Skip to main content

The Energy of Equity

A Conversation with Brett C. Carter

Brett Carter, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer and Innovation Officer at Xcel Energy, believes that within a growing economy there is an abundance of opportunity in which everyone should have the chance to participate. Chanda also spoke with Brett about critical wealth building in diverse communities.

Listen to Our Episode

Souphak Kienitz  00:04

You’re listening to Conversations with Chanda, a Minneapolis Foundation podcast that unpacks the community’s grittiest most vexing problems, hosted by Chanda Smith Baker. In this episode, Chanda interviewed Brett C. Carter. He grew up in Pittsburgh, youngest of seven, and lived in a two-bedroom home with nine people. His dad had an impeccable mathematic mind, Brett acquired some of that unique mathematic capability and went to get a degree in accounting, an MBA with an emphasis on marketing and the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program. He held roles in business operations, marketing, technology, and shared services at several major utility companies. And most recently, senior leading roles at Bank of America. Brett is now positioning Xcel Energy, an American utility holding company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, serving more than 5 million customers as a leader in energy innovation across all industries. And with Brett’s spirit of giving back, and the person he has become using his platform to make a difference, Chanda wanted to learn more. Enjoy the show.

Brett Carter  01:26

When I was in Charlotte, we had an unfortunate occurrence where Keith Lamont Scott was killed by a police officer. It was so instantaneous the reaction, me and two other leaders in the community and in business, ended up putting together a formal March. The march was extremely diverse, it was about 20 503,000 people, I’ve got some photos of it that will blow your mind. But the march started at the base of Bank of America at the time that I was working for, and you couldn’t you just see the sea of people behind. And it was the most diverse March that that I’ve ever been a part of. But the fact that I was already connecting with so many people made it so easy to make, I made a half dozen calls, Jessica, they made a half dozen calls, Jean made a calf dozen calls. And the next thing you know, this thing is rippling, and you get this peaceful march to show that, hey, you know, we’re Charlotte, we’re going to, you know, work through this, we’re going to live through this, and and we’re going to come out of this a better community. And that ripple effect is still going on. As a matter of fact, Michael Jordan joined in, he donated $7 million to put, you know, emergency and urgent care, medical centers working with Novant. And it just started to ripple and you’re still feeling that I mean, you know, their mayor, the mayor of Charlotte, who I spoke to not too long ago, it just raised, you know, a quarter of a billion dollars, you know, for social justice and things like that, that she’ll have an opportunity to, to leverage, you know, in and about the community. Same things can occur anywhere. I don’t think what occurred here, with George Floyd being murdered, is unique to Minneapolis. And I got a lot of calls after that occurred. But the fact is, is that we we really do need to, to unite and stay united. Because as time passes, the incident will fade in people’s minds, and the impact of it will fade in people’s minds. And if we’re not diligent to staying true to who we are, who we really are, then the the real, the real outcomes of this will be that it’ll happen again. And we don’t need things like that happening again. So, you know, that’s part of the reason that I’ve always formed these groups. And, you know, I’m always in the middle of pulling people together. You know, I was talking with the assistant GM with the Timberwolves last night, and we were orchestrating the adoption of high school, you know, in North Minneapolis. And, and, and, you know, it’s something that I’m really big on, because until everybody has a chance to participate in this in this broader economy that is growing and growing and growing. It’s not about a pie thing, Chanda, it’s about an opportunity thing. I think that’s what happens in a lot of cases. A lot of people believe that. Well, you know, if if somebody else gets a piece of this pie that I’m not going to get a piece of the pie. That’s not how it works. Yeah, if you understand our economy, our economy is burgeoning and you know, busting at the seams because new companies are being created. Every day, and those are new opportunities, and I’m sitting in a space that I mean, everyone is wanting to get involved in, you know, this new energy economy is a great opportunity for, for, I would just say, diverse communities, women, you know, everyone can participate in it. But we’ve got to be deliberate about allowing people to do so.

