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Flipping the Success Switch
New technologies make energy an ever-evolving sector, one that’s anything but staid.
Elevator, linotype and switchboard operators have gone the way of the dodo bird, but because the need for energy is a constant, the energy, gas, and utility sectors will always be hiring.
However, constancy doesn’t make it a staid sector, as new technologies mean new challenges and opportunities, such as digitalization and smart grids.
Then there’s renewable energy, which is creating jobs at 12 times the rate of the rest of economy, according to a report published last year by the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program.
The study further notes that solar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years, and sustainability now collectively represents 4 to 4.5 million jobs in the U.S., up from 3.4 million in 2011.
As a result energy gives engineers the chance to flip the switch on success in a sector that’s anything but staid. Meet some of the professionals already doing that in this constant, but evolving sector.
Halliburton’s Ramos Thrives in a Meritocracy
Catia Ramos, an account representative, Halliburton business development, Sperry Drilling Services, has found Halliburton to be a meritocracy, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I own my career and create my own future here. Halliburton provides a world of opportunity, and I’ve personally experienced their investment in me,” she says.
“The possibilities are limitless, and if I invest in my own growth, then the company equally supports and invests in me.”
Earning your keep means Halliburton keeps you in hard times, according to Ramos.
“During the downturn, I had to see a lot of my friends leaving the industry. I hadn’t experienced the cyclical downturn of this magnitude in my 17 years in oil and gas,” she recalls.
“Instead of focusing on the negatives of that time, I focused on my career, worked harder and stayed positive.”
Ramos stayed so positive that she actually expanded her network and skill set when the industry contracted.
“At the time I was working as technical instructor, and there was limited training, so I had the opportunity to work in curriculum development. This was a great chance to collaborate on various projects and grow with the company,” she details.
Ramos has also learned that achievement can be learned from high achievers.
“Follow smart people and great decision-makers, and become their friends. They’ll lift you up personally and academically.”
Nowadays, Ramos develops client relationships and delivers engineered solutions to help maximize their asset value through lowered cost and increased production.
She enjoys saving clients money. She also likes that her learning goes on and on.
“I love that I’m able to use my past experiences, as well as expand my knowledge every day in this exciting industry. I’ve been able to grow both personally and professionally, and I love how my job challenges me every day,” says Ramos.
“Halliburton empowers me to think outside the box and come up with new ways to solve our customers’ challenges.”
Ramos also likes that her work connects her to diverse people. “I get to interact with such a varied group of people. I love that diversity is a core value at Halliburton where everyone’s ideas and opinions are valued regardless of race, gender or position.”
And her work has had her circling the world. “I was always fascinated by the thought of traveling abroad and meeting a diverse range of people,” Ramos shares.
“When I realized my friends were traveling everywhere for training and work, I decided to move into this industry. For example, Halliburton has taken me from Brazil to Houston, TX, and then Singapore to Midland, TX.”
If you, too, want to circle the world, then stay connected, Ramos advises.
“Developing social skills is key - connecting with various groups will allow you to build trusted, lasting relationships, which can provide the opportunity to bridge communication gaps and accelerate your learning curve.”
Discover Halliburton, headquartered in Houston, TX, via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram. Apply for jobs at jobs.halliburton.com.
Con Ed’s Ortizo Keeps the City That Never Sleeps Burning Brightly
When Adrianne Ortizo, manager in distribution engineering at New York, NY-based Con Edison (Con Ed), graduated from college, the dust from the collapsed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center still hung in the air as Ground Zero workers worked what they called “the pile.”
The National Guard stood watch while weapons and fighter jets patrolled the skies in those tense and sorrowful days and months following 9/11.
Ortizo had applied to tech and computer companies, but when she saw Con Ed workers restoring power to her beloved city, working day and night, she wanted to be one of them.
“I thought, ‘That’s the company I want to work for,’” she says. “I’m born and bred from the boroughs of New York.”
Today Ortizo is responsible for a portfolio of testing and inspection programs that keeps the public safe and the Con Ed system reliable, but some evenings, when New York City is glowing, she’s reminded of both Con Ed’s heritage and her part.
