Student Spotlight: Emily Sheen, Arizona Public Services

Eller PDC Student Stories

Emily Sheen is a senior, majoring in Economics and Mathematics, and is expecting to graduate this Spring. Emily interned with Arizona Public Service this summer. 

Solar plant

Photo courtesy of Emily Sheen

Tell us a little bit about how you landed the internship:

I found out about APS from a family friend who used to work for the company.  I interned in the Regulatory department in summer 2014, and reached out to my recruiter Tiffany Mousel in early Fall 2014 to try to get an internship in the finance area for this summer.  She forwarded my resume on  to the Finance & Business Operations department and they reached out to me to set up an interview.

 What is a typical day at your internship like?

On a typical day, I work with other interns and contacts in different business areas to get information used for decision support or budgeting.  I gather information directly from business areas that run power plants or build transmission lines, and use the information to perform financial analysis on projects or support the budgeting process.  I also work on my main internship project, which deals with prioritizing capital projects across the whole company, using metrics like ROI, risk, and adherence to company goals & values.

What has been your favorite part of the internship so far?

I worked with another intern to develop a ranking model for prioritizing capital projects across APS’s several business areas.  The utility industry involves a wide array of projects from IT and Customer Service, to Fossil and Transmission & Distribution.  It is extremely challenging to compare projects that make the company more technologically efficient, to projects that keep the lights on, especially when the company faces a tight budget.  Our model will help business leaders score and rank these vastly different projects in an objective and mathematical way, and it feels amazing to contribute real value to their businesses.

What are some things you have learned?

I have learned so much about keeping the lights on.  It is truly amazing that whenever you flip a switch, the power comes on…and there is a whole team of people generating, transmitting, buying, and selling power to make it happen.  A utility has an obligation to serve customers, and tight regulatory restrictions on their ability to recover costs.  When you buy electricity, you aren’t just buying the gas, uranium, coal or renewable systems that generate it, you are buying an elaborate grid of physical power lines that connect us to California, Nevada, New Mexico, and all across the US: rain or shine, despite thunderstorms or tornados.  The utility is an old business, but it is essential for any business to be able to do business.

What advice you have for other interns?

Try to look at your work at a high level, and not get caught up in small details.  Look at how your little piece of the puzzle contributes to what your company, and your industry is doing to impact America’s and the world’s economy.  What is your business?  What is your spreadsheet, or balance sheet, or tax return saying about your company?  Sometimes we get caught up in the little tasks, and we forget what the tasks are supporting at a high level.  The most important thing we are doing as interns is developing high level knowledge that we can translate to interviewers to get jobs later. Understanding concepts is the most important skill we are learning in internships and at school.  Try to set up meetings with leaders in other departments and get out of the cubicle to learn more about your business.

How has Eller prepared you for your internship?

Economics classes have helped me learn to think at the high level, and understand the concepts behind technical ideas.  Any seemingly difficult financial analysis or calculation is controlled by a simple, macro-level idea.  If you understand the idea, then you can do the calculation.