Chanda Smith Baker  05:23

Yeah, you know, I say a lot of that. So, you know, I grew up on the north side, I’m fifth generation. Oh, okay. Yeah, I’m speaking now, from the north side. And it’s been interesting, you know, being from here, and then also being part of solution creation for our community that I’m directly from and live in. Because there’s so many realities of what exists here. And what you may what I was reflecting on as you were talking, and we were talking, you know, about the importance of bringing down Different people together. Is that so when my mom went to North High, my grandma went to North. High, my mom went to North. I went to North, my son is that North. Wow. Right. So, when my mom and my grandma went, it was predominantly Jewish. When I went to North High, it was it was becoming more students of color. But I was in assuming tech program when I was probably one of maybe six black students that was in this magnet program that was sort of, like segregated inside the school. So, my experience, right, I grew up across the street from Surin and Paul DeMuth that opened up the King and I, their sister Supenn opened up Sawatdee. There was a Native American family that lived next door. Right, there was a white family that adopted kids from Alaska that were like my best friends, right? Like there was a variety of backgrounds that lived in that household. But when I talked to people, the assumption is that I grew up in an all-black community that was sort of deprived. And certainly, there were pieces of that. But my experience was pretty wide, right? Like, Supenn used to watch us. And she’s speaking Thai, like my sister, and I pretty much understood Thai growing up. And you know, we’d go to school eating dried octopus, and didn’t realize it was like, a weird thing until we understood it was weird. But I say that because I think that in some cases, I think that there’s just assumptions about who cares about what. And I think there’s tentativeness for people that feel that that’s not their issue to join in. And I think that’s part of the work that I do this part of the reason of the podcast, and it’s part of the intentionality I think you’re talking about in terms of bringing people together. Because when you’re together, when there’s not an issue, easier to come together when that trust has been built.

Brett Carter  07:42

I totally agree. Because the deal, the meetings after the issue are always a little tense. And, you know, as much as people want to be transparent, they’re always a little pensive on how they want to say things on both sides. And sometimes there’s outrage on one side, and so that creates a passiveness on the other side. But when I’m always meeting with folks, of all ilks, even when an issue pops up, they’ll call me first. Because they’ve been in the environment where they know how I operate, they know how I’m going to be, you know, very straight, very straightforward, very honest about all issues. And they know that where my heart is 100% of the time. You know, for me, I’m about fairness. I mean, I did grow up in inner city, Pittsburgh, and, you know, my community doesn’t look like United States. I mean, my community did not look like, you know, the United States. I mean, it was an all-black community. And, and so, for me going to college was kind of a culture shock. But at the same time, you know, I was being, I’ll just say I was being groomed. Because I did have some unbelievable potential, that I think was just kind of a blessing. My dad was a mathematic mind. Now, here’s a guy that had a fifth-grade education, that had the ability to count cards. And so, you know, he was in and you know, you know, you know where that’s going, right. And so, I was able to get some of that unique mathematic capability. And I applied that in school. And it wasn’t cool, then I mean, me, you know, but I also had a group of friends that wanted to see me succeed and wanted to see me get out of the, you know, get out of the hood, so to speak. And so I had people in my corner that were, you know, really kind of rallying for me. And I remember those days, I could call those people out by name, you know, you know, my chemistry teacher, Mrs. Glenn was lived right around the corner from me, and she always had something positive to say to me as I was going to school, and, you know, in the neighborhood around me wasn’t exactly prospering. And there was a lot of calamity that I grew up, around and you can easily slide either way. But I had one beautiful thing I did have, I had both my parents at my house, there were seven of us, seven kids, but I had both my parents at my house and that made a huge difference as well. I didn’t realize that until I was older that you know, I could see some of the differences having your mom and your dad and then being the youngest of seven I learned from the six older ones.

Chanda Smith Baker  10:27

The baby Oh, boy. Oh, yeah,

Brett Carter  10:28

yeah. But but it, but it really reminds me of my roots. I mean, you know, two-bedroom house, nine people, you do the math. But the fact is, is that my parents did buys their home, which was different than a lot of my friends, you know. So, you know, I was growing up in the projects, we did own a home, which allowed them some flexibilities that others did not have. But it reminded me of where I come from, I am huge about family. And I believe that when you’re blessed with an opportunity, like I am, I’ve been extremely blessed with my career. But what I’ve done is I’ve set up scholarship programs for all my nieces and nephews, I’ve I’ve set up a housing gifting house gifting program for all my nieces and nephews if they want to buy a home, we matched the funds. Personally, my wife and I began, and you know, we’re we’re giving back a lot because we want to build that muscle, within our own family, that thing can extend outward. And so we’re also big givers in the community. I don’t know if you know, you know, Pastor Chris and Jory Tibideaux. But you know, we go to their church, we love giving, we love giving to not just church, but but even United Way and all those things. I believe that’s why I’m blessed. I truly believe that that’s why I’m blessed is because we are not afraid of giving back so much.

Chanda Smith Baker  12:13

Thinking about the folks that are interested in education and finding inspiring kids that are coming from neighborhoods that have challenges. Often their approach is give them give them a stronger curriculum. And I am I am 100% there, right? Like I believe in an aggressive curriculum. But I also know that having positive self-identity having people that you can go to having champions even when you’re not making the best decisions, like having folks that are just 100% there to help you get to the next. The next goal, the next place is equally as important. Do you share? Do you share that belief because I just want to be able to broaden? Sometimes how we look at what’s happening with our young people,

Brett Carter  13:06

I totally believe that one of the things that we’ve got to really look at is sometimes equal isn’t equity. And what I mean by that is, you know, when you look at look at a community that has been deprived for decades, and decades and decades, and there is a, there’s a history of, of a community that’s been sort of taken advantage of or overlooked. Or however you want to word it, you choose your words, I’m not gonna make you select my words, sometimes you have to invest more in those communities in order to get them to a level of parody with communities, I’ve never dealt with that. And so what I would love to see is a model that allows for us to not say, well, they’re getting the same, but maybe they’re getting more in order to bring those schools, you know, because I mean, the tax system is set up that you have you have low income areas, well guess what the tax base is and is strong, and those are the things those are the dollars that are supporting the schools and etc, etc, etc. But as long as we have these, this this continued poverty within these communities, I think we’re going to continue to have serious issues and because you move to the suburbs does not eliminate you from from those the issues that are in those deprived communities. You know, it’s, it is a there’s a true business case and the fact that if if if we are giving opportunities to everyone, then I believe that everyone’s going to benefit, you know, not just the folks that were offered for the opportunities for the did not have the opportunity to before rich and wealthy people are also going to benefit from that. I mean, you. Again, it goes back to that pie analogy. This is not a pie, you know, there’s only, you know, one pie I mean, we’re talking about creating more for everyone to take a piece of it not just grow that top tier, and you know, the wealthy get wealthier kind of a thing.

Chanda Smith Baker  15:28

Pittsburgh, seven kids, two parents college was a culture shock. And then now you’re the executive vice president with a pretty cool opportunity here in the Twin Cities. So, can you believe where you are now?

Brett Carter  15:42

You know, I didn’t imagine being where I am now. And I’ve got to give a shout out to, to Xcel Energy just because I, I believe that Xcel was being intentional with even bringing me here. And, you know, I’ve learned so much through the years through these major corporations. And but one of the things that I do love about a company like this one is that we’re all about equity, as well, Chanda, I mean, even our all of our programs that we’re building around electric vehicles, our programs have farther along in Colorado than they are in Minnesota, but we’re positioning them in Minnesota. But when we talk about building out an infrastructure for people to save two $3,000 a year, because they bought an electric vehicle and the cost of charging, that vehicle is lower, and the maintenance on those vehicles are lower, we want that same opportunity for all the communities, we were, you know, we’re not trying to cherry pick and say, Oh, well, these Tesla owners need these products and services, our products and services that we’re offering in Colorado are actually geared for people that have a ceiling on their income. So, we’re looking for folks that, that are the common man, we’re looking for people that cannot afford to Tesla’s and maybe they want to, you know, a boat, or they want to buy the the Mustang or they want to buy a used vehicle. So, we’re really focused on equity. And so, I get a chance to have, you know, a take part in and having a voice in how we position this company to ensure that everyone’s getting an opportunity to participate in this new energy economy. Because imagine that, you know, you you can afford, you know, $100,000 car, and it’s gonna save you two or $3,000 a year. And for you, that might not even be a big deal. But imagine a person that’s making $50,000 a year at a family of four, and now they’re able to save that kind of money, that’s more groceries, that’s, that’s part of that apartment bill or part of a housing mortgage payment, it means more and so it doesn’t take any more for us to deploy that equity across our system, because everyone has access to power, but we have to have a mentality to say, we want that equity, we want to make sure that everyone gets to participate, and, and take advantage of this new energy economy. And that’s why, you know, when you say, Boy, you know, I will never forget where I came from. And I’ll always think about that first. Because I believe that that’s where success really is. I mean, we we win when all of our customers win.

Chanda Smith Baker  18:42

Yeah, and you’ve been in different places, but it feels like sort of your commitments have been the same.

