Dean’s had the opportunity to manage wind farm projects, help set up the company’s global support and monitoring centre and travel extensively; including working on an uninterruptable power supply system in Kuwait.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
The Global Support and Monitoring Centre (GSMC) at S&C Electric Europe Ltd., Swansea.
What's your job title?
Global support and monitoring supervisor.
How long have you been doing that?
I joined S&C just over two years ago and I’ve been working in my current position since November 2013.
How did you get there?
I completed a modern apprenticeship in electrical engineering at Corus Steel, now known as Tata Steel and then went on to work as a signal technician for Network Rail. I then moved on to work for Highland Spring Water as a plant electrical engineer before joining S&C Electric.
Although I was originally hired as a project engineer, our EMEA managing director saw a gap in the market and set about creating a GSMC here in Swansea.
The GSMC is a condition based monitoring centre that collects real time data from both S&C and non-S&C assets. This data allows S&C to respond to faults efficiently and effectively in order to provide a high standard of service for our customers. Having this live data helps us to understand the problem before we even get to site which aids us in the preparation of parts, materials and personnel. A lot of the time the issue can be resolved remotely after investigation and discussions with the customer. This saves on unnecessary travel to site, which can be costly along with reduced system down time for the customer.
The timing was great for me personally because I was looking to stay closer to home as I was expecting my first child. I grasped the opportunity to help set up the GSMC, and soon found myself travelling to Chicago to train with the US side of the business. Having gained the necessary skills and experience from my time in Chicago I returned home to set up the Swansea GSMC. My colleague Gary and I manned the GSMC for several months before it became obvious that our success and quick growth demanded additional personnel. The decision was then made to promote me to supervisor, and hire another member for the GSMC team.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
I oversee the daily running of the team and offer technical support to both GSMC staff and our field engineers. This can range from small communication issues to system-wide inverter faults that require integration of the system HMI to enable myself to accurately diagnose the issue and if possible, remotely fix the problem in order for the system to be fully restored and operational. If I deem the issue to be something that cannot be fixed remotely, then I begin liaising with customers and field engineers to arrange for repairs to take place at site. Every fault is different and I continue to learn about our products on a daily basis.
What's the best thing about the job?
The variety of work, each day is different. I get to travel through Europe, the Middle East and Africa as well as to the US, meeting interesting people and learning continuously. I also work in a very interesting engineering sector that is constantly developing.
And the worst?
Problems when travelling! Delayed flights are the worst! Also, during the winter months it can be very cold on wind farms especially in Scotland. But, at the end of the day, if the customer needs us, we are here to respond.
What standout things have you had the opportunity to get involved in?
In my previous role within the company, I was lucky enough to project manage S&C’s Betty Hill and Dunmore Wind Farm projects located in Scotland and Ireland. I learnt a lot during these projects and it was an excellent opportunity to see a different side of engineering. For example, In previous positions at different companies I would have been heavily involved in the installation stage, whereas now with these projects I was liaising with the customer from the design stage all the way through to final commissioning. Dealing with customers and learning the commercial side of the business was something I really enjoyed.
I was also heavily involved in the installation and commissioning of the Fallago Rig project, which has become S&C Europe’s flagship project. I also get to travel a lot, the most interesting place I’ve been is Kuwait where I had the opportunity to work on an S&C uninterruptable power supply system for the first time. It was undergoing an annual service by our US colleagues but due to its location within our EMEA region, I was tasked with learning the system specifics and getting to know the customer and system setup. Having never travelled to the Middle East before, it was interesting to see a different culture…it was hot though!
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
It’s very interesting and keeps me on my toes especially when reacting to unplanned situations. You can sometimes work long hours and weekends but it’s all part of getting the job done. I find great satisfaction in seeing a project come together from start to finish, and seeing the product successfully installed and working correctly. That’s when the long hours and stressful moments seem worth it!
In my current role, we are the first port of call for any issues with our products out on site or customers want us to check or do something with the status of their system, so I get to interact more with the customer and interrogate systems which is something I enjoy.
What did you expect when you started work? Did anything surprise you?
The enormity of the engineering industry surprised me. Having started my career in a relatively large steelworks and confined to one site in a small town, you tend not to realise what’s going on elsewhere. Having left the steel works for pastures new, you realise the amount of opportunities for engineers out there, not just in the UK, but globally. There are so many avenues you can follow. Once you are working in engineering there’s always something new to learn and paths to take. It’s very diverse.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
Gaining hands-on experience in the field is essential. I would definitely recommend anyone wishing to enter the engineering industry to do a lot of research to gain a really good understanding of their sector. It’s useful to take a keen interest in all aspects of engineering: project management, installation, product design, commissioning. Understanding what is involved from start to finish will really benefit you throughout your career.