LIVONIA, Mich. – Consumers Energy recently named Tonya Berry as their new Senior Vice President of Transformation and Engineering.
Before that, Berry was the Vice President of Gas Operations.
Berry celebrates being Consumers first Black woman Senior Vice President in an industry dominated by men.
Berry said she was always raised to chase after her dreams and industrial engineering was no different.
“My mother says, ‘Hey, I am raising two daughters that can rule the world should you choose to do so, and if nobody thinks you’re good enough, they’re wrong,’” said Berry.
In her new position, Berry runs operations the community sees on a daily basis.
“Designing and building windmills our solar panels and the design of the pipes that go in the ground where we deliver gas,” Berry said.
Being the first Black woman to hold any Vice President role in the company’s more than 100-year history is a humbling surprise to the wife and mother of two.
“If you think about the challenges in the world, particularly for women, minority women at that, I’ve had those challenges also in my career,” Berry said.
Berry says getting to this point wasn’t easy. She reflected on when she was two years into her engineering program at the University of Michigan.
“Not a lot of other women and not a lot of other minorities at all,” Berry said. “And so that was a tough journey in itself because you had to really make sure you had kind of a tight network, that’s kind of what pushed you through,” Berry said.
She was ready to give up but took advice from one of the most influential women she knew.
“My mother reminded me, ‘You said since the fourth grade that you’re going be an engineer, and so you got to keep at it because I believe you could do it, and you need to believe you could do it,’” said Berry.
It was tough, but Berry referred to that time in her life as one of the best experiences because it prepared her for the real world. She later became an industrial engineer.
Now, more than 25 years later, Berry looks to the future of Consumers Energy.
“Really playing the role in the engineering function to make sure that we’re preparing for a clean and lean energy future,” Berry said. “Making sure that we’re getting ready with our renewable energy sources from wind and solar. Also preparing the grid as we think about this journey to one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.”
She is also working on the next generation of engineers.
“Sometimes you say ‘Why me,”’ Berry said. “But I’m grateful that it is me, blessed that it is me, but I also really think about the responsibility that I now have to help those that are coming behind me.”
Berry sits on the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) board and works with students in math clubs, robotic teams, and other STEM programs.