Djuana Stoakley is the Lead Strategic Designer at KeyString Labs. KeyString Labs is the innovation branch of Entergy Corporation, an integrated energy company which delivers electricity to three million customers in the southern United States. We spoke with Stoakley as part of our IL Member Spotlight Series.
How is your role defined?
I am the Lead Strategic Designer at KeyString Labs, the innovation arm of Entergy Corporation. We engage with customers to understand their expectations, evaluate technologies and devices that enable distributed energy resources, and develop sustainable solutions that we can pilot and deploy.
At KeyString Labs, we’re focused on realizing customer-centric growth opportunities. We sit within the company’s broader customer organization, led by David Ellis, Entergy’s Chief Customer Officer.
What’s a big project your team has been working on recently, or has launched recently?
We are committed to helping customers manage their bills, especially our low-income customers. With approximately 25 percent of our customers falling below the poverty line, we do everything we can to help these customers keep their lights on.
Entergy supports bill-payment assistance through our advocacy for the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Last year’s relief efforts were bolstered by an influx of federal funds and pandemic relief programs that not only helped customers with utility bills but also provided rental and homeowner assistance.
Thanks to these funds, we saw assistance payments to our region increase by 35 percent in 2021, making it possible for 276,000 Entergy customers to pay bills and avoid disconnections.
Looking ahead to future opportunities, our corporate social responsibility organization partnered with KeyString Labs to design a mobile-friendly website that enables customers to apply for and receive utility bill payment assistance through their smartphones. A successful initial pilot in Arkansas in 2022 that helped customers tap into these funds will be followed by a Phase I rollout involving community assistance agencies in Arkansas. We plan to extend the offering to all Entergy operating companies and continue to help customers tap into these funds.
Is there someone you especially admire as a role model creator, inventor, innovator? Could be a person or organization. Why?
I don’t know of any one inventor that I admire, there’s so many that come to mind. What I really admire are products that help make our everyday lives just a little bit better. These products live in the background — they are so useful, we rarely notice them. For example, Google Nest, Siemens electric toothbrushes, and my Breville toaster oven. I love small appliances that improve the daily experience.
Do you have advice for keeping colleagues bought in and informed about innovation activities, progress, and how they can be involved?
Our UX designers recently created an internal website to help employees across the company learn more about the work of our innovation department. Prior to that website, we used email updates and newsletters to keep them abreast of our activities.
At KeyString Labs, we are proactive, working side by side with our customers, colleagues, and communities to create solutions that address both current and future challenges. We regularly host workshops, webinars, and work sessions, usually involving our colleagues outside of the lab. We also bring subject matter experts … like engineers, financial experts, and other professionals into the lab to work on teams for a few months or more to lend their expertise to product development.
When you’re not at work, what are three things you spend time doing?
Reading, usually local authors. I recently joined a book club here in New Orleans. I also enjoy the local music and food scene, which is world class, yet retains the unique charm and focus on hospitality this city is known for.