Principal Engineer: I-SEM test team lead. This means I'm a senior engineer who leads an engineering team who are responsible for testing the electricity market systems.
EducationCBS Portlaoise (1992-1998) - it no longer exists. UCD [Bachelor of Electronic and Electrical Engineering (1998 - 2002) and PhD Optoelectronic and Photonic Engineering (2002 - 2007)]
QualificationsBE (Hons), PhD and Chartered Engineer
Work HistoryUCD (Lecturer) and EirGrid (Generation Analyst, Senior Lead Access Planner, Principal ISEM Test Team Lead, NCC Transmission Engineer)
Current JobPrincipal Engineer: I-SEM test team lead.
Since 2006, EirGrid has operated and developed the national high voltage electricity grid in Ireland. EirGrid is a state-owned company. EirGrid is independent from ESB. We operate the flow of power on the grid and plan for its future, while ESB networks is responsible for carrying out maintenance, repairs and construction on the grid. The grid moves wholesale power around the country. We bring energy from generation stations to heavy industry and high-tech users. We also supply the distribution network operated by ESB Networks that powers every electricity customer in the country.
SEMO is the Single Electricity Market Operator for the island of Ireland. This organisation runs the wholesale market for electricity. This allows companies to make bids to buy or sell electricity in bulk. A well-run electricity market is essential for all those who need this energy. It provides fair and independent pricing for those who generate electricity. It also permits competition in the sale of power, which benefits every electricity user. We are currently implementing a new I-SEM which will replace the SEM in October 2018. This will interact more closely with the European electricity markets.
Transmission grids are often interconnected so that energy can flow from one country to another. This helps provide a safe, secure, reliable and affordable energy supply for everybody. EirGrid Interconnector DAC owns the East West Interconnector linking the electricity grids in Ireland and Great Britain. We sell capacity on the East West Interconnector through auctions.
My Work: Power System Engineer
I am many things in my job:
I lead a team of 2 to 9 people (depending on the day/week/month).
We are developing and testing systems for the new electricity market for the whole island of Ireland.
I also work in connecting new generators (wind farms, solar plant, batteries, etc.) and demand sites (factories, data centres etc.) to the power system.
I occasionally work in the National Control Centre for electricity and keep the lights on. I do this when one of the normal staff there is sick or away on holidays.
My Typical Day: Work hard, play a little
My day runs something like this:
07:30 get up/dressed/catch up on news and check on my fantasy football and cryptocurrency
08:15 cycle to work
08:30 start work by reading and responding to 10 – 20 emails from overnight
08:45 till noon: test systems, resource planning, discuss work with team and millions of meetings
12:00 – 13:00 eat, chat with colleagues, walk around the block
13:00 – 17:00 usually 19:00, more meetings and more system testing.
end of day: cycle home
19:30 make dinner, eat, drink, be merry, watch TV, chat with the missus, play guitar, play computer games, play with electronics, go out, do stuff
00:00 (usually a lot later) go to bed, try to sleep, fail and end up thinking about everything still on the to-do list
How I got into this job: By accident!
I never planned on ending up as an electrical engineer.
As a child, I had a lot of manual jobs on my father’s farm: feed calves, feed sheep, feed bullocks, put straw under cattle, sow corn, pick stones, weed beet, milk cows, cut silage, draw silage, spread slurry, spread dung,…
I hated them at the time and dreamt of an easy 9-5 job. Being some sort of lawyer looked the business (think Matlock….long before “Suits” made it cool) as it was high paying and you get to talk a lot – I love arguing/talking. However, getting into that area was considered difficult – ironic that I married someone in that field!
I loved history in school but as my mother constantly reminded me that it wouldn’t lead to a job, I was left looking at my other skills. I loved breaking stuff and seeing if I could fix it or make it into something else. Naturally, everyone thought I’d make a great engineer so I went to UCD. In first year you can try each of the 5 main types of engineering: chemical, mechanical, civil, electrical/electronic or agricultural/food. At the time, the internet had just started to become mainstream so was cool and exciting. This was before the first dot.com crash in 2001. So I went for electrical/electronic with a focus on electronic. By the time I finished my degree, electronic engineers weren’t in demand due to aforementioned crash so I stayed on to do a PhD. I worked in a cool area called opto-electronics which is basically combining optical or photonic engineering with optical fiber / waveguides and lasers and other traditional electrical engineering. I got a chance to work in a cleanroom in Denmark for a while and made optical devices before finishing out my PhD. After that I became a lecturer because it seemed like the next logical step.
After a year, I realized I wanted more in my career and some friends who are involved in the IET (an engineering body) suggested that I join them in EirGrid. At the time, I viewed electrical engineering as a place to retire to. Nothing had changed in the power system world in about 100 years. However, by lucky accident, I was wrong. It was all just about to kick off!
Ireland is leading the integration of renewables. Since I started, the amount of wind farms in Ireland has more than tripled. This was only possible by EirGrid pioneering and developing new ways of doing things. If you only had wind, the system wouldn’t work as it is too unstable. Figuring out how to make things like wind and solar work and how the market can adapt to include them has been a lot of fun and very challenging/interesting to boot!
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
Designed, built and test a patented next-gen optical device that shrinks a massive 3 metre wide system down to something that is more accurate and fits in a match box.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be in the same career as you?
If you want to change the world, be an engineer. If you want to change a lightbulb, be an electrician.
What do you see as your next step in your career?
I'd like to try something different, maybe an infrastructure project - perhaps get involved in building the new electricity interconnector between Ireland and France.
What other sorts of jobs can you do with your qualifications?
I've already been a software developer, software tester, opto-electronic hardware developer, hardware tester, access planning engineers, generation analyst, power system operations engineer, market tester, project manager and team leader. I dont see any limitations on working in any engineering, finance / banking or business role. As an engineer, you need soft skills like people management, influencing and negotation as much as technical design and verification.
What's the best part of your current job?
Working in the National Control Centre for electricity and making all of the planning and markets stuff I do come together.
What don't you like about your current job?
The random things that go wrong and no one accepts responsibility in fixing!