High-Energy Balancing Act

David Stuck photo

Striking a confident pose for a JT photographer outside the impressive, glass-curtained Harbor Point headquarters of Constellation, Andrew Singer looks every inch the successful, high-powered energy executive that he is. Scratch that polished surface, and you’ll also find a warm and genial man dedicated to balancing his demanding career with his other priorities: family and the Jewish community.

Even during a photo shoot in the rain, Singer exudes good-humored enthusiasm, a quality that no doubt served him well during his more than 20 years rising through the ranks of the nation’s competitive-energy markets. The youthful 51-year-old is vice president and general manager, East Region, for Constellation, which relocated to Harbor Point in late 2016.

A typical day may see him traveling from Maine to Virginia with his retail sales staff and managers to meet business customers or working out of the new 21-story, high-tech Baltimore headquarters taking calls, managing staff and talking to customers about energy markets and their energy needs.

But at home come Shabbat or during an early morning of Torah study, there may be a prayer shawl draped over that suit or tefillin accompanying his davening. Later in the week, he may attend a board meeting at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, helping attract young people into shul leadership, or he may be at Talmudical Academy, where his two sons study.

“Andrew is an excellent communal leader who brings his strong sense of professionalism to communal work,” said BJSZ’s Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “He identifies with organizational goals and uses his strengths to advance them, while also sharing his insight to help shape them.”

From his glass-walled office, Singer can look out on either a sweeping view of Baltimore’s ever-changing skyline or the two-story tall atrium in the center of the building that is home to Constellation’s trading floor, where dozens of the firm’s more than 1,500 employees occupy cubicles lined with glowing monitors keeping track of everything from global energy prices to a snowstorm moving along the East Coast.

Singer overlooking Constellation’s trading floor. (David Stuck photo)

“We follow weather, we follow the gas markets, the power markets,” Singer said. “I have people all over the East Coast who are selling, who are managers, and we have thousands of customers. So we have to keep track of what the customers’ wants and needs are — what we know is going to show up on their bills, based on cold weather and warm weather and staying ahead of everything. And hopefully keeping everybody on budget. Keeping their risks down. It’s a fascinating market.”

Singer’s business is competitive-energy markets, a young industry born when federal deregulation unlocked the utility monopoly with hopes of creating competition to reduce energy costs. But his path to that career was not a straight one.

A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Singer attended public elementary and junior high schools and the Hebrew school at his synagogue. Then it was on to the Bronx High School of Science, which he credits for the science and physics background on which he still relies. At Binghamton University, he completed a dual major in English literature and rhetoric and Judaic studies.

“When you do a year in Israel and you have all those credits, it suddenly turns a minor into a major,” he said about his junior year in Israel, splitting time between Hebrew University and a yeshiva. There he met his wife, Helene, a religious studies major at the University of California Santa Cruz.

So, how does a boy from the Bronx and a girl from San Diego who met in Israel wind up in Upper Park Heights with five children? Helene Singer’s first impressions of her husband, to whom she has been married for 26 years, may offer a clue.

“He is very charismatic. He has a presence that you see when he walks into a room,” Helene, 50, said. “He’s very humble. And smart. He’s very dedicated in whatever it is he’s doing. He’s very loyal and has that essence of taking you and your needs very seriously. Those are the things that attracted me to him right from the get-go.”

Making It in Business

After that year in Israel, the two returned to their respective colleges, and after graduation, Andrew took his first job in Manhattan in an executive training program with Lord & Taylor.

“From day one, I benefited from the ability to start talking to vendors and understanding what they’re actually saying and how they’re communicating. It was an amazing first job,” he recalled. “I was an assistant buyer there for almost two years. I loved it. It was a lot of fun.”

But it was while working on the West Coast, where Andrew and Helene had relocated for grad school, that his career in the energy industry was sparked. She was pursuing a master’s in psychology at Pepperdine University in Malibu and he a law degree at Whittier College in Los Angeles. After graduation they eventually settled in San Diego, Helene’s hometown, where, after working for a small law firm and then running a few businesses, Andrew landed on the ground floor of the fledgling competitive-energy business.

