One of Project Engineering Manager Dawn Shilkoski’s earliest memories is accompanying her father on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. A technician at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland for 43 years, her dad always made the day special for her.
“He would save up his projects so I could watch him fix equipment and do his job,” she said. “It was definitely a level of technical expertise you would never see in your normal life.”
She also saw the quiet pride her father took in his work. The experience stuck with Shilkoski and perhaps even subconsciously influenced the career path she would take.
Years later, as an environmental engineering major at Stevens Institute of Technology, she partnered with Kim Almeida – a fellow student and future PSEG district manager for Gas Operations – to design a system of micro-wind turbines for the campus as part of their senior project. The assignment convinced Shilkoski that not only is creating the technology that generates electricity a necessary public service – it also can be a lot of fun.
After graduating with a Bachelors of Engineering in Environmental Engineering, she worked as an engineer for a construction contractor for several years before joining PSEG – starting out in Asset Management but soon transferring to a role as a project engineer for strategic transmission projects in Delivery Projects & Construction.
In this role, she was handed an important job – the Northeast Grid Project, which involved upgrading to 230 kV transmission lines from 138 kV transmission lines to provide customers with more reliable service.
“That project had a lot of different aspects to it – we installed new monopoles and lattice towers, and we had just about every type of foundation and subsurface conditions,” Shilkoski said.
Making the job even more complex, Shilkoski was asked to take on program management duties in addition to her engineering responsibilities.
“I handled a lot of the direct communication with civil and electrical contractors on-site to address requests for information, review changes to contracts, and any other task that required coordination between the contractors and the engineering team or other groups,” she said.
Shilkoski enjoyed the business aspects of her expanded role, and in October 2019, formally transitioned to project management. In this position, she manages schedules and costs, ensuring that her team successfully and safely executes the project scope.
Depending on the size of the project, Shilkoski manages projects with 50 to more than 200 team members – both from internal groups (including project management, construction, engineering and safety) and external groups (such as construction management, material management, and civil and electrical contractors).
“There is always a new challenge to tackle.” she said. “I personally love seeing our hard work come to fruition as the transmission lines are constructed. I take a lot of pride in the team’s accomplishments as I drive past our new transmission assets throughout New Jersey. I drive my husband nuts by pointing them out when we are in the car together.”
Reflecting on the millions of homes and businesses powered by PSEG, Shilkoski is gratified by her part in building more redundancy and resiliency into the electrical transmission system.
Balancing education and giving back
The East Brunswick resident appreciates the career development activities offered by PSEG. She has participated in several company initiatives, including Charting Your Course, a seven-month program for rising managers across the company. It was an opportunity for Shilkoski to work on leadership skills, especially soft skills including people management.
Shilkoski also has been able to balance her work at PSEG while continuing her education. While working full-time as an engineer, she earned a Project Management Professional certification and is working toward an MBA at Rutgers University.
Beyond work, giving back to her community is a big part of Shilkoski’s life and something she has been able to find time for thanks to a company policy that gives employees eight paid hours off to volunteer each year. She has volunteered with Junior Achievement, providing mentoring for high school girls; participated in several Society of Women’s Engineers events at Stevens Institute of Technology; as well as the Students2Science lab in Newark, where middle school students get to be scientists for a day.
One event that is especially dear to her is the holiday party held for children at PSE&G’s Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick.
“It’s wonderful — we serve food, help the kids do festive crafts, and watch as Santa and Mrs. Claus give out presents,” she said.
Shilkoski sees the event as emblematic of PSEG’s care for the community.
“I really respect the company’s focus on volunteering. It feels good to give back and makes it easy to have pride in working for PSEG.”