Brett Carter  18:47

You know, wherever I go, that’s, that’s who I am, you know, and wherever I went, you know, I have to look in the mirror and see myself the same way. And, you know, you gotta have some, some grounded beliefs that really, I think just carry you through life with that, that are unwavering. And I don’t know if you can see that, that little side behind me, but those are my four F’s. And and it’s, it’s, you know, and this is for me, this is not about Xcel, this is for me, but you know, my faith, my family, and I put friends in there with family, and then my fitness and my finances and if I always say if I can balance those four F’s, that I get the fifth one for free, and that’s and that’s fun. And so, I’m always trying to ensure that I’m living off of those those virtues because, you know, if I’m not, if I’m not reaching back, to ensure that anybody liked me, anybody that even isn’t like me, but anybody like me, particularly doesn’t have a chance to take advantage of an opportunity or even be exposed. When you were talking before, a lot of our kids are not being exposed to what opportunities are. And that’s why, you know, bread and butter ventures. It’s a, you know, equity firm here that I joined. Because, you know, the first thing they asked me wasn’t to give them money, it was to, hey, can you come and speak to this diverse group of high school students that we’re teaching about private equity and venture capital, and I’m going holy, I didn’t even know what that meant until, you know, 10 years ago. And so, if we’re, if we’re starting these students out that that aren’t hearing that kind of talk around their table, with the knowledge that those opportunities are out there. Wow, that’s, that’s powerful stuff. So, I have to admit, I get excited because I have a chance to give back in a meaningful way, I have a chance to influence outcomes at Xcel that impact the broader community, we kicked off what we call here at Xcel career launch program, where we’re hiring students directly out of college so that they can become a part of our pipeline 85% of more diverse students. And so, you know, we’ve got this ongoing hiring process, and they go on a rotational for two for two years, six months, every six months, we move them to a different department, because we don’t want them to get stuck in something that they don’t, that they’re not passionate about. We want to teach them about this industry. And then they get picked up at the end of that rotation by different leaders in areas that they’re interested in.

Chanda Smith Baker  21:40

I love I went on the website. Oh, in terms of accessibility, right, like I know, Xcel through my bill. Right. And I met you. So I’ve known other staff that right, like I’m sort of minimizing my understanding of Xcel know what you mean, by let’s just say didn’t go deep. So, so in prep, I went on the website, what I’m thinking about now is how you guys frame entry level jobs on your website, you’re like, it’s basically not your average entry level. Right? Right. And I’m like, I’m like, I’m looking at this website, like, this is actually really interesting. Like, I see equity, I see accessibility, I see goals, I see. We are a leader, like, join us, like, the future is ours, let’s design it. Like, I mean, there’s just so much creativity that so it was bigger than what I have seen Xcel to be right. It’s something that I need in my home, I pay my bill, it’s been very transactional, I don’t think about sort of the larger footprint. And it’s not something that was accessible to me, it wasn’t something necessarily I was learning about in high school, and, you know, clean energy and like plug in cars. I’m like, what, like, you know, in my mind, I’m like, what happens if it dies on the freeway someone to come? And like, plug it in? Like what the heck, like? Yeah, so come talk to me.

Brett Carter  23:03

Well, you know, that’s, that’s a beautiful thing. I love hearing you say that. I mean, I’ll tell you I was, you know, you gave me kind of chills, because we’ve been really trying to reshape how customers view us because, quite honestly, the electric utility is going to become that much more critical. As we move away from fossil fuels as a as a source of generating electricity.

Chanda Smith Baker  23:30

Do we have the talent? Will? What needs to happen? Just have the talent to execute on what’s coming down?

