I am Living the Dream
I like the idea of taking on an enormous challenge and delivering results — I think that's the type of demeanor you need in this profession.
Growing up in a developing country like India, engineering was the most revered profession with medicine as number two. I knew I wanted to go into the sciences, so I decided on engineering. This was back in the '70s and at the time, there were three areas of engineering: electrical, mechanical and civil. Electrical was the hardest because you can't actually see the volts and current in the infrastructure. I knew the demand would always be there and I saw the lifestyle of others who were electrical engineers, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.
After attending Washington State University, I began working in the power and energy industry. That was 30 years ago! Today I work in power transmission. and I'm responsible for about 17,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines and more than 300 high voltage substations. We cover 5 states. It's really about the reliability of the system: people expect that when they turn on the switch, the light is there. However, a lot of effort goes into maintaining that system — it's a huge, synchronous machine.
If you talk to just one power and energy engineer, you'll only get one perspective. We're a very diverse group with varying responsibilities. A B.S. in engineering opens up a wide spectrum of opportunities. Specialization through a Master's degree enhances your job prospects because it requires more mature thought processes, which leads to faster advancement within the industry.
When the economy turns around, many older engineers will be retiring. The amount of knowledge to be transferred is huge. Young engineers really need to shadow an expert for two to three years, So we need young people in the pipeline now.
I know that if I could turn back the clock, I would still want to go into power engineering; especially now. There are so many challenges: climate change impact reduction, thermal plants, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, finding other viable power sources. I like the idea of taking on an enormous challenge and delivering results — I think that's the type of demeanor you need in this profession.
I know that I was given a gift and I want to give back as much as I can. I do a lot of volunteer work: I talk to minority groups at city high schools and at work. The way I see it, if those of us who have made it don't bring the next generation to where we are, our success doesn't mean anything. We have to train the next generation of engineers.
I'm also working with a group to improve India's sanitation and water supply. Just by ensuring that there are no open sewers in one village, the number of cases of malaria and diarrhea have gone down significantly, as have miscarriages. A handful of people from where I grew up came together, secured some grants and contributed money to pave roads, install solar lights and build a school. I went back home a few months ago and didn't recognize my own village. When I retire, I will focus more of my time there. It's my passion, just like engineering. Everything I do is a passion; otherwise I wouldn't do it.