“While I was at this lighting company, somebody who was a part-owner introduced me to his young nephew, an intern writing a paper about competitive markets opening up in California. He was interning for a brand-new company called New Energy Ventures,” he said. “Competitive electricity markets were just going to open.”

Andrew was introduced to the former president of So Cal Edison, Michael Peevey. The new company started with handpicked former utility executives.

“I think I was employee number 12, and we were all in a [small] room in Pasadena at a conference table, and my new sales manager boss said, ‘Great to have you on. I need you to do a million dollars in three months, or else you may want to look for something else,’” Andrew recalled. “This was January of 1997. Luckily, I hit the million bucks in the three months.”

And, that, as they say, is history. Or, at least, Andrew Singer’s history. New Energy Ventures was purchased by the Arlington, Va.-based AES in 1999. In 2002, Constellation purchased AES and the Singers were on their way to Baltimore.

“I brought my wife out here, just before New Year’s in 2002. We’re on a red-eye, and we landed and she’s looking out the window,” he said. “She’d been to the East Coast before, but you literally go from sunny San Diego to landing in the middle of snow and red brick buildings. We could have been in Eastern Europe for all she knew.”

Making a Home in Orthodox Baltimore

Andrew Singer celebrates eldest son Yaacov’s bar mitzvah at Talmudical Academy in September 2014 with, from left, daughter Peninah, wife Helene, sons Dovid and Yaacov, and parents Peter and Paula Singer. (E. Ciment photo)

Despite Helene’s culture (and temperature) shock, Andrew says the warm welcome the family received when their moving van pulled up to their new Upper Park Heights home was overwhelming.

“We were standing on the street with the moving truck, unpacking, and people were stopping their cars and pulling over and welcoming us to the neighborhood,” he remembered. “People were showing up with trays of food, flowers, chocolate, plants, invitations for lunch, invitations for dinner. This was all within the first 48 hours of being here. It was wonderful.”

It wasn’t long before Andrew was involved at their new synagogue, Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, which had been recommended not only by new Baltimore acquaintances, but also by California friends.

“And the first Shabbos we were here, we went to Rabbi [Moshe] Hauer’s shul, and that was 15 years ago in June … and we’ve just been very happy,” he said.

Singer is still an executive board member there in charge of leadership development, recruiting the next generation of synagogue leaders.

“His volunteer work beyond the synagogue, as a support, mentor and guide to many individuals is unusual, very helpful and deeply appreciated,” Hauer said.

Soon after their move, the father of one of his daughter’s friends asked if he’d like to study with him, “and we’ve been studying together on Thursday evenings for the last 14 years,” he said. That connection led him to mentoring young people about job-interviewing skills and career advice. About 2005, Singer was recruited by Joblink of Maryland, a Baltimore nonprofit that helps Jewish job seekers. He’s been on the board or in leadership there ever since. In addition, Andrew is on the board of Talmudical Academy and holds a seat on the board of Bikur Cholim of Baltimore.

Helene said her husband’s belief in being a responsible individual out in the world “speaks to all the things he’s involved in, in the sense that the areas that he’s chosen to be connected to in the community also have that level of ‘you have a responsibility,’” she said. “He works with Joblink helping people get jobs and get on their feet as providers. He works with Bikur Cholim [so that] when things get tough, there’s somebody there to help you get through those tough moments, medically or psychologically, emotionally.

“He’s involved in TA in the hopes that he can make it an even better place for our children,” she added. “So, he really runs the gamut as to what’s important in his life and also how he chooses to be connected in the community. Those are attributes that he has really modeled very well and has given over to his children in the hopes that they will be responsible citizens and continue in that vein.”

Peretz Wertenteil (Photo provided)

Peretz Wertenteil, 37, of Pikesville is in his third year as chairman of the board of the Talmudical Academy, where he met Andrew more than 10 years ago through their community involvement and through their boys, who are sixth-grade classmates at the all-boys school.

An agency manager for Health Markets Insurance Agency, Wertenteil said he admires Andrew’s drive, determination and focus on his community and philanthropic endeavors.

“He cares so much about the Greater Baltimore Jewish community. He always comes to me asking me how he can help and what he can get involved in,” Wertenteil said. “His main focus is that our children are receiving the highest level of excellence in their Jewish academics and their general studies as well. He is an all-around amazing individual.

“I have watched him at board meetings focused on the task at hand, coaching our boys’ basketball and football teams and helping individuals in the communities secure jobs of their own,” he added. “I am not sure how he juggles everything, especially with the level and focus on excellence. He is a great role model for all of us.”

Striking a Balance

With Andrew’s demanding job and synagogue and nonprofit involvement, balancing work, family and community without burning out might seem challenging. But he and his wife say they make sure that neither the family nor the job suffer. Helene said her choice early in their marriage to be a stay-at-home mom has helped tremendously. And he says that Constellation fosters a flexible, inclusive atmosphere that has made observing his Orthodox Jewish faith uncomplicated.

“Our family comes first in all cases, and that goes with business travel as well,” Andrew said. “I try to make sure all my travel is taken care of during the week, Monday through Thursday. The company is wonderful in the sense that they don’t really have weekend meetings.”

He said Constellation has never required him to work on the Sabbath and offers floating holidays, so taking off for Jewish holidays is not an issue.

“[The company] has an awareness of everyone’s culture,” he said. “There’s an awareness of a work/life balance, where people recognize that a healthy employee and a healthy employee’s family or significant other’s personal life allows them to be more productive at what they do.”

As a wife holding down the home front, Helene said that creates a constant stable life for the children, with Andrew scheduling work and community activities to optimize his time at home with the three girls and two boys. (The two eldest daughters, 23 and 21 were married last summer; one daughter, 19, and two sons, 16 and 12, remain at home now.)

“He’s the kind of dad who even when he was away he would call at night in order to have a few minutes with the kids. He would still take the time out of his schedule to make sure that he was involved in the daily life of what they were doing,” Helene said. “And he takes his learning part of his religious life very seriously, but he does it early, early in the morning, so it doesn’t impact his time with the children.”

Andrew coached his children’s sports teams to garner more time with them, and when he’s not traveling, Andrew’s goal is to always be home for dinner “so that he is present when the kids are home and present before they go to school and before they go to bed,” Helene said.

“It’s very important to him to make sure that the kids don’t feel as if they are limited in their time because of his other outlets,” she added. “And if that ever became an issue, the outlet was always the first thing to go.”

Andrew’s success at blending his work, home and religious life is not lost on his staffers, who, he says, come to him with life and work questions. His door is always open.

“I think people know that my religion and that my family life is important to me. I get a lot of knocks on the door from people just wanting to talk. It’s a responsibility, and I take it seriously. There are a lot of people who I’ve seen their careers really start off just out of school, and I get a tremendous sense of what we would call nachas, you know, joy,” he said. “Which is really joy in seeing what they’ve become in their careers. And seeing them as leaders is phenomenal. I do a lot of official mentoring in the company, but a lot of people also come to me [unofficially] and ask for advice or mentoring.”

Melissa Zimmerman (Photo provided)

Melissa Zimmerman is one of those staffers that appreciates Andrew’s leadership style, taking advantage of his open-door policy. As a mid-Atlantic sales support manager for Constellation, Zimmerman, 32, has been with the company about 11 years and has known Singer for 10. She said he is a role model.

“I have looked to Andrew for career-path advice when I decided to make a change as well as looking to him to better understand how I could make myself more valuable to the company,” Zimmerman said. “[He] has this amazing energy and presence, where he can instantly bring a room to life. He is hard-working but understands work/life balance and always encourages our teams to remember that it’s important to take time and relax.”

Singer always keeps that balance in focus — his key to being successful and happy in all of his worlds.

“I’m not an expert at any of these things, but taking the time to spend with your spouse, to spend with your children and not take your life for granted is important. Because nobody puts on their gravestone, ‘Wish I could have worked another 10 hours each week,’” he said. “You want to think about the legacy that you’re leaving.”


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