“We’re the company that has provided power to NYC for close to 200 years. When I look at the New York City skyline and think, ‘That’s us, from the nightlights in a kid’s bedroom to the skyscrapers. It’s so tangible, and it brings me great joy,” she shares.
When hired, Ortizo applied to Con Ed’s GOALS, a highly selective leadership program, and was accepted.
“It gives growth opportunities for leadership positions, with three rotations over an eight-month period. You’re exposed to electric, gas and steam, and everything from engineering to construction to operations,” she explains.
Ortizo parlayed the insight gleaned from GOALS into various leadership roles. “In 15 years, I’ve had six to seven leadership roles. I currently oversee about 70 [people], from direct reports to contractors.”
Stepping into a leadership role when she was young was tough, according to Ortizo. “It was hard when I first had to supervise construction or operations in the field. Some had more years of experience than I had been alive.”
However, Ortizo clearly communicated common values. “As I was responsible for the crews’ safety, I needed a high level understanding of what we do and how we do it to maintain safety, so I was there to learn, to add value and to make sure that everyone goes home the same way they arrived. I communicated that, and they respected that.”
Respect was the key, she notes. “When you lead, be open and honest, and communicate before proceeding. Being respectful goes a long way. It still does.”
Ortizo’s current role now keeps her office-bound many days. “I’m outside on the streets about 15% to 20% of the time, but I still meet with contractors and crews in the field, and love to bring value to the work that’s performed,” she describes.
“We perform tests on underground and overhead structures, and city streetlights. I increase safety and system reliability.”
And Ortizo loves Con Ed’s diverse opportunities. “I knew Con Ed was diverse, but I didn’t realize how diverse we are until I arrived. We have everything from R&D to IT. There are so many opportunities here, fulfilled by people of stunningly diverse backgrounds, from people who’ve lived here all their lives to people who’ve just arrived.”
And Ortizo and her colleagues are all keeping the city that never sleeps burning brightly.
Learn more about Con Ed through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, and explore jobs at coned.com/en/about-us/careers.
Holland Rises Rapidly at Alabama Power
When Carey Holland, engineering supervisor, was 28 and five years into her Alabama Power career, she was encouraged by a female mentor to bid on a supervisor position. Holland balked because she felt she wasn’t qualified.
“Statistically when women look at a job description,” Holland points out, “if they don’t feel they have at least 80% of the desired qualifications, then they don’t apply for the position. On the other hand, most men only need to feel like they have at least 30% of the desired qualifications to apply for a position. As women, we need to have the same mindset as men!”
However, Holland didn’t have that mindset then. “To be honest, I thought she was crazy! I knew some of the people who were interested in that position, people that had trained me, and thought I would never have a chance against them,” she remembers.
“Then my mentor asked me, ‘Why wouldn’t you?’ I stumbled for a few minutes, giving her my laundry list of reasons, the overall reason being I wasn’t already an expert at everything listed on the job description.”
Then she said something that has stuck with Holland: “Most of the things on that list can be learned, and you’ve proven you’re a fast learner. What can’t be learned is how to treat people fairly, how to read people and how to communicate effectively. You have those things, which will set you apart from the others because being a supervisor is about people.”
Her words gave Holland confidence, and she was the candidate chosen.
Today, she oversees 31 distribution engineers and line crews in the Auburn and Union Springs areas in Alabama. All of them design, build and maintain the overhead and underground power lines that serve all 42,000 customers in those communities. It’s work she loves.
“I love the family atmosphere and the selflessness. We’re committed to providing more than power. We’re truly dedicated to improving the quality of life in our communities, and [we] put that dedication into action by volunteering.”
Holland still applies that mentor’s advice, respecting all of her colleagues.
“You should treat everyone with the same level of respect, regardless of their position or job responsibilities. Get to know and treat the guys on the line crew the same way you do your fellow engineers,” she advises.
Holland also has a fine, solid relationship with her customers.
“So many people I meet for the first time want to talk about their relationship with ‘the power company,’” she indicates.
“They may have a relative that worked for the company, or they’re involved in a community organization that the power company has supported, or they remember how quickly we came to get the lights back on after a bad storm or tornado or hurricane. It makes you proud to be an employee.”
