What's your job about?
As a Protection Engineer for the Energex and Ergon Energy electricity network, my role is to help manage their fleet of protection devices. These devices protect the network from electrical faults by detecting and de-energising faulted parts of the network while keeping as much of the remaining network in operation.
My daily work includes developing standards and guidelines for using the protection devices, strategising replacement plans for failed obsolete devices and managing any associated data. We have a large fleet of protection devices to detect faults on our electrical network and each device has different features and constraints, posing some interesting challenges.
Technical details aside, the goal of protection engineering is simple: to identify unsafe abnormal conditions (such as overhead conductors falling on the ground or trees falling on conductors) and cutting off the electric supply to the affected areas when they happen. It’s an interdisciplinary effort to achieve this and I work with other electrical engineers to ensure that our network is operating safely and reliably.
What's your background?
I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After completing South Australian matriculation there, I came to Brisbane to study at the University of Queensland. I chose engineering because I wanted to apply my mathematics and science knowledge to projects that benefit the community on a large scale.
During my degree, I had the opportunity to study electrical engineering on an exchange program at the University of Washington and collaborated with local students on advanced engineering projects. The experience broadened my perspectives on the versatility of engineering education.
After graduating, finding a job was difficult for me as I did not have permanent residency back then. I jumped at whatever I could find and took up a job in the IT/telecommunications sector. I obtained some industry certifications and little did I know it would end up as a valuable stepping stone to securing a position as a Graduate SCADA & Telecommunications Engineer at Energex down the track!
During the program, I rotated through multiple departments to build a holistic understanding of the different business units, interaction between the departments and the challenges faced. The program also supported my development through the provision of a mentor and professional development courses. On completion of the graduate program, I applied for a position in the Protection Standards team and I’ve been in this role for nearly a year.
What interests you most about your field?
I’m most interested in the interdisciplinary nature of my field. With the advancement in digital technologies, protection devices have become smarter with more features in terms of data capture and communication protocols. Therefore, knowledge on telecommunications, SCADA and data analytics are becoming more important for a protection engineer in addition to the traditional power system knowledge on power system faults and protection schemes. Personally, I think developing a solution that integrates knowledge from multiple disciplines is what defines engineering, and this really interests me.
What's the coolest thing about your job? What do you like about working here so far?
The coolest thing about my job is that it is a prescriptive-based role where I get to set direction, develop strategy and guidance on protection devices-related matters. I enjoy performing engineering analysis, building a knowledge base and sharing it with others. It gives me great satisfaction to see my solution being deployed and achieving its intended purpose - usually ease of use and safety in design. Soon, I’m seeking to incorporate data science tools and methods in my engineering analysis to gain new insight to expand the knowledge base in the energy industry.
What do you see as the ‘skills of the future’ in the energy industry?
Digital and data skills. The energy industry is undergoing a digital transformation. We are deploying more smart technologies and getting more data than ever. Digital skills such a digital literacy and programming are important to understand these new technologies and utilise them in preparing the data.
Data skills mean we can gain insight from data. For example, data wrangling for manipulating data, data visualisation for identifying trends and data mining for discovering hidden insights in high dimension data. The insight gained could be key for optimising our investment and running our business more efficiently.
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