Women of Weatherization: Jean Diggs

To round out our #WomenOfWAP campaign, NASCSP is featuring Jean Diggs, a long-time leader in the WAP network. After her retirement from the Department of Energy in 2011, NASCSP renamed our WAP Champion Award in her honor. The Jean Diggs WAP Champion Award is presented at our conference to individuals who are true champions for the cause of Weatherization. Recent recipients are: 2015 – Elliott Jacobson, Vice President of Energy Services at Action Energy; 2016 – Bob Scott, former Energy Services Director at NASCSP; 2017 – Meg Power, President and Executive Director, Economic Opportunity Studies, Inc.

We caught up with Jean this Spring and asked about her experience as a woman in weatherization!

1. How did you first get interested in Weatherization?

I joined the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) during its infancy at the then, Federal Energy Administration (a predecessor agency to the Department of Energy). It was my 10th Federal position in as many years.  When I became educated on the potential benefits of the WAP I knew I had finally landed a position that would provide not only a career, but also a rewarding working experience.  I spent the remaining 31 years and four months of my Federal career in the Program.

2. Tell us about your current and past roles in WAP.

When I retired in December of 2011, I had held many positions in Weatherization.  My very first position was as the Office Secretary, and a little know fact, is that I typed the very first Program regulations.  Next, as a paraprofessional, I had liaison responsibilities with various of the then 10 Regional Offices of the Department of Energy.  I next became a Specialist with many responsibilities including regional liaison, lead for client education, conference planning, revising the Application and Reporting Packages, and Monitoring, etc. For several years, I was Co-Team Lead (with Greg Reamy) of the National Program.  Lastly, I was Team Lead for Regulations and Policy and Conferences.

3. What is it like/was it like being a woman in Weatherization? Advantages? Disadvantages?

At the Federal level, I honestly cannot remember being treated any differently because I was a woman. The challenges that anyone faces until they provide insight as to who they are and how they intend to interact with others were there, of course. Advantages were that people seemed to be comfortable with me and my approach, I believe because I was a woman.  I always tried to respect and genuinely listen as an ally to others’ points of view.  Above all, I trusted everyone unless or until I learned I couldn’t. Disadvantages were few after proving to personnel at the State and local levels that I understood and respected their roles and responsibilities.

4. Why do you work in Weatherization? What about your job makes you excited to go to work in the morning?

There were many things about the job that made me excited to go to work in the morning (I arrived between 5:45 and 5:50 am).  First, was the people with whom I worked on a daily basis at the Federal (HQ and Field), State and local levels, as well as the NASCSP and NCAF staff. I had the good fortune to work alongside some of the most dedicated, committed professionals in the world.  I thoroughly enjoyed, respected and liked them all.  Second, the work was simply awesome.  I feel that the entire network does the Lord’s work. At the Federal and State levels we provided the structure/parameters for the local agency staff to install energy efficiency services for those less fortunate, financially, thereby allowing them a better quality of life. Lastly, during this whole process, I made a lot of lifelong friends, many of which I still keep in touch.

5. Do you have advice for other women interested in joining the Weatherization field.

I am not at all certain I am qualified to offer advice, but I do feel comfortable offering the following observations.  Each person is different. Each person has to be herself and operate within her comfort zone. Always be prepared and on time.  Don’t always equate asking a lot of questions/or providing a lot of input with showing or proving interest. Sometimes it can reveal things you may not have intended. Lastly, remember the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.