The time for us is now
By Halie Dalton
“Can I steal this?” Jason Bishop asked as he pointed to an old issue of Connect magazine on my desk. This particular issue, like many issues of You magazine’s predecessor, was likely scrounged up from the archives, dusted off, and plopped haphazardly on my desk by a passerby.
I hadn’t had the chance to look it over yet, but Jason, being observant as he is, noticed it right away. The 2013 issue, Tapping the power of sun, fuel cells, and wind, was of particular interest to him as an energy technology advisor.
Jason works in the Innovation group, but he also lives in the epicenter of innovation: San Francisco. He moved to the foggy depths of the Golden State in July, just as the Innovation group was taking its current shape.
After many conversations with leadership discussing the future of the company, and as the group began to grow, it quickly became clear that a position dedicated to scouting innovative solutions was necessary.
Fortunately, these conversations rode on the tail of the company’s budding partnership with Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, Calif. The tech center connects corporate partners with startups, creating a dynamic relationship through which corporations advise startups on business models, and startups introduce innovative solutions to corporations. Read: It’s a win-win.
Due to this partnership, the maturity of the energy systems on the West Coast, and Jason’s valuable perspective on the future of the company, a position was created – rather, innovated. Jason and his wife, Emily, a MD/PhD Neuropathologist, packed their lives (and pets) into their Volkswagen and drove from Richmond to San Francisco. How’s that for embracing change?
In 2001, Jason began working for the company in Risk Management, where he stayed (and rose to director) until 2014, when he moved to Corporate Strategy and Financial Analysis. There he served as director, overseeing the financial modeling and governance process for potential investments.
“I think it was my experience in that role that lent itself to the role that I have now,” he says.
In Corporate Strategy and Financial Analysis, he became accustomed to asking the questions that the company (at the time) may not have been asking, but that he thought it should. Economics was at the forefront of all of these questions and conversations, and he focused on determining the cost-effectiveness of certain solutions.
Now, at the tech center in California, Jason takes a similar approach. He holds a generalist, economics-based perspective when determining the feasibility and necessity of certain startups as they are now, and as they will be five, 10, 15 years down the road. After this initial vetting process, he passes them on to the right people.
“We are a company of experts,” he says. “We have an expert culture here. It’s important to know when to take a step back and let the experts do their job.”
Although he is often the first interaction that the company has with certain startups, he is certainly not the last. He, like the Innovation group, is a master at knowing when to let go. “Innovation” as a concept can’t belong to any one person or group, but rather it is engrained in our culture.
“Nobody has ownership over these concepts,” he says. “You have to be willing to let them go and forego the credit associated with whatever becomes of it.”
I asked Jason what a “typical day” looks like for him, to which he responded, simply, “atypical.”
Each day is quite unpredictable, but there is a method to the madness. Most of his time is spent researching and connecting with startups so that he can figure out how certain innovations could solve the problems that Dominion Energy is currently facing, or will face in the future.
He spends two months creating a “cohort” of startups, and then comes back to Richmond to present his findings to relevant and interested groups, for two weeks at a time. Then he does it again. And again. And so on.
Although he works alone, from his apartment, coming back to Richmond and seeing the way the company has embraced an innovation culture keeps him motivated. “Embrace Change” becoming our fifth value was a welcome (and non-negotiable) addition, according to Jason.
“The core value is a positive sign that we’re acknowledging that the industry is changing, and that we need to participate,” he says.
While this keeps him hopeful about the future, Jason takes embracing change one step further: He effects it, drives it. And he wants to help employees, at every level, to do the same.
“I’m a resource to the whole company. Anyone can call me at any time,” he stresses. “There are 21,000 people in this company – all of them have good ideas. We need to find them.”
When talking to Jason, it’s easy to tell that he really means it, too. He is always willing to talk through ideas, able to connect employees with the right people, and eager to help them move forward. It’s tangible how much he cares.
Jason is honest and direct, but he doesn’t give off an ounce of entitlement.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to do this type of work, live in this innovative place, and bring it back here,” he says. “It’s not lost on me. I don’t feel like I deserve it for any reason, other than people trust me to do it.”
And that trust is well-earned. Jason was recently awarded the Corporate Innovation Award for the Energy and Sustainability vertical at Plug and Play. His commitment to connecting with startups and helping shape a culture of innovation at Dominion Energy is award-winning. Not many people can say that, and he probably wouldn’t admit to it, himself.
While many individuals and groups throughout the company have made significant strides in innovation, he wants to help escalate things on a massive scale – and fast. He knows that the pace of change for everything is accelerating, and he’ll make sure that Dominion Energy isn’t left behind.
“I’ve got a seat at the table, and I’m going to push,” he says.
Proven by the 2013 issue of Connect that Jason so swiftly collected, Dominion Energy has always been forward-thinking. A large company comes with even larger responsibility, but even more so – potential. Potential to change the way that people interact with the Earth, energy, and each other. Jason is here to maximize that potential, to everyone’s benefit.
“We have the opportunity to establish ourselves as a leader,” he says. “The time for us is now.”