At just five years old, Geisha and her family fled Cuba to safety in the United States in 1967. Arriving in Minnesota first, the family would eventually settle in Union City, New Jersey. After saving money that her father earned from a factory day job and washing dishes by night, geisha’s parents opened two grocery stores. These years would expose geisha to the importance of what it means to provide ‘good customer service.’

She began on an unexpected path in the electric business when she stumbled across an internship posting on a college job board at the University of Miami. It was for a summer internship at Florida Power & Light (FPL), and perfectly suitable for her engineering studies. Geisha would fall in love with the electric business, complete her senior year with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, then join FPL full-time as a ‘residential energy auditor’. For the next 24 years, she held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility in customer service, marketing, external affairs and electric operations; and ended her FPL career as the ‘Vice President of Power Systems’. Within these years, she also found the time to obtain her MBA degree from Nova Southeastern University.

In times of crisis, as Williams faced in Florida, she must not only be a commander, she must be an ear to listen, a hand to lend, and a source of compassion. In a state ravaged by seven hurricanes in less than a year and a half, Williams proved not only that she and her team could recharge their customers, but that the community would be informed through clear communication.

“I realized that without electricity, nothing works,” Williams recalls. “We’re the energy that allows all business to operate. We’re an integral part of every major innovation that’s occurred in this country. I could work for a manufacturer, a hospital, or this invisible enabler without which nothing—our economy, our quality of life—is possible.”

While the duties of executive vice president of electrical operations may not exactly be glamorous, Williams takes great pride in fulfilling them nonetheless. She moved to California in 2007 to join the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in California. Today she leads a team responsible for providing safe, reliable, and affordable power to 16 million people in northern and central California.

On March 1 2017, Geisha Williams became the first Latina to lead a Fortune 500 company.

Read more: