.
[NW] And nobody went into the plant that day.
[AP] Oh! Shucks!
[KD] I know… It would have been picture worthy.
[AP] So what was the reaction of the communications person and the security officers when they saw all of you dressed in prom dresses?
[NW] Everybody was, of course, surprised. I think it changed the mood of the whole site that day because, one, it was already exciting that we had achieved our first INPO 1, but then you just walk around and see people wearing things you wouldn’t expect so everybody laughed. We just made it a fun day.
[KD] Site leadership thought it was hilarious. Our CNO and our COO, both loved it.
[NW] I’m glad everybody had a sense of humor because it could be a little dicey like that. We could have gotten in trouble for it.
[KD] Either way, it was a risk.
[NW] It was a risk, but you just have to go for it sometimes.
[BM] It would have been better if the security officers were wearing them too.
[NW] It would have!
[KD] Kind of like a James Bond look.
[AP] We also heard you guys did a second edition of the recycled fashion show. Can you elaborate a bit on what was shown during this show?
[NW] So the first time we organized the fashion show, there was no real theme to it. It was just to wear clothing made out of recycled material. I think it was kind of hard for the people participating because it was difficult to narrow in on an outfit. So this year we made a Night at the Movies so everybody’s outfit was supposed to be inspired by a movie and I think that really helped all of the kids to have a better vision of what they wanted to wear. So the outfits this year were amazing! Every single one of them were really neat. We love themes; everything should have a theme. So I don’t know how we’re going to top the movie theme, but we had about 70 people participate. It was elementary school, middle school … we did have a few adults participate. And we were actually able to save some of the recycled outfits, and we’re putting them into a museum.
[AP] That’s definitely a creative idea.
[BM] This question hits close to home as my site recruitment and retention chair. As far as the prom attire event and the fashion show, were those events intended to focus on recruitment and retention of your members?
[NW] We really kind of go with what people want to do. If you really want to do it and you’re passionate about it, we’ll be like “OK. We’ll find a way to make that work”. One of the guys approached us and said “I just want to wear a suit to work one day.” And we made his dream come true. We can work it all together. If you have a dream, make it an NAYGN event.
[KD] I think the biggest part is asking the members what they want to do and supporting them in that. It takes a special group of people to be able to jump on board with anything anyone wants to do, and we’re fortunate that we do have a good group of employees. So I think that’s a big part of it too. They just like to have fun, they enjoy hanging out with each other. It helps that they enjoy each other’s company, and they like to do whatever they can do for a party or a good time. If there’s a perk, they’ll come so we just make it about having fun and doing something together. A lot of our members tend to be younger and single, so they don’t necessarily have a bunch of family commitments. But even those who do have young kids are involved; they can bring them to events that include the families, like crawfish boils, or other things that are more child-friendly. Everyone gets along and gets involved, so really we open up and ask them what they want to do. Our rule is that as long as you can get one other member to join you, then we’ll support it. We’ll call it an event and we’ll get behind you.
[AP] So these strategies, have they helped recruit more people from other groups besides engineering? Did they create that curiosity about how to get involved with this?
[NW] I think it created a little bit of a buzz with so many people asking, “Who are those crazy kids? What are they doing? Are they a group or just random people?”
[KD] We created a platform to have a discussion to get out there and do something. It was a very unique opportunity, everything fell into place, and it went very well. It was just getting everyone together for a common cause just like when our site VP noticed that nobody was really donating to United Way due to the reorg. He decided that NAYGN needed to help, so anytime your leadership can come to you because you can make a difference, you can start a conversation and reach out to different groups. Anytime you can help improve the site overall, it gives a platform where you’re seen and recognized by more people on site, and it causes that conversation to happen. So people ask questions and just want to be involved with the group that is positively recognized, having fun, and doing something to make a difference. I think all of those elements together just created the perfect little equation to get people interested in asking questions.
[AP] When someone comes up with an idea: do you guys take it over or have them own it and empower the individual?
[KD] Our attitude is, “You’ve got the power my friend!” We give that person that opportunity to be the leader. It’s a leadership development opportunity, so it works well with our professional development goals. We definitely give them the support they need as far as backing, funds, and resources, then we make them the point person because it’s their idea. It means they’re passionate about it, and they’re going to be the ones that help bring it to fruition.
