Today’s EML Blog covers a recent conversation I had with Justin Bardin, a member of EML Cohort 14. Justin grew up in a small western town in Arizona, where, as the grandson of a Veteran, he developed a desire to serve his country. Justin gained admission to the United States Naval Academy where he graduated at the top of his class and was selected for a highly competitive graduate education program that allowed him to attend Harvard Business School prior to his Naval Service. After completing his MBA, Justin completed the Navy’s Nuclear Power Training program and served on the USS Nevada, a ballistic missile submarine based out of Seattle, Washington. During his time in the Navy, Justin completed 5 strategic deterrent patrols where he led Divisions of Sailors responsible for reactor plant maintenance and submarine communications. Justin is now a Senior Project Manager at Southern California Edison where he leads the nation's largest fleet electrification program.
Justin lives in Burbank with his wife, Jill, and three-year-old-son, Charlie. He serves on the board of Burbank Water and Power and volunteers as a Naval Academy Blue & Gold Officer where he provides guidance and conducts interviews for high school students applying to the Naval Academy.
"One of my biggest take-aways from the Navy is the importance of helping people see the greater vision."
Your life has been shaped by education and your Navy career. What are some of your biggest take-aways?
Justin: One of my biggest take-aways from the Navy is the importance of helping people see the greater vision. While in the Navy, I spent three to four months at a time living underwater in a submarine. As an officer, it was my responsibility to help my Sailors see how their job contributed to the overall mission of the submarine and defense of our country. I have carried this leadership principle into my current role as a Program Manager at Southern California Edison (SCE). I always try to help people see the bigger picture and follow-up to let them know how their work directly contributed to the overall team goals.
What are some of your most pivotal moments as a leader?
Justin: About a year and a half ago, I became the Program Manager for Charge Ready Transport - the largest fleet electrification program in the nation. We’re seeking to electrify over 800 sites and nearly 9,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the next 5 years. No one has ever attempted something like this so I’ve been navigating uncharted waters.
Within my first few months in the role, I realized that my team needed to restructure and redefine roles. As the team leader, this was difficult for me to admit because I didn’t want my current team to feel like they weren’t capable. However, I knew that for the program’s long-term success, we needed to make a change. I was fortunate to have the support of my leadership and we worked across several different groups in SCE to design a new team that could better support fleets in their path to electrify. This created a better experience for SCE’s customers, but, just as important, it enabled the members of my team to operate more effectively and contribute in ways that aligned with their strengths. This experience taught me that sometimes you have to just admit that changes must be made to a team’s structure rather than trying to force something that’s a bad fit.
What inspired you to dive into the EML program?
Justin: What attracted me to EML was its focus on leadership and personal development. So much of my day-to-day is focused on what tasks need to be accomplished. EML provides the opportunity to take a step back and examine how I am accomplishing those tasks and where I can do better. I firmly believe you can’t be a good leader and achieve long-term success unless you know yourself and continually strive to improve your leadership skills. With COVID-19, we’re all learning how to lead in a virtual work environment so the leadership lessons EML provides are all the more important.
"You can’t be a good leader and achieve long-term success unless you know yourself and continually strive to improve your leadership skills."
What style of leadership defines you?
Justin: I’m very purpose and community driven. I find I am at my best as a leader when there is a strong sense of mission to what my team is working on. Similar to my time in the Navy, a strong mission allows me to orient the team towards the greater goal and enable team members to contribute in ways where they add the most value. I’ve been fortunate to find this in my current role at SCE where we’re focused on increasing EV charging stations that will support more electric vehicles and lead to cleaner air and a better quality of life for Southern California.
What is your advice for budding leaders?
Justin: Find something that motivates you. Find something that matters. The success will follow. That was my biggest takeaway from the Navy. It’s important to feel what you're doing truly makes an impact. If what you’re doing matters, then it becomes less about the paycheck and more about helping your team achieve success.
"If what you’re doing matters, then it becomes less about the paycheck and more about helping your team achieve success."