But Holland almost didn’t reach her sweet career at Birmingham, AL-headquartered Alabama Power.
“When I was in college at Auburn University and really started to get into the electrical engineering classes, I began thinking I was in the wrong major! The classes were so boring to me,” she recalls.
“Thankfully, I was able to get a position with Alabama Power Company and have loved every minute of it!”
See the rest of Alabama Power’s story at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Headquartered in Birmingham, apply for jobs at alabamapower.com/our-company/careers.html.
Gulf Power’s Rivera Works to Restore Power In Puerto Rico
Most days Diana Rivera is a distribution field engineer for Gulf Power, providing electrical service to new customers and assisting current customers with any questions or problems they may have.
However, some days Rivera is more superhero than distribution field engineer, such as when the lights winked out in Puerto Rico following the devastation Hurricane Maria inflicted last September.
“Usually my job after a storm is to patrol power lines to determine the amount of damages. In Puerto Rico, my job was totally different. I worked alongside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in their efforts to restore the electrical grid,” Rivera recalls.
“My duties included preparing daily update reports, arranging the procurement and requisition of materials, working with the line crews and all the challenges they faced in Puerto Rico's diverse topography, and many other tasks I had never done before.”
Rivera had a superpower of sorts: a native’s knowledge of Puerto Rico’s topography and ecology.
“Being from the island helped with navigating the roads and knowing what to expect in the harsh mountain areas,” she points out.
But even an engineer with island savvy knows she doesn’t know everything. “I integrated with my coworkers, and tried to absorb all of the information I could from those with more experience,” she details.
“Learning so much and adapting to the changes in the work environment so quickly was challenging, but nothing compared to the struggles the people of Puerto Rico were facing after being without power for more than four months. It was a lot of work, but every single second was worth it. Restoring their power and seeing the difference it made in their lives is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced.”
However, this wasn’t Rivera’s first rodeo. Restoring power and making people smile is all in a day’s work for her.
“What I love the most about my job is being able to help people when they lose power due to a storm, whether it be in Northwest Florida or other cities and states,” she says.
“In the time I’ve worked for Gulf Power, I've taken part in three storm restoration trips. I love helping people, and these trips gave me the opportunity to combine that with my job. These experiences confirm I’m working in the right field doing what I love.”
Not only that, but power is also in Rivera’s blood. “My father was a lineworker, and my brother still is. Looking up to them spiked my interest in this field. Then my love for math and science made pursuing a career in electrical engineering the perfect choice.”
Working for Gulf Power is another perfect choice, for as Rivera’s colleagues feel like family.
“We really care for one another. Being from Puerto Rico, the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria there had a big impact on me. After the news of the damage started emerging, I started receiving calls and text messages from all of my coworkers asking about my family and the families of all the Puerto Rican employees,” she remembers.
“They gave us a lot of much-needed support and were always asking what they could do to help. That level of support in difficult moments makes all the difference and speaks volumes about the company you work for.”
Explore Gulf Power, headquartered in Pensacola, FL, via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, and apply for jobs at gulfpower.com/about-us/careers.
Stout’s Range of Duties Dazzle at Occidental Petroleum
For Erin Stout, a senior electrical engineer at Occidental Petroleum, there’s no same-old, same-old, for each day is different.
“I really enjoy the variety of work I’m able to do. Along with oil and gas operations in the U.S., the Middle East and Latin America, we have a chemical subsidiary with plants in 11 states, Canada and Chile,” she describes.
That means Stout’s role is very diverse. On any given week, her responsibilities might include working on power system coordination, or testing and commissioning a facility or substation, or even traveling outside of the U.S. to complete factory acceptance testing on various types of electrical equipment.
“I’m also responsible for managing projects, building electrical models, performing power system analysis, creating distribution fault and coordination maps, and developing software applications to automate common day-to-day tasks,” she adds.
Occidental Petroleum is an international oil and gas exploration and production company with more than 33,000 employees and contractors worldwide. When Stout was first hired, one aspect of Occidental’s reach startled her.
