Patricia K. Poppe

President and Chief Executive Officer, CMS Energy Company and Consumers Energy Company
BSIE ’89, MSIE ’91

For her passionate commitment to customer-first management, her far-reaching and successful performance in leadership within the energy and automotive industries, and her embodiment of the vision and mission of the Purdue School of Industrial Engineering

“Holy Mackerel.” Those were the words of Patti Poppe’s father, William Kessler, when he learned that his daughter would become the president and chief executive officer of CMS Energy Co. and Consumers Energy Co. — his former employer. Kessler retired after a career as a nuclear engineer.

His surprise might have been all the more striking because he was able to remember when his daughter had no ambition whatsoever in engineering.

“I had wanted to be a TV news broadcaster,” Poppe recalls. “I definitely did not want to be in engineering until I came down to Purdue for a Women in Engineering career day. It literally changed the trajectory of my professional career and my life.”

Poppe opted for industrial engineering because she “read in a brochure that IE was ‘people engineering,’ and that sounded like it was up my alley. I liked being with people, so it was just right.”

Poppe may not have been able to predict her extraordinary success, but even before she entered college she was intrigued by stories of exceptional achievement. Those stories, however, didn’t show her anyone who looked like her.

“I read biographies of business titans when I was in high school, but I didn’t have any reason to believe that I would achieve that,” she says. “There weren’t many, if any, female CEOs then. But after getting my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Purdue, I knew I must be smart enough.”

Her combination of knowledge, instinct and ambition led her to positions of increasing responsibility and leadership with General Motors Corp. and DTE Energy before arriving at Consumers Energy Co., where she is now in charge. As Michigan’s largest energy company, Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents.

Asked what her priorities are in her current position, Poppe describes a broad perspective with high-impact goals.

“We believe that a company should stand for more than profits,” she says. “We have an equal commitment to the planet, people and profits. Part of our ‘secret sauce’ at Consumers and CMS is that we intend to deliver on all three of those, not just one.”

Poppe is quick to describe results that demonstrate her companies’ successes in those missions. “We have one of the ‘cleanest generation’ fleets and have retired more coal plants than any other investor-owned utility,” she says. “When we retire our coal plants, we replace them predominantly with additional natural gas, renewable energy and pumped hydroelectric energy storage.”

Named to Crain’s Detroit Business magazine’s 2016 list of 100 Most Influential Women, Poppe enjoys sharing the insights she has gained throughout her career.

“One of the most important pieces of advice I give to young people is that they really do need to discover what they love,” she says. “If they can pursue careers based on what they love, they can find fulfillment.”

The passion that Poppe brings to her own career is clearly evident when she talks about her everyday work.

“I love being part of a team, and the privilege of leading that team in delivering a vital product — energy for the state of Michigan.

“I really do enjoy winning. And to win an easy game is not nearly as fun as winning a challenging game.”

Career Highlights

2016-present President and Chief Executive Officer, CMS Energy Company and Consumers Energy Company
2015-2016 Senior Vice President, Distribution Operations, Engineering and Transmission, Consumers Energy Company
2013-2015 Vice President, Customer Experience, Rates and Regulation, Consumers Energy Company
2011-2013 Vice President, Customer Experience and Operations, Consumers Energy Company
2006-2011 Director, North Region Power Plants, DTE Energy Corporation
2005-2006 Director, Enterprise Performance Excellence, DTE Energy Corporation
2002-2005 Director of Operations, Lansing Grand River Assembly, General Motors Corporation
1999-2002 Director, General Assembly, Lordstown Assembly Plant, General Motors Corporation
1997-1999 Production Superintendent, Body Shop and General Assembly, General Motors Corporation
1995-1997 Technical Assistant to Vice President of Operations, Mid-size & Luxury Car Division, General Motors Corporation
1990-1995 Various Titles, General Motors Company