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7 Questions with Rudy Garza
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7 Questions with Rudy Garza
Name: Rudy Garza
Current title: Chief Customer Engagement Officer
Current organisation: CPS Energy
Rudy D. Garza is the Chief Customer Engagement Officer for CPS Energy, the nation’s largest municipally-owned electric and natural gas utility. He is responsible for customer success, community engagement, corporate responsibility, managed accounts, corporate communications, marketing and smart city initiatives.
He joined CPS Energy in 2012 as Vice President of External Relations where he was responsible for local, state, and federal government relations. In 2016, he was promoted to Senior Vice President of Distribution Services & Operations where he was responsible for the operation, maintenance and construction of the electric distribution system in the San Antonio metropolitan area.
Rudy is a 1996 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin earning his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. In 2004, he also successfully completed his MBA at the University of North Texas. Rudy continues to serve his community through multiple board positions and serves his UT Austin alma mater on the advisory board of the School of Electrical Engineering.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
This past year, pivoting to operating in a Covid-19 environment has been a challenge. Trying to provide electric and gas utility service to San Antonio and keep our employees safe has been unprecedented in terms of the focus it's taken to evolve our processes to stay on top of an ever evolving situation.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Every move that I've made over the course of my career has been strategic in terms of the opportunity for me to grow. We have a saying to "Just say yes" when someone challenges you to step up as a leader. I've had some great experiences over my career because I've always been willing to challenge myself.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I get up to spend time with my family before work. My days are 10-14 hour days depending on the day. But I find time to be where I need to be for my family but am also always available to my CEO and colleagues when there is work to be done. The broader the leadership responsibility you take on, the harder it becomes to manage your work-life balance. But it is extremely important.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
After the February Winter Storm Uri event, I would say the experience of having to help lead our organization through the most challenging experience of my career in the utility industry. As Chief Customer Engagement Officer, you have to be honest with your customers, say you don't know if you don't know the answer to a question, stay focused on what is in front of you and just keep working through the crisis. The sun will rise tomorrow, so you just can't let the difficulty of any particular day impact your resolve and focus on serving your customers.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I'm a high relator as a leader. I am strategically focused on building strong relationships as a basis for how I lead my team. So for me, I spent time early in my career as a corporate lobbyist, so the book "Crucial Conversations" by Patterson, Grenny< McMillan and Switzler has always been my relationship bible of sorts. I am not afraid to take on really challenging conversations because of the skills I grasped onto from this book. Creating win-win scenarios so relationships are maintained is a great approach to the business world. For you to win doesn't mean someone else has to lose. I'm a believer in that approach as a leader. Business success is all about relationships.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Succession planning is the primary way that we build leadership capacity. You have to challenge yourselves to focus on building leaders within the organization and when you have an opportunity, you challenge them to take on roles outside their comfort zones. Having a solid succession planning strategy and focusing on it is one of the primary roles of the leaders of any organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I have had the privilege to work for some top notch CEOs who have given me more responsibility and challenged me to lead beyond my experience. I've taken on some very diverse roles that have continued to prepare me to take on broader roles. Having CEOs challenging me to grow as a leader has made all the difference in my development. Having a leader ask you the question, "what do you wanna be when you grow up?" and put the idea in my head that I can be a CEO too changed the trajectory of my career. I'm thankful for that conversation.