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After Rising from Intern to DTE Energy Engineer, She Works to Help Others' Careers

February 11, 2018, 12:43 PM Harvard University

Skill and drive are carrying Kayla Shelton far from Renaissance High School in Detroit, though she lives and works here.

"Shelton's work stretches across hundreds of miles of pipelines" as a construction design and planning supervisor at DTE Energy, says a Harvard University profile of the 2013 engineering graduate.

Kayla Shelton: "My interest in mentorship stems from being a woman of color."

"Passion for problem-solving fuels alumna’s energy sector career," says a subhead atop the article by Adam Zewe, a communications manager at the university in Cambridge, Mass. He writes:

An early interest in math and science, and some gentle nudging from her mother and math teacher, inspired the Detroit native to pursue engineering.

"I was drawn to engineering because it is grounded in problem solving," she said. "You see a problem in the world and engineering gives you the tools to go out and solve it. I always loved the idea of actively going out to see things and design things, and coming together with other people to make solutions for everyday problems." 

In the summer of 2010, after freshman year at Harvard, she worked in the Downriver area as an intern at Detroit Edison's coal-fueled generator known as the Trenton Stacks. "She was fascinated by the plant’s machinery," Zewe writes. "Shelton’s father had worked more than 30 years at Ford and the two shared an interest in complex, industrial sites."

Shelton returned to the utility the next three summers as an intern and co-op program participant, and came aboard full-time as a gas operations supervisor in Milford four months after graduation.

A current project involves route planning and government permit applications for moving natural gas lines under deteriorating I-94 overpasses that will be replaced. "I definitely end up doing a lot of juggling because of all the different projects that come under my umbrella," she tells her alma mater's business school profiler.

The 2009 graduate of Renaissance High mentors summer interns at her workplace and helped helped set up Detroit's chapter of Black Girls Code.
(LinkedIn photo)

The Detroit Public Schools graduate works to introduce students to career paths such as hers. She helped establish a local chapter of Black Girls Code and joined a panel discussion with its co-founders at the Detroit International Academy for Young Women.

Shelton also creates professional development workshops as an Enrichment Committee member at Detroit Young Professionals, and is part of the Young Professional Society at Covenant House Michigan.

At DTE Energy full time, she serves as a mentor for summer interns -- which she describes as "almost like fuel that helps me continue doing what I do."

"To be able to motivate them helps to motivate me. These mentees are watching me as my career and I grow. Having that indirect accountability helps me keep my eyes focused on the prize, which is to do the best I can no matter what. ...

"My interest in mentorship stems from being a woman of color. I noticed very quickly from my experiences at the power plant and in DTE operations that there aren't a lot of people who look like me in this line of work. It is so important to reach out to kids at an early age to let them know that these are options for them."

Read more:  Harvard University

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