Jill S. Tietjen is an author, speaker, and professionally licensed electrical engineer who spent forty years in the electric utility industry. She is one of the USA's top experts on scientific and technical women. She is the President and CEO of Technically Speaking, a national consulting company specializing in improving technological career opportunities for women and girls. She is Series Editor of the book series, Women in Engineering and Science.
Why is electricity important and what benefit can it bring to society?
I don’t even think that today’s young people can imagine a world without electricity – no smart phones, no computers of any kind, no airports and so forth. Life would be very, very different. Like clean water, electricity significantly improves our standard of living and quality of life.
What have you seen as changes that have happened among women in STEM?
The biggest change is that there are more women in STEM than when I started over 40 years ago. However, women are still not represented in leadership positions within the industry in percentages that demonstrate parity. Unfortunately, we still have much work to do.
What is the best advice that you have ever received?
You can do it. The keys are passion, determination, and persistence. Do what you love and what you are driven to do. Understand that there will be obstacles. Understand that life doesn’t work out the way you think it will – especially not the first time.
Tell us about your background
Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, the oldest of four children of a father who was a PhD engineer at NASA and a mother trained as an elementary education teacher, I knew I was going to college and that I was going to an in-state school. Fortunately, by the time I was ready to apply to college, the University of Virginia had started admitting women as undergraduate students. I entered the University of Virginia in the Fall of 1972 intending to be a mathematics major. But midway through my first semester, I found engineering and made all of the arrangements necessary to transfer to the engineering school. In 1976, I graduated with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics (minor in Electrical Engineering) (Tau Beta Pi, Virginia Alpha) and went to work in the electric utility industry.
Galvanized by the fact that no one, not even my Ph.D. engineer father, had encouraged me to pursue an engineering education and that only after my graduation did I learn that my degree was not ABET-accredited, I joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and for almost 40 years have worked to encourage young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. In 1982, I became licensed as a professional engineer in Colorado.
I started working jigsaw puzzles at age two and have always loved to solve problems. I derive tremendous satisfaction seeing the result of my work – the electricity product that is so reliable that most Americans just take its provision for granted. Flying at night and seeing the lights below, I know that I had a hand in this infrastructure miracle. An expert witness, I spent my career planning new power plants, getting them permitted, and into the utility’s rate base.
I received my MBA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. My awards include the Distinguished Service Award from SWE (I am a SWE Fellow and served as National President 1991-1992), the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Virginia, and I have been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. I sit on the boards of directors of Georgia Transmission Corporation and Merrick & Company. My publications include the bestselling and award-winning book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America for which I received the Daughters of the American Revolution History Award Medal. My newest book – 2019 – is titled Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies.