In her own words: Karen Purcell, PK Electrical president

Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about PK Electrical.

Karen Purcell: I founded PK Electrical in 1996. It is an electrical engineering firm with many capabilities lighting and electrical design, medium-voltage distribution (up to 35kV), low voltage and LEED design. We can do most project types and I am especially proud of our healthcare, roadway and educational projects. We have a staff of 16 people, many of which came from the field and transitioned into design.

NNBW: What role do you play in the company?

Purcell: I am the president and CEO. I market to and maintain relationships, oversee the projects and handle the financials for the company.

NNBW: What kind of boss are you?

Purcell: I am very hands-off, and like to give people opportunity to think for themselves. I make time for questions or to offer guidance. I am open and supportive of new ideas.

NNBW: How did you get into this profession?

Purcell: My high school physics teacher suggested engineering and I fell in love with it my freshman year. I was lucky enough to find a job in this engineering field right after college and really enjoyed it. I have been doing it ever since.

NNBW: What do you enjoy about it?

Purcell: I love complex projects and being able to see the finished product. I really enjoy the people side of the business, particularly the interaction with clients.

NNBW: What do you find annoying or frustrating about it?

Purcell: The timeframe on projects keeps getting shorter and expectations keeping getting higher.

NNBW: If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn't it your first choice?

Purcell: It would have been something with math. I just happened to find engineering first.

NNBW: What effect has the changing economic environment had on your company?

Purcell: We have shifted some of our focus to renewable energy.

Fortunately, our clientele and projects are very diverse so as one market segment is going down, another one is going up. We have made changes internally as well and are smarter about how we spend money.

NNBW: How do you spend your time away from the office? Why are these activities important to you?

Purcell: Away from the office, I enjoy spending time with my wonderful husband and two girls. In the summer, we spend most of our time on the family boat at Lake Tahoe. I run half marathons as it gives me some "me" time every day.

NNBW: Do you have a favorite vacation memory?

Purcell: I loved doing the zip lines in Hawaii and Alaska!

NNBW: What school activities and sports did you participate in?

Purcell: I played field hockey and was in a marching band and a sorority.

NNBW: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Purcell: One was my teacher suggesting I check out engineering. The other best advice was to always be honest, upfront and confront issues head on.

The basics:

Name: Karen Purcell, P.E.

Professional position: PK Electrical, President & CEO

How long have you been in this job? 14 years

How long in the profession? 21 years

Education: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) from Widener University

Best book you've read? "The Notebook"

What's on your iPod? Lots of Elton John and a few songs from Billy Joel, James Blunt and Jimmy Buffet.

The best movie ever? So many to choose from...anything that is light-hearted and funny.


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