Spotlight on … Suzanne Swink
Vice President of Government Relations
After more than a decade at BP, you’ve made a big move.
That’s right. After 11-plus years with a company that I really love, I’m with KORE Power. I’ve been here for a couple months, so I am still in my “honeymoon phase,” but it has been wonderful. Moving from a 100-plus-year-old company to a young company like KORE has been fun. KORE is newer, with all that implies — a small team, maybe 130 employees in all, compared to 70,000 for BP. So the cultures and dynamics are different.
Why did you want to make a move?
I think that the pandemic might have had something to do with it. That experience made a lot of us look at our careers and our lives and seek new challenges. I was eager to move up to a more strategic, executive role, which is often more realistic in a smaller company, and in my new role I get to build out the government relations function from the ground up — you don’t usually get this kind of incredible opportunity! Plus, I was immediately impressed by the CEO’s energy — no pun intended — and his enthusiasm. That is true of the entire company. This is a place of great commitment to the business we’re in, which is battery cell technology and energy storage solutions. The clean energy industry itself is one that the people [in the industry] are understandably enthusiastic about.
This is a fast-growing company in a fast-growing industry — we are onshoring domestic battery manufacturing at a time of great need, for clean energy projects, for commercial and industrial uses, and for utilities. I’ve always been inspired by the passion people bring to their work, and that is palpable here at KORE in ways that I was not expecting. It’s lovely. Our corporate headquarters is in Idaho, which is also lovely in ways I had not expected. It reminds me of the time I spent in Alaska for BP — the water, the mountains and the green spaces. So this move has energized me in a number of ways.
You are also teaching now?
I am on Georgetown’s adjunct faculty in lobbying and government, and will be teaching in the fall. Right now I’m a faculty adviser, working with students who as part of their academic work are helping actual companies and organizations — external clients — develop public affairs and communications programs.
And you are also earning your certificate in Public Affairs Management from the Council?
I’m so close! I’m one credit away from my certificate, which I should get in June. And I’ve completed year two of my three-year commitment to the Public Affairs Institute, which is such a great program. I was planning to attend (for my third year) in Laguna Beach back in January. But to my extreme disappointment, I came down with COVID two days before I was to leave and couldn’t go. But my classmates have been great about it, which is part of the value of the Institute.
Can you explain?
The networking opportunities at the Institute are phenomenal. You get to know a diverse group of people at your own level in your work — in lobbying at the state or federal level, for example — who are facing the same challenges you are. That’s invaluable. You form a real bond, and my classmates were sympathetic and helpful, sharing what they could from their time in Laguna Beach. But that is only part of the value.
Talk about the other parts.
There’s the faculty — the experts, the presenters — which is excellent too. But the entire experience allows you the opportunity to expand your line of sight, if I can put it that way. You widen your aperture. You can look from the trees — from your everyday work — to the forest of the larger world in which you and your organization live and operate. You come away with a better sense of global context and concerns, and how government and public affairs are a crucial part of any company’s nonmarket success strategy. A professor of psychology, Laura Carstensen, talked about how people in organizations make decisions, for example, and Jeffrey Fisher, a law professor, talked about the upcoming Supreme Court session. Those are just two examples that expand and deepen your understanding of the world.
You seem to have found the right career for yourself. If you weren’t doing what you do, is there another line of work that you might have enjoyed?
I’d like to have been a travel writer, if I could have figured out how to make a living at it. I like understanding different cultures. I’d have enjoyed being a linguist for similar reasons. I like being a traveler and not just a tourist. There’s a difference between going somewhere and taking a picture of yourself to put on Instagram, like “Look at me!” and fully appreciating the culture that you are in. I like to experience other cultures, as much as is possible, as locals experience them.
Reach Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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