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Tips for Leveling Up Your Engineering Career in Utilities

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As the world increases focus on sustainable energy and reducing carbon emissions, the utilities sector is undergoing a transformative shift. This shift brings with it a myriad of opportunities for engineers to truly make an impact, by addressing some of the most pressing challenges in energy distribution and transmission. For those in the engineering field, leveling up your engineering career in utilities means engaging directly with the evolution of renewable energy sources and the integration of new technologies like energy storage and zero-carbon fuels. This environment is not just about adapting to changes; it’s about leading the charge towards a sustainable future, making now an ideal time for engineers to advance their skills and influence the future of energy.

The experts at PFES provide their top tips for leveling up your engineering career.

Why Should an Engineer Consider a Career in Utilities?

  • With the evolution of renewable energy and the focus on net zero carbon emissions, both electric and gas utilities are being challenged to redesign distribution and transmission systems to meet the evolving challenges of new energy sources. This includes adapting to variable electric generation sources, new energy storage technologies, and transitioning to zero carbon fuels such as hydrogen. These present very challenging and exciting times for engineers to develop new and radical solutions to meet the never-ending societal need for energy.
  • Things are changing rapidly. We need people to help influence these changes to meet goals and targets identified by our regulators. An engineer is thoughtful, methodical, and deliberate in their actions and can help shepherd the needed changes – whether it is in power, infrastructure, or new technologies.

Why Should an Engineer Consider Consulting?

  • Consulting offers the opportunity to interact with many different companies and observe the diverse methods and practices used to solve common problems. This exposes an engineer to a wide range of problem-solving techniques and allows for the development of best practice solutions which make engineers even more valuable to many companies.
    • Ted Lenart, Vice President of Gas Services
  • Consulting firms are typically growing, fast-paced environments. This benefits younger engineers by allowing for a steeper learning curve and more opportunities to seek advancement or broaden areas of expertise.
    • Roger Ripp, Senior Vice President of Operations
  • Consulting firms have the unique ability to expose engineers to multiple work site locations over a shorter period.  This experience allows engineers to develop advanced skills, knowledge, and experience. As such, they can offer solutions to improve system performance as a subject matter expert (SME).  Although consulting careers are professionally demanding, engineers are well-compensated, they typically hold more advanced certifications/degrees, and after 4-6 years advance into leadership via career progression opportunities.

What Industry Trends Are You Seeing in Relation to Engineering?

  • The demand for engineers to solve the challenges of an energy future with zero carbon emissions represents a tremendous opportunity for future job growth.  Engineers are needed for all aspects of the new energy lifecycle from generation and production through end-use products to efficiently utilize these new sources of energy.
    • Ted Lenart, Vice President of Gas Services
  • It is anticipated that civil engineers will be in higher demand with an increase in infractions investments.  Additionally, electrical engineering will be in high demand due to ongoing investments for improving system diversity and reliability.
    • Alfred Mackey, Senior Vice President

What Tips Would You Give Recent Grads Entering the Workforce as Engineers?

  • Approach work as a student (whether a new grad or someone with years of experience).  An engineer is always learning and looking for innovation and improvements.  We ask questions and we challenge.  Coming to work with a questioning and open mind will help grow a career and give perspectives and experiences that can develop lifelong skills.
    • Stephen Taipala, Director of Project Controls
  • Learn and absorb as much as you can. Seek experience and listen. Engineers with a broad perspective of solutions become invaluable by continually seeking ways to provide value, resolve problems, and impact their teams with positive contributions that allow projects to be completed successfully (safely, on-time, and on-budget).
    • Roger Ripp, Senior Vice President of Operations
  • Take the opportunity to learn about your industry and business to better understand how you can contribute to the business’ success. Find some good mentors to help you develop your skills throughout your career.  Take risks and don't be afraid to ask questions and challenge past practices.
    • Ted Lenart, Vice President of Gas Services

Any Interview Suggestions for New Grads?

  • Demonstrate a desire and eagerness to learn and be open to new challenges. The energy future is evolving, and society needs engineers willing to think differently as past solutions may no longer apply to future demands.
    • Ted Lenart, Vice President of Gas Services
  • Being prepared means knowing your skills and accomplishments. Be prepared to introduce yourself, speak confidently and project yourself as a trustworthy, reliable, and competent candidate.
    • Alfred Mackey, Senior Vice President

What Soft Skills Are Most Beneficial for Engineers to Have?

  • People want to know they are heard.  It is a simple concept, but we often miss acknowledging someone and dive right into finding a solution. Take a moment to acknowledge and give a simple explanation of your next steps to develop a solution.
    • Stephen Taipala, Director of Project Controls
  • Be proactive in your daily approach towards learning, provide value to your team, and be diligent in doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it. Engineers should not be afraid to fail, following a failure comes learning, innovation, and growth.
    • Roger Ripp, Senior Vice President of Operations
  • Communication and interpersonal skills will be key to effectively interacting with the ever-growing diverse community of engineers and businesspeople collaborating to solve the future of energy.  Take the time to learn the business side of new energy developments to design effective solutions for the future.
    • Ted Lenart, Vice President of Gas Services
  • Generally, engineers need to be effective communicators (both written & spoken), they must understand the principles of time management, be risk-averse, be open to collaboration, be critical thinkers, and possess problem solving skills with a close attention to detail.
    • Alfred Mackey, Senior Vice President

Leveling up your engineering career in this dynamic industry not only allows for the development of innovative solutions to critical challenges but also places you at the forefront of the transition towards sustainable and renewable energy sources. By embracing the complexities of modern energy systems and striving for continuous learning and improvement, engineers can play a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable future while advancing their own professional growth.

PFES has experienced professionals working on capital projects across the U.S. Reach out today to learn how PFES can take your projects to the next level.

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Date
May 9, 2024
Category
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