Getting gritty with Kevin Sagara

Written by:


We sat down with our Lifetime Achievement Award winners to get an inside view on how they view grit and leadership.  This week we met with Lorenzo Simonelli.

At ALLY we define GRIT as — Growth. Resilience. Innovation and Talent.

What part of grit resonates with you most personally? Professionally? And why?

For me, they all resonate! These words - growth, resilience, innovation, and talent – are all important as we try to find ways to continually improve ourselves, our companies, and our industry. Having a growth mindset is key to success and it aligns with our values – do the right thing, champion people, and shape the future. We have to employ a growth mindset to deliver good outcomes for our customers.

When I think of being resilient, it hits me in a number of different ways. As an energy infrastructure company, we strive to be resilient against the impact of the changing climate such as wildfire mitigation, where we are a leader in the industry. Our employees and our culture are also resilient. Over the past few years, our employees have shown their strength and determination to come through COVID and continue to perform at a high level, building an even stronger sense of belonging and inclusion.

Innovation is one that really stands out to me because it reflects my personal ethos. We have to be innovative in our business in order to continue to provide our customers with clean, safe, and reliable energy. Energy access and security are important on so many levels, not just for communities to survive, but for them to thrive and flourish economically. Finding new and innovative ways to deliver energy to our customers can make this a reality.

Growth, innovation, and resilience cannot happen without the talent to imagine, build and support them. Diversity is key because it takes fresh ideas and new perspectives to enable innovation. At Sempra, we work hard to create an environment that fosters a high-performance culture where people can engage with each other. It’s an environment that recognizes and rewards talent. I had the opportunity to experience that engagement and I want to be sure that others, regardless of their position, have the same opportunity and experience.

At ALLY we believe role models are important. Who in your work and life have been role models of GRIT? Can you tell us who they are and what you learned from them? 

I have been very fortunate to have worked with many great people, who were role models and mentors throughout my career. One that stands out is Stephen Baum. Steve was the mastermind behind the merger that came about in 1998 between Los Angeles-based Pacific Enterprises, the parent company of SoCalGas, and Enova Corporation, the parent company of SDG&E. The resulting company was Sempra.

Steve was a lawyer like me, and he actually recruited me. He has a lot of these qualities of GRIT. He had a great growth mindset, he was resilient and he was excellent at developing talent. He was a mentor to me all through my career, right up until he retired as Chairman and CEO of Sempra in 2006.

The energy transition is the single largest challenge of our lifetime. As a lifetime achievement award winner, if you look at what the end of your career might look like when you will retire — what will you be most proud of in our quest for a lower carbon future? What does that look like for the industry? What does that look like for you?

The energy transition and addressing the changing climate is something I’m very passionate about. From a personal and professional perspective, I have always strived to do the right thing in regard to the changing climate and actively try to address the challenges it presents.

I am fortunate to work for a company like Sempra, which is also aligned with finding new ways to drive a lower-carbon society safely and innovatively. Our mission is to be the premier energy infrastructure company in North America. We’re focused on building 21st-century energy networks and modernizing energy infrastructure, so we can advance energy security and economic growth.

I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to contribute to that mission, whether at Sempra where we generated over 2500 gigawatt hours of wind and solar power in 2021; or leading San Diego Gas & Electric, which is recognized as a global leader in wildfire mitigation, as well as a leader in electric vehicle adoption; or supporting Southern California Gas Company and its development of clean fuels, including Hydrogen and RNG.

We’re not just talking about energy transition and climate solutions, we are actually doing something about it, and we are driving it forward.

When I look to the future, I see an industry where infrastructure is increasingly important because the role of electrification is becoming bigger and bigger. Whether that’s electrifying everything or delivering clean molecules, infrastructure is going to be the linchpin to this entire energy transition, and Sempra will be right there leading the way.

Rapid Round / Getting to Know You

Favorite Band or Song and why?

Here Comes the Sun – it’s uplifting and optimistic.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The cost of gasoline when you got your first car.  It was $0.60 a gallon when I first started driving in 1975. However, while that might seem incredibly cheap if you adjusted for inflation today, it was probably more expensive then, than today!

A person you would be keen to have dinner with (dead or alive) and why.

Probably be somebody like President Obama to get his thoughts on what we can do to deal with this climate issue on a worldwide basis. It seems like an intractable problem when you've got countries that don’t seem to care or are not in a position to care about the impact of climate change. How can we move the needle and get everyone thinking about providing access to energy in an equitable way, that is also mindful of our planet? 

If I were to meet someone dead, I guess it would be Abraham Lincoln and ask him what can we do right now because our country seems so divided. How can we come together and repair the damage already done and stop it from continuing to happen?

Kevin was honored on October 26 at the GRIT Awards with a mayoral proclamation.  Here's his acceptance speech.





Related Posts