Brett Carter  23:36

Yeah, well, I will tell you that there’s a huge, you know, labor gap. I mean, and as you can see, there are a lot of people that are sitting there going, oh, man do, you know, I don’t even know if I want to go back to work for what they’re paying me that kind of thing. But what you are seeing you are seeing a rise in the minimum wage, that’s not even government mandated. I mean, when you know, we’ve raised our minimum wage twice in the last three years. And it’s, you know, we’re looking to make be, you know, a competitive wage paying company, even at the minimum wage level. So that’s a beautiful thing. My big, my big thing is this, if we aren’t educating everyone on the opportunities that are coming down, especially when you see it, you know, I was on the governor’s council for economic expansion. And so, you know, I’m pouring my ideas into that, along with others, you know, Steve Grove, who really kind of led that that effort. But, you know, we have to be extremely deliberate and purposeful in how we’re educating all of the community in what they can do to be a part of those billions and billions of dollars that are going to be spent in that space. I talked to a minority supplier that builds chargers. And they’re not in our footprint, they’re actually in Michigan. But I immediately introduced them to our company, and I say, hey, listen, if we’re installing chargers, we should be buying chargers, from minority organizations, as well as majority organizations. So, we’ve got to be extremely thoughtful and deliberate about the money that’s coming through because wealth building in in these diverse communities is absolutely critical. As you hear, you know, the first thing I want to do when I have some wealth is I want to give back and make sure that others like me are getting an opportunity. If that doesn’t occur over and over again, then you’re not going to see that opportunity, just completely continuing to be passed down. And that Pay It Forward model. I’ve worked with some folks. And you know, Dave Stewart, who’s a really great friend of mine, he is the founder of worldwide technologies. And I remember when I first started working with Dave, I lived in Kansas, and he was just he was a guy struggling to try and keep his business moving. And if you ever read his book, you’ll hear him talk about, you know, in the middle of all of what was going on, his car was repossessed, I believed in Dave in a big way. And he’s now one of, you know, one of the few black billionaires in the country. And he and I did a fireside chat with the Timberwolves players, because here are some young men that are coming into all this money. And we’re saying, listen, don’t forget where you came from, let’s figure out ways for you to, you know, you know, ensure that you’re not going to lose everything you got, but also, you know, you’re doing things that are going to be beneficial to others. And so, you know, it’s creating those kinds of dynamics that, you know, with people that become lifelong friends that you can call on say, Hey, listen, I’ve got this initiative, I’d like to roll out, hey, can you help me with that? It was the same thing with Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan, and I had a chance to meet and catch up on some things. And so when we rolled out the “One Charlotte” mantra, you know, he was one of the first ones to say, Hey, listen, I want to make a contribution. And when you get people like that making contributions, they’re typically pretty significant. And they can move the needle quite a bit, and they set a pace that in that pulls others into that cycle. And we wanted to do the same thing as an energy company. We said, hey, listen, we’re tired of hearing about, you know, all of this, this climate change, we want to do something about it. So, we jumped out front and we said, hey, we want to be carbon free by 2050. And then guess what? All the utility started going, well, we want to leave and now everybody’s following suit. And so, then we said, well, we want to have one and a half million electric vehicles in our jurisdictions by 2030 as well, now everybody started going well, we want to, we want to, and so sometimes leading on critical things like that creates a followership that that multiplies your pebble into water into a huge wave of opportunity and a huge wave of activity. And that’s where I really saw Ben Fowke and now Bob Frenzel, taking our company and saying, let’s be the pebble in the water that creates the wave.

Chanda Smith Baker  28:30

Yeah, and you are confident and meeting and exceeding perhaps those goals.

Brett Carter  28:35

We’re very confident and at our 2030 goals of 80%. And I’ll tell you that some of our jurisdictions will be above that, we admitted that, you know, 100% by 2050, is something we’re gonna need technology to, to help us along with, I mean, we don’t have all the solutions. But one thing I will say is that, you know, we’re a culture that we find the answers, I mean, you know, as well as I do, when when we’re faced with a challenge, even as a country, when we’re faced with a challenge, we have enough creativity, enough of a mindset to get to solutions, whether it’s finding a solution for, you know, a virus, or whether it’s finding a way to get to the moon first, you know, I mean, we put a challenge out there, and what we do know is that we’re, we’re definitely going to be a part of the solution, and we’re going to, we’re gonna find that answer, we really believe we’re gonna find the answers to get to 100% carbon free energy.

Chanda Smith Baker  29:38

And really, I mean, the question for me is really coming from a place that having sort of the moonshot goals are really important, right? It oriented people to think bigger and to be bolder and to energize the field and the people around it just going broader than Xcel for a minute. You know, do you think like, you know, now that you’re in Minnesota, which I could talk to you about Your experience coming from the south, especially on this very, very cold day. Stay here.