[NW] Last summer one of our members came up with the idea of renovating the energy center that we hadn’t used since 9/11. At first my gut reaction was, “Oh God! Not something else!” But we thought, “OK. That’s yours.” So I told them how to get that to happen, how to get that meeting before the site leadership team to get permission, and then it just took off. We had work days we would spend over there, and spent about $17,000 that we were able to magically find to do renovations.
Oh, OK! So Orlando just showed up, and he’s the current chapter chair. He was here till midnight last night. He’s a much better person to interview cause he’s like… the dude.
[KD] He is the dude.
[NW] He’s a tired dude right now.
[AP] Well it’s understandable for him to be tired.
[KD] Someone’s gotta work during this outage. [laughs] Better he than us.
[AP] Thanks for joining us, Orlando. Can you give us a brief introduction?
[OR] Well first of all, my name is Orlando Rivera. Thank you for taking the time to have this interview, and hopefully I can answer any questions you might have. I’ve been here for about four years now, but I’m originally from Puerto Rico. I’ve been in Baton Rouge for about five years. Thankfully, NAYGN helped me get used to the nuclear environment and I really got involved because it helped me get better at my job. That’s my short story. I don’t know if you have any questions for me that you might not have already discussed.
[BM] Glad you’re here! So tell us, how do you go about communicating with people? It was mentioned that, for the prom attire day, you had the “self-destructing” paper notes. Are there other unique ways you reach out to people?
[OR] We’ve been pretty lucky with our management team. That’s the key right there: they’ve been extremely supportive. Natalie has been here for eight years now, so she has strong points of contacts here in River Bend. She opened the door for us, and what we did was we started talking with the Operations department and asked for them to let us know when they were going to have training sessions and situations like that. So we went during lunch times and made short presentations about NAYGN for about five weeks in a row to try to recruit people. We presented to about 100 operators. We’re pretty happy about getting two to join, because right now our NAYGN chapter is very strong in engineers, but we’re lacking in Operations and Maintenance support, so we’re trying to reach out, Combined with that was our prom attire INPO 1 celebration, and our site celebration day where we had a booth, and I made some sangria so everybody got a sample. People joined our NAYGN booth and we explained to everybody what we do and the stuff we do, and that’s how we got people interested. That day we got 2 or 3 people from Maintenance to join. Engineers don’t get a choice, once they cross the gate, they get an e-mail in their Inbox informing them that they’ve been added to the NAYGN email list. Even though they don’t know what it is, the next email they get from us is inviting them to a free lunch and a meeting, and they show up.
[NW] We coerce people… slightly.
[AP] So I wanted to ask, if you could describe your NAYGN leadership team with one word, what would it be?
[OR] I’m going to jump before she says something…
[OR] I will say we are diverse and crazy. We’re very vocal people; we’ve got very active, hard workers. That’s probably the first word that came to my mind was “diverse”. We complement each other.
[KD] I like those words.
[BM] Sounds like a good split. See, if you put vocal, active, and hardworking into one word, you describe Ana: pushy.
[AP] Aren’t you sweet! What do you want?
[AP] So now that it’s been announced on the NAYGN webpage, how you guys feel about Natalie becoming the new NAYGN VP?
[KD] We are thrilled for her. We’re ecstatic and we can’t wait to see what she’s going to do for the organization, and we couldn’t have a better person represent both Entergy and River Bend NAYGN.
[NW] So sweet!
[AP] Brad, any more questions before we conclude the interview?
[BM] I am just ecstatic that I had the opportunity to talk to you guys and I just wanted to thank you all.
[AP] Natalie, Katie, and Orlando, thank you so much for being on the line with us. It is incredible to hear the stories about your remarkably active chapter, and the R&R Committee is honored to have interviewed you today. Thanks, guys!
April Survey Metrics
by Carissa Butler (Southern Nuclear)
For the month of April, a two-question survey was available to the entirety of NAYGN’s general membership. Almost two-thirds of respondents submitted their surveys directly through the national website, while the remaining third submitted through a related Twitter link.
The two graphs shown below feature the breakdown of responses for each question on the survey, and the larger graph at the bottom of the page demonstrates the survey response percentage by US State and all provinces of Canada.
On a positive note, the top left graph reflects how well we are able to sustain membership, since 91% of the respondents have been a member for at least two years. As an improvement item, it also reflects that we have some room to grow in recruiting new members. The top right graph reflects the internally perceived stability of nuclear power: career opportunities with nuclear science and technology remain promising for NAYGN members. More than 93% of NAYGN respondents believe there will be a job for them in the nuclear industry over the next ten years. Go Nuke!