I started my career as a field service engineer in the mid-1990’s. I worked for a very large equipment manufacturer, specializing in coordinated drive systems. It was a great way to pack a lot of experience into a little bit of time, but it certainly had its challenges. I once had to fix an obsolete AC drive for a ski resort’s snow making system the week after Christmas. Since all of the hotels were full for miles around, I had to stay in the Maintenance Manager’s spare bedroom until it was repaired (no pressure!). Needless to say, I was highly motivated to reverse engineer some power electronics that we never learned about in college.
Another project I was a part of was the flood recovery of a paper mill in Maine following a hurricane (yes Maine gets hurricanes). After 12” of rain fell in 24 hours, a dam was released which flooded a 100 year old paper mill situated on both sides of the river. For 6 weeks I was part of a crew working 6pm to 6am repairing or replacing every transformer, piece of switchgear, or drive in the mill. Since Denny’s was the only restaurant open all night for 50 miles, I think I set the record for most consecutive Grand Slam Breakfasts. This was also the time my lovely bride, 400 miles away and 8 months pregnant with our 2nd child encouraged me to find something working less than 24/7 for a career. Since I am smarter than I look, I took her advice.
Over the years, I picked up PLC programming, HMI/SCADA systems and various Level II+ programming as well as power system design. I remember doing my first arc flash study in 2006. The head electrician at the site called it “a jobs program for engineers” that wasn’t going to last. It seems hard to believe now, but we spent as much time convincing electrical workers that arc flash accidents happen more frequently than shocks/electrocutions as we did reviewing their studies. Thankfully the understanding of electrical safety has evolved to where most people understand that it is not mere compliance that drives arc flash studies, but avoiding hidden dangers in seemingly routine operations.
About a year ago, Keith Flaherty, the CEO of Hallam-ICS reached out to me about joining the team in their Raleigh Office. I was reluctant at first to leave my position at another Raleigh firm but the more we talked the more I sensed something different about the way Hallam-ICS works. Employee ownership is not just a buzz-phrase, it means making decisions as if you were part of the ownership. People are held accountable but at the same time treated like adults, capable of thinking for themselves. Keith was also true to his word about “giving me the keys to the car on day 1”. I was encouraged to pursue markets and services that were not traditional for Hallam-ICS. If I could sum it up in a single phrase, Hallam-ICS gives you all of the tools to gamble on yourself. That gives Hallam-ICS the feel of a startup company even though they have the stability of an established firm. I’m glad I joined.