About Town

Women in STEAM – Maria Bunting Smedley

Maria Bunting Smedley | Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation | Vice President – Human Resources & Corporate Strategy

Beginning Interests… During my junior year as an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, I won one of five national merit scholarships offered through an affirmative action partnership with the National Urban League and Duracell, Inc.  In addition to the scholarship, I was awarded the opportunity to intern within the human resources department of a Duracell battery manufacturing facility.  After a summer internship with the department, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in human resources.

A Day at Work… A typical workday starts with a temperature check and completing a COVID-19 screening questionnaire. I also spend time checking emails, providing advice and counsel to managers and supervisors concerning employee issues and organizational challenges.  I attend meetings with my staff, with the senior team and with project teams to ensure that work assignments are moving forward.  I also spend time working on personal goals and objectives such as facilitating the development of a 2030 Strategic Plan and managing the COVID-19 pandemic response process and return to work plan.  I work to ensure that employees receive performance-based feedback, are fairly compensated and have opportunities for professional development.  After ten years with AECC, I have learned that no day is really, typical.

Career Evolution… The first 10 years of my career, I held human resources positions at manufacturing companies before transitioning to work for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  There, I learned about the electric utility cooperative business model (to provide electricity, at cost) and its mission to provide affordable and reliable electricity, responsibly, to rural and in many instances, impoverished communities across the United States.  Several years later, I accepted the opportunity to relocate to Little Rock, Arkansas to lead the HR Division for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, an electric utility generation and transmission cooperative.

LOVE the Work… I love that every single day presents new and interesting challenges to address and resolve.  Employees are the “secret sauce” for any successful company and I love that my role is to ensure that employees have the tools, resources and support to achieve the goals of the company. Our mission, reliable-affordable-responsible, is easy to support.  Electricity is a basic necessity; it is almost impossible to imagine that not so long ago many areas in rural and impoverished America did not have it.  I am proud to work for a company that strives everyday to improve the quality of life through providing affordable energy.

Surprising, but True… You do not have to be an engineer to work for an electric utility company.  There are many amazing employment opportunities within the electric utility industry that can benefit from talented young women.

Advice… Never self-eliminate!  Pursue your interests. Let your talents, skills and abilities shine brightly. You do not have to be perfect to be qualified!

These wonder women are redefining what “full STEAM ahead” means in Arkansas. With exciting careers in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics – each reflects WIT (Women in Tech) and true grit for making the most of every opportunity. Here’s to the powHER of knowledge.

Photography by Sarah Oden

Inviting Arkansas

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