Brett Carter  30:08

I do love it here. Let me just say that much. You know, I grew up in Pittsburgh, which is a cold city as well. And I remember sitting in it, you know, at the time, it was Three Rivers Stadium, but even sitting in Heinz Field in 20 below watching football game, so I can’t complain that that was that was an option. You know, I didn’t have to sit in a three and a half wire football game, the 20 below weather. So, you know, when I moved here, I, you know, I knew I was gonna be moving back to some, some chillier weather. But what I will say about Minneapolis is it has been very inviting for me, and I’ve met some phenomenal people here met Kevin Warren, who was with the Vikings. I’ve met several the CEOs here, Brian Cornell from from Target, he actually gave my son his seats at a basketball game was one of the Timberwolves games, and he had a chance to set on the on the floor with his buddy, the arms are open. Why, you know, when you get here, I think what you have to do is you have to embrace the city back. And you know, and that’s what I’m doing. I mean, I’ve, like I said, I’ve met so many of the leaders in this city. And the philanthropic thinking here is is just off the charts. And when you think about, you know, the government and and the way the government here works, we, you know, we’re thinking about how can we be more inclusive, I believe Chanda, that just like you talked about the moonshot. We did a moonshot. But we had stages so that we could measure how we were doing against that moonshot. I truly believe that we need to make some moonshots on wealth building in our communities, we need to then back that up with progress reports. I mean, you’re never going to, you know, there’s a there’s a saying in business, and it goes, you know, what gets measured, gets done. And so in other words, if you’re measuring it, and it’s being reported on, it’s going to get done. You know, when I think about the clean energy economy, this new clean energy economy that’s coming at us, I think that there’s some real opportunities there for us to include small businesses, we have to be deliberate about that. And we should have some goals in there for that. And I also believe that, you know, the reason I’m calling this electric vehicle charging company is so that, we can start to say, hey, listen, you know, you’re probably not big enough to bid with the big, big, big players. But man, we want to, we want to make sure you have an opportunity to participate in this new energy economy. And you have to build it deliberately. One handshake at a time, I carve out so much time in my calendar, to ensure that I’m talking to small minority business owners, women owned businesses, so that they’re getting enough time with me, so that I can connect them with our supply chain group. And I’m you know, typically when you’re an EVP at a big company like this, when you send out an email, people respond pretty quickly. And so, I’m passing along quality folks, but I’m also expanding that pass just our company. So, I’ve you know, Tom Dietrich, who’s a partner of ours on with ITron, I mean, they they’re going to be installing hundreds of 1000s of smart meters. I mean, we’re putting in technology in Colorado, and Minnesota, Minnesota, starting this year, that is going to change the way that you think about us. And it’s going to give you an opportunity to communicate interactively with us, and then give you some capabilities within your home that gives you even better controls and visibility into how that energy is being used and how you can reduce and control your energy costs.

Chanda Smith Baker  33:57

Let me tell you, when I get my little report on how my neighbors and me are doing.

Brett Carter  34:06

Exactly exactly what we’d love to do for you there, Chanda, we’d love to give you the opportunity to to actually, you know, give your kids a chance to see how they’re doing against what you’ve set out for them. See if you know gamification is big with our with our kids. I mean, you know, you start making it fun for them. And all of a sudden, it becomes a competition. Well, I’m going to tell you, we’ve got some fun things coming for people to really dive into how they’re using energy and how they’re helping to create a cleaner environment, especially reducing carbon.

Chanda Smith Baker  34:43

Yeah, you’ve talked to a number of ways on how you are working to be more inclusive. Yeah. Are there other areas that you see that would increase sort of equity in this space?

Brett Carter  34:55

Yeah, I mean, you know, when I think about hiring or hiring practices, I talked a little bit about that career launch program that that we started. But I truly want to move the needle on the, you know, the number of linemen, that are that are out there. So, you know, alignment job is a game changer for, for most families,

Chanda Smith Baker  35:18

I mean, his father-in-law was a lineman for Xcel, here you go.

Brett Carter  35:22

There you go, there you go. So, I’m going to tell you, that is a great job. In a lot of cases, they can be lifelong jobs. But when you think about the amount of compensation that you can get with a high school diploma, it’s phenomenal. And so, I’d like to adopt some schools that start teaching some of the kids that may not be college bound, everybody is not cut out to be, you know, going to a four-year school and graduating on it. And so, if there’s an interest level, in, you know, becoming a lineman becoming a technician becoming, then then we should be bridging that gap that direct hiring is something that we definitely could, could leverage. And quite honestly, we need to do more of that

Chanda Smith Baker  36:07

you have a sense of like, how many are percentage of jobs that don’t require four year degrees at Xcel?

