Meet DTE’s 2022 Trailblazers

DTE recently celebrated its annual Trailblazers awards, recognizing employees for their exceptional leadership and mentorship in blazing a path for others to follow. This year, three engineers – Cornelia Butler, Joi Harris, and Terrell Lockhart – were honored for their work to connect students, community members and employees to learning, development and career opportunities in STEM related fields.


Cornelia Butler, director of Emergency Preparedness and Restoration, who grew up and still resides in East Detroit, uses her energy to help expand DTE’s recruiting strategy to hire more diverse engineers from Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs). Understanding that more than 85% of DTE’s entry level engineers are co-ops or summer interns, and more than 50% of college degreed African Americans graduate from a HBCU, Butler spearheaded stronger relationships with HBCUs to help recruit new talent. Since 2020, Cornelia and her team hired 26 co-ops and summer students from six HBCUs.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


“It’s an honor to be considered a trailblazer and recognized for my passion and my contribution to the work of helping to build more equity and diversity in my field,” said Butler. “It also means that there are now opportunities for others to follow, replicate and improve.”

In November 2021, Joi Harris was promoted to president of DTE Gas, making her both the first woman and the first person of color to be appointed a DTE president. Harris is a 30-year veteran of DTE, having started her career at the company when she was 15 years old, shadowing gas engineers. She joined as a co-op and then as an engineer.

Today, Harris is also the vice president of the board of directors for the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). In this role, she applies her passion for STEM to help ensure students of color excel in STEM fields and are equipped to develop their skills and build their confidence.

“For me, being a trailblazer means I have the awesome responsibility to help create pathways to aspirations that, until this point, may have seemed unattainable for some, particularly those who look like me,” said Harris. “As an African-American, female, engineer and executive, I’ve been the first – and you can fill in the blank. I’m committed to making certain I’m not the last by not only creating opportunities, but also challenging others to do the same. The trail I leave is only one of the many needed to foster more diversity, equity and inclusion at DTE and throughout our community.”

Terrell Lockhart, a manager in DTE’s electric distribution and, a degreed electrical engineer, is known for making a positive impact in every role he’s had throughout his career at DTE. Lockhart leads the company’s two tree trim training programs, one at Parnall Correctional facility in Jackson, Michigan, and the other at the Tree Trim Academy in Detroit. Both programs have garnered awards as well as national attention for being an innovative approach to addressing workforce needs, while serving as a force for growth in our communities.

“My parents inspired me to set goals, to pursue them and remain steady toward them in times of self-doubt,” said Lockhart. “They were both raised in small towns in Alabama and moved to Detroit in 1968 right after high school in hopes of setting a new course. 50 years later, they’ve raised seven college graduates and post-graduates. More importantly, they built a house of love and confidence. They explicitly instilled in all of us that ‘no one is smarter than you, some just work harder than others. If you ever think that someone can do something you can’t, work harder and you will see the truth.’”


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