“I was surprised to learn how vast the company’s power distribution system was. Even though it’s not a core business, Occidental owns numerous substations and thousands of miles of distribution lines to support the electricity needs of its oil and gas and chemicals operations,” she elaborates.
Stout was also surprised by how much she had yet to learn post-graduation.
“The hardest time for me was just after I graduated college and started my job with Occidental because oil and gas was entirely unfamiliar to me,” she shares.
“There was a lot to learn, and it was intimidating to realize just how much I still didn’t know. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in the field with fellow engineers and operations technicians learning about how things work, which designs were better than others, how to work on different equipment and the nuances of various designs.”
Stout has learned so much in the field that she urges other engineers and engineering students to get out of the office and classroom as much as possible.
“There’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained from working with field technicians. Their hands-on experience in installing and maintaining the equipment is, in a lot of ways, more valuable than anything you can learn from a book,” she points out.
“If given the opportunity, then spend time out of the office and get hands-on experience. It’s where you’ll learn some of your most valuable lessons,” she recommends.
Stout also encourages students to not lock into a sector too soon.
“Be open-minded. I knew nothing about the oil and gas industry before I interned with Occidental, and originally thought I would end up on an entirely different career path. I’m glad I decided to give it a try. It’s been a fascinating career so far, and I’ve learned a wide variety of electrical skills,” she states.
In addition, consider other classes beyond engineering, Stout counsels.
“Choosing to minor in computer science has definitely aided my career. It’s come in handy on numerous occasions, both in writing custom applications and also adapting existing software for unique situations. It’s a skill set I use on a daily basis,” she concludes.
Learn more about Occidental, headquartered in Houston, TX, through Twitter, and apply for jobs at oxy.com/careers.
PG&E’s Trinko Engineers the Future
Olivia Trinko, emerging grid technologies engineer at PG&E, never forgets how crucial her work is.
“I was drawn to the energy industry for the vital role it plays in modern society,” she says.
“We all expect the lights to turn on when we flip the switch, and while I may think it’s the end of the world when the power’s out and my phone’s almost out of battery, for a hospital, for example, a power outage could literally be a life or death situation. I wanted to be a part of providing energy safely and reliably so it can be something people take for granted.”
Trinko is one of more than 20,000 PG&E employees across Northern and Central California. She supports grid modernization as a program manager for line sensors, a technology that provides increased visibility into the grid for enhanced decision-making. She loves applying the newest technology.
“I get to work on the cutting edge of PG&E, and, in many ways, PG&E is on the cutting edge of the energy industry,” indicates Trinko.
“In our service area forward-thinking individuals, companies and government regulations are pushing the limits of a grid that has been around longer than most of us have been alive. I’m thrilled to rise up to these challenges to create a sustainable energy future for tomorrow.”
Trinko is thrilled by the challenges she faces today and gets to tackle in her work life. But challenges didn’t always energize her.
“The first few months of my engineering studies were extremely difficult for me. I was trying to balance electrical engineering and music majors, and struggling in classes when school had always come fairly easy to me. Plus, I was too prideful to admit that I needed help,” she remembers.
“When I finally reached out, I was amazed at the support I received! My professors took extra time to review material with me, and my classmates were also eager to share. Ever since, I’ve taken care not to let pride get in the way of success.”
She hit a few more speed bumps when she started working.
“My transition to career wasn’t exactly smooth. I had just moved away from all of my family and friends, [and] I had to figure out the world of adults with their health insurance plans and 401ks, and I was trying to make a good impression,” Trinko recalls.
“Before my first big presentation to my team’s leadership, I kept thinking I was going to embarrass myself because everyone had been at the company for so much longer. Despite my negative thoughts, the presentation went well! I realized that I had worked hard and had become the expert in that particular topic. I keep that in mind when I’m feeling intimidated: we all have our unique area of expertise!”
Now it’s pedal to the metal for Trinko, and she loves PG&E and the energy sector.
“I began my engineering studies intending to, one day, design the next generation of the iPhone as a design engineer. Instead, I’m designing the next generation of the electric grid as a technical program manager and loving it!” she enthuses.
Learn more about San Francisco, CA-headquartered PG&E through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram. Apply for PG&E jobs at careers.pge.com.
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