Brett Carter  36:14

I would say 50% or more? Wow, yes. So, we have 12,000 employees, I would say 50%, or more don’t require a college degree. Wow. And these are, you know, these are, these are good paying jobs. So I would just say that our minimum wage here is $17 an hour. And that’s, that’s a very entry level type role. So you won’t see many people coming in and starting there. But you know, our linemen, I mean, they can, they can make quite quite a handsome amount of money. That’s why I say it can be a game changer, I’ve seen it change family units in a big way. Even when I look at our, even our, our employee satisfaction, when we do our glint surveys, and we are minorities and the women that work here, their engagement is actually higher than than the rest of the company. And it’s a beautiful, it’s a beautiful thing, because I think what what’s occurring is that they’re getting an opportunity to participate in their life. Great company, you know, compensations good, never thought maybe never thought they’d have a chance to come in and get an opportunity to work here. And so there’s an excitement about that, we have to keep that momentum going and then share that same momentum, as we, you know, start to look for new talent coming in, because the digital world is changing as well shot and we need people they can, you know, think about what the future holds. And that was one of the reasons that I was brought in, to do what I’m doing. So more, much more to come and huge opportunities. Yeah, I’ll tell you shot, I will, I will say this much. I think platforms like yours, are extremely critical to ensuring that people can kind of hear directly from folks that are trying to make a difference. And everybody’s not going to agree with what’s being said, you know, and and some people believe that there is a pie and that, you know, if you give some of that pie away, you’re going to be cutting into the opportunities of someone else. And my thoughts on it is if we continue to grow as a, as a country, and we continue to grow as companies, then there’s endless opportunities for everyone to participate in that. And the more that we focus on the lesser of these, the lesser of us, I believe that the more we’re going to be able to grow a much better economy grow much faster. And and I think we’ll all sleep better at night. I mean, I feel great when I go home and lay down at night, because I know that 80% of what I’ve done is helping other people. And I’m going to tell you, that is a beautiful, beautiful feeling.

Chanda Smith Baker  39:11

Yeah, I you know, I appreciate acknowledging this platform, you know, part of why we got there is sort of my natural sort of curiosity, you know, working hard to create opportunities for people to learn about issues also to expand sort of their worldview or points of view on what’s happening in our communities. But I also think that, you know, embedded in that is the fact that we become so polarized. And we and I think you touched on that earlier on when you know hanging out with folks that are diverse. Like it’s just not like I just don’t do that at work. You don’t just do that at work. It’s a way we operate in this world, like who we are anywhere to we are everywhere sort of model. What I appreciate about this is that even in the conversations that I’m having, it actually isn’t about agreement it’s about, it’s about understanding, it’s about being able to be open enough to hear another person’s point of view. And maybe spend a few minutes thinking about it. Yeah, hey, where you are, but spend a few minutes thinking about here,

Brett Carter  40:13

you know, we’ve got it, we’ve got a saying here. And it’s the way it’s the reason that we’re successful in Xcel and innovation. And we’ve got to saying, I remember when I came here, and people God that we already tried that now, we looked at that already, or that is the way this is the way we’ve done it. And I said, I said, at a meeting, I said, Let’s do this, when somebody brings up a new idea. I said, Let’s love that idea for 15 minutes. You know, it’s like, after 15 minutes, you can go back to, you know, hating it again, or whatever I said, but for 15 minutes, let’s get a dialogue about why you love that idea. That’s the conversation that I want us to be able to have in the community. Let’s think about ideas. Now, some ideas obviously, aren’t warranted, because you know, they’re just too extreme. But even when you hear an extreme idea, don’t I want to I want to know where that person is coming from, I want to understand where they’re coming from. If you can love an idea for 15 minutes, I think it changes enough time, it’s enough time to change perspectives on things. And so that’s, you know, when you talk about the, you know, the the gatherings that I have, it really is about the dialogue that’s taking place, and the relationships that are being built that I don’t think otherwise would have been created. And so you got to give yourself a chance to even stand, you know, there’s a gentleman I used to listen to his name was Myles Munroe. He’s out of Bahamas. And he used to say, to understand, you have to stand under a person, otherwise, you have to almost, you know, be they have to be on your shoulders, you got to be carrying them to really understand where they’re coming from. And so, I just think we don’t give ourselves enough time to even think about a different perspective before we’re shooting it down. And we’re, I think we’re gonna get much better at that, especially with everything that our country has gone through, and is going through, and we’ll go through

