In honor of International Women in Engineering Day, PPL is celebrating the many contributions women in the engineering profession have made — and continue to make — here at the company and in the utility industry.
This week, we’ll introduce employees Erica Russell Salk with Rhode Island Energy, Lana Isaacson at Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities and Kaitlyn Toman with PPL Electric Utilities. While their areas of expertise, talents and backgrounds are unique, there’s something they each share in common: a dedication to the engineering profession.
They’re among the many women at PPL in the engineering profession who are working across the company to deliver safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for customers. In May, PPL Corporation was named one of America’s Greatest Workplaces for Women 2023 by Newsweek and Plant-A Insights Group.
Erica Russell Salk is manager of Customer Energy Integration for Rhode Island Energy. A third-generation electrical engineer, Salk has worked in energy industry for more than a decade.
“I’ve always been curious about how things work, and I enjoyed math and science in school,” Salk said.
“It’s satisfying to know that I’m contributing my time and energy to something that matters for everyone. It’s a fun time to be in the energy and power sector – we are actively changing the way the century-old infrastructure was built to operate to achieve climate objectives.”
After obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Trinity College and Brown University, respectively, Salk joined an engineering consulting firm, where she supported utility and low-voltage commercial projects. It was here that she discovered what interested her most, and over the next decade, she would rise through the ranks at what is now Rhode Island Energy.
“I feel fortunate to have worked for several great managers over the years,” Salk added. “They all supported my growth and development by pairing me with the right learning and development opportunities.
Continue to deliver – that is the key to establishing credibility and reputation for future opportunities.”
Ever since her college days, Lana Isaacson, manager of Emerging Business Planning & Development at LG&E and KU, has always been fascinated by complex problems and finding ways to solve them.
“Engineering provides the opportunity to combine math and science into problem solving, which attracted me to this field,” she said. “This field teaches you to take a problem, break it down into its components, evaluate different options incorporating risks, timelines, budgets, or other key criteria, and determine the best path forward.”
One summer while attending the University of Iowa, she was hired to conduct research funded by NASA to evaluate fuel sources for travel on Mars. However, it was not until after she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering that Lana’s career trajectory became more defined.
“During college, the potential of working at a utility company was not discussed as an option, yet that was where I began my career,” said Isaacson. “I’m so thankful for that to be my beginning and introducing me to the energy industry. It has proven to be an ever-changing sector full of exciting challenges for engineers of multiple disciplines.”
In her current role, Isaacson and her team conduct market research to explore innovative technologies and programs and assess their potential as future customer offerings. For example, they’re currently researching the use of smart devices and solutions related to energy storage.
“An exciting aspect of the work is the ability to use our curiosity to seek information on what could be a new offering for our customers,” she said.
Growing up, Kaitlyn Toman was quite familiar with PPL. The company is headquartered in her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and is a major employer in her region.
Toman, a supervisor in Transmission and Substation Line Engineering at PPL Electric Utilities, began her career with an internship during her sophomore year.
“At the time, I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted out of my career, and I liked that the internship looked at individuals with an engineering mindset, rather than just the specific type of engineering they were studying,” said Toman, who completed two different internships in two different departments at PPL.
“Everyone comes into PPL and has to learn what an electric utility really does, and as long as you’re able to apply handiwork and critical thinking, then you’ll succeed. I think learning to have an attitude that questions is the most important thing.”
Her first role at PPL was as an engineer in the same group where she currently works.
“That job taught me a lot about time management, organization, and the importance of keeping yourself on track to meet important project deliverables in a safe and reliable way,” she said.
The engineers on her team are Toman’s favorite part of the job.
“They’re all excellent engineers, and I still learn so much from them every day,” she said.
We’re proud to celebrate Erica, Lana, Kaitlyn and the many female engineers who continue to power PPL and its family of companies. While their areas of expertise, talents and backgrounds are unique, there’s something they each share in common: a dedication to the engineering profession.