From Intern to Utility Vice President

​Colin Cushnie, SCE vice president of Energy Procurement and Management, reflects on his 27-year career.

December 29, 2014 | By Lauren Bartlett @SCE_LaurenB

When Colin Cushnie first started at Southern California Edison (SCE) in 1987, it was in an intern-type program that gave him an introduction to the company and a year to see if it was a place he wanted to work.

The guidance his roommate’s father gave him to apply at SCE turned out to be great career advice: 27 years later, Cushnie is SCE vice president of Energy Procurement and Management.

Cushnie mentors employees at a variety of levels, both in the company’s formal programs and also informally. 

“I love to get to know employees as people,” he said. “I also can be a sounding board for what they’re hoping to accomplish at Edison.”

Cushnie’s background isn’t typical of executives at the company. He grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii and on Maui. He then moved to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., with his mother and brother for his last two years of high school. His mom wanted her sons to experience something other than Hawaiian island life.

Before coming to work at SCE, Cushnie worked as a commercial fisherman in Cape Cod, drove a taxi and worked in a nightclub to pay off his college loans. He achieved that goal six months after double majoring in economics and business administration at Whittier College.

Cushnie, 50, has seen a lot of change since starting at the company in January 1987. 

Many parts of the company aren’t as hierarchical, he said. 

“Many organizational units stayed within their areas of responsibility. Collaboration across units wasn’t as good as it is today,” he said. “Today there is much better access between employees and senior management.”

And safety was not paramount the way it is now, he said.

“Twenty-five years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see people climbing on top of their desks to change lightbulbs,” he said.

Technology has driven many of the changes for people’s daily work. Back then, there was a typing pool and all memos and management reports initially were handwritten. It took two to three days to get the typed documents back.

In the pre-personal computer and Internet era, meetings, phone calls and voice-mail messages were the main communication channels. 

“It was not uncommon to go to a one-hour meeting and come back and have your voice mail full,” he said.

Cushnie’s first job was as an assistant purchasing agent. His next role was developing the company’s program to purchase from diverse businesses. Cushnie was also part of the company during major change in the electricity industry in California, including deregulation and the subsequent energy crisis, when the state took over the role of buying energy for SCE.

After the energy crisis ended, and SCE once again was in charge of buying power for its customers, Cushnie moved to the San Francisco office, and as a director, advocated for market design and power procurement issues. He was eventually appointed interim head of Trading & Energy Operations and Energy Contracts, and subsequently was promoted to vice president. 

Cushnie and his wife, Silvia, have three children — Lauren, 20, who is a junior at Southern Methodist University, and twins, John and Sarah, 16, who are juniors in high school. The family lives in Yorba Linda.

Cushnie enjoyed playing sports for many years, but now focuses on jogging and walks in the Yorba Linda Hills. Cushnie is also a history buff and usually keeps a book handy. 

Jeremy Fuller, an intern in Cushnie’s department, said he is looking forward to learning about the future of the business.

“I’d like to learn some of the most important things he learned on the path to this level,” Fuller said, “and if there were important things he learned early that are still applied today.”

Topics: People