This interview with Susan Story, chief executive of American Water, the utility company, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
Q. What are some early lessons you learned from your parents?
A. I grew up in rural Alabama. We didn’t have a lot of money. When I was really young, my mom and dad both worked in a cotton mill. Then my dad was a wastewater plant operator for nine years, and then he became a pipe fitter.
I learned from them that every person deserves respect, regardless of who they are or what they do. And no matter how bad things get, it’s about working hard and taking personal responsibility, because nobody owes you anything.
Those two things have had a huge impact on my life — no whining, no griping, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you react to it.
Were you in leadership roles early on?
I always wanted to be in the middle of everything. I was the senior class president in high school, and even though I had to work my way through college, I was still very involved in extracurricular activities and was president of different groups. I always loved being around people and getting stuff done.
What about early work experience after college? Lessons from those days?
World-Wide Business Centres
575 Madison Avenue – 10th floor
New York, NY 10022