In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ll be highlighting a few of our accomplished female employees at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in the coming weeks. These women demonstrate a strong work ethic, and provide role model qualities. They’ll offer insight into career development and the path they took to arrive at their current position.
Allyson Burns, program manager for Reporting and Data Quality at NYSERDA, has been with the authority for seven years. She initially started her professional career as a stage manager after earning her Bachelor’s Degree in theater from SUNY New Paltz in 1997. In 2000, she went back to school for her Master’s Degree in Arts and Humanities Education at New York University, during which she worked as an analyst for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. It was there that she discovered her love for databases and numbers.
What attracted you to the career you have now?
I was working in a different field doing profile writing, and I missed digging into numbers. I felt I was not working to my greatest potential. In addition, I was interested in the energy world and have always been attracted to what made the state work and how it ran. I grew up in Albany and most of my family worked for state government, so it was a natural fit.
What has been your greatest career accomplishment to date?
Working with Patrick O’Shei to help to get the Performance Management and Evaluation Systems (PMES) Reporting and Data Quality group up and running from scratch is definitely my greatest accomplishment. We now have some of the best staff in the authority working on a host of different high profile assignments related to governor initiatives such as NY Performs and Open NY as well as introducing new corporate tools for visual reporting and data quality.
Who is your role model in your professional life?
My parents; they always taught me how important it was to have a great work ethic. Even to this day in their 70s they work and take pride in what they do. They taught me how to stick with something and see it through, and to always take a chance.
What is the biggest challenge facing women in your field, and how do rise above it?
There still is lack of diversity in energy-related fields. I will be in a meeting, and I’m the only female in the room. I also think it’s harder for women to balance work-life and home-life, especially when you have small children. The best way to rise above it is to surround yourself with supportive people and work to make sure they see you as you, not as a woman.
What is one piece of advice you’d give a young woman looking to get in to a similar profession?
I suggest working hard and not letting anyone hold you back. Take risks. It was hard for me to become a program manager. I had a lot to prove. It is still a struggle every day, but I do my best to take on new initiatives. Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive is helpful. I have an amazing husband who has always been in my corner and pushed me to be the best I can be.
If you could only visit one place in the entire world, where would it be and why?
Italy. I would love to research my family heritage.