Chanda Smith Baker  42:23

Great, I appreciate you being on there, I have to tell you that we were in a in a conversation with the Timberwolves and you said something about the importance of giving back on an issue, I think we were talking about breast cancer. That’s when I knew I wanted to have you on the podcast. And I say that because it is very much about the role you have. But it’s more about the person you are and how you’re using your platform. I think it’s important. Sometimes we also have sort of the impression of who’s in leadership, and how they show up in community and that companies have people that don’t care about community, they only care about numbers, they only care about making money. And we know that that is true. In some cases, I think it’s important to shed light on where we have leadership that are using their platform that care about the community, that have the lived experiences of our community, that are thoughtful, that are helping to shape our future. I just wanted you to know where my inspiration came from. It wasn’t about you know, clean energy, it was worried about you sharing your commitment and saying this was important to me before where where I was in the Carolinas. And now you know, it’s important to me here. And it was just like, oh, I want to I want to actually learn more. And I appreciate how you’ve come here. There’s two things that you said that I think well, there’s all kinds of things you said here support. And so, I we skipped over the whole thing and the conversation with Michael Jordan, like it was just like not even like I sat down with Michael Jordan. But anyway, I can talk about that later. The other piece is how Minnesota has embraced you. So, for diverse talent that gets recruited here, it’s long been sort of a conversation of how they transition in and out because they don’t find it to be a welcoming place. And so, I love the idea of saying you have to embrace it back. And I think there’s a lot of companies that can learn on individuals that can hear that, and maybe get some advice from you on what it means because I do think it’s a great place to be. It’s challenging, it can be challenging, I don’t want to discount that. But it’s also a great community.


Brett Carter  44:36

I agree. And Chanda, one of the things I want to do is I want to make sure that, you know, when you when I talked about your platform, I mean that I want to I want to make sure we use your platform to create, you know, and help build some of the equity in this new energy economy. We talked about, I want to get your thoughts on that we can take that take that offline. But you know, my son came here, and you know, we moved to Edina and you know, when you when you’re coming in here, they that’s why they’re taking you. And so we went to Edina, he went to public school in Edina and his grade point average just grew significantly. He you know, he had a slight learning disability, and they really wrap their arms around him and he’s now at a very prestigious college and he did well over the summer. He did well his first semester. I you know, I gotta give credit, I mean, I’m not you know, I’m not a person that that believes that it’s all one way I believe that you have to give as much as you know you’re receiving and so I think those teachers and I gave them gift cards and all kinds of things to let them know how much I appreciated them trying to make sure that my son felt welcome at that school. And, you know, we I have I have to have different conversations I had I had a video with the CEO and Chairman Ben Fowke right out After George Floyd was murdered, we show that video to everyone in the company. And he and I share with him the differences in the conversation I have with my sons, then he had to have with his and it was unscripted. It was a beautiful, it turned out to be a beautiful, sort of very candid conversation that went viral with our company. So much. So, the board of directors is like, can you guys do it again? And we were just sitting there going, that was so authentic. There’s no way anything is gonna ever, ever, ever taught that. But that’s that him just reaching out to me when that occurred and say, hey, are you are you okay? Can we just talk? Yes, that’s for me. That meant so much. And I had so many other folks, you know, Peter Frosch at Greater MSP and Ethan Casson at the Timberwolves, I had all these people that just said, you listen, I know, you know, you’re going through something when this is happening. And my conversations were different. But at the same time, as long as you understand that, and that you, you know, you’re, you know, you’re not being overly defensive about those kinds of things, that I feel like I’m at home, you know, and I tell my family that, you know, they’re like, man, you know, it’s 13 below today. I’m like, yeah, it’s, it’s eight below in Pittsburgh, so let’s just be real. So, I just so he says, for me, it’s, it’s a matter of, you know, finding your rhythm, finding your friends, you know, and, and when my friends and my, my business associates embraced my family, they became family. So that’s how I that’s how I look at it. You know.

Chanda Smith Baker  47:40

I love it. I love it. I look forward to more conversation and continued partnership. I appreciate you being on the podcast today.

Brett Carter  47:48

Absolutely. I appreciate you inviting me love being on here. Appreciate your time.

Souphak Kienitz  47:55

And that’s Brett C. Carter and our host, Chanda Smith Baker. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a review. Wherever you listen to your podcast. You can always reach out to us on our website, or our social media channels at MPLS foundation for Chanda S. Baker. Thank you to Sarah Gillund, John Cuoco, Darlynn Benjamin and our hosts Chanda Smith Baker. This is Souphak Kienitz from the Minneapolis Foundation. Thanks for listening.

Close Transcript -
About Our Guest

Brett C. Carter

Brett C. Carter is Executive Vice President and Chief Customer and Innovation Officer at Xcel Energy. Brett leads a broad organization driving customer engagement and organizational innovation, including the key areas of marketing, customer service, information technology, cyber and physical security, brand strategy, and innovation and transformation efforts.

With a vision to match transformative technology with frictionless experiences, Brett is reimagining how the company evolves customer relationships. His leadership is positioning Xcel Energy as a leader in energy innovation across all industries.