National Grid for nearly 8 years
Black Start Engineer
Making sure the lights come back on if they all go off!
National Grid keeps the lights on and gets electricity from the power stations to everything that needs it (that’s your home, school, shopping centres, factories, hospitals etc).
Although unlikely, we have to plan for what happens if all the lights (and everything else for that matter!) go out – and how to bring them back! My team and I work to make sure National Grid are ready for emergencies like this – lots of disaster planning and running training/exercises!
In previous jobs my role has been to make sure the lights stay on – even when we are carrying out important work on parts of the network that need fixing/upgrading.
Right now though it’s a complete change for me, my job looks at what’s called a Black Start – starting up power stations and connecting up the electricity network following a shutdown of the network.
Here’s a bit more on what we do at the National Electricity Control Centre where I work: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01tlp7s
My Typical Day
Talking to lots of people – and finding new ways to do things!
It’s not just National Grid who would be involved in a Black Start so a large part of my day will be spent speaking to power stations, or electricity companies. We check through our plans together, to make sure we’ll work in similar ways in a Black Start – and to decide how we will talk to each other.
If not in meetings, I might be visiting power stations to test them and see if they can start up in the correct way. I might be visiting our substation sites to meet with engineers there to talk about backup electricity supplies or I might be talking to people within National Grid – like our Control Centre to get their thoughts on our plans or exploring new ways to ‘bring back’ the transmission system.
As you can see, there’s a lot of talking – but that’s really important – to get people’s ideas and opinions and pull them together to make sure we’re all working towards the same thing! If we can find a new way to do something that is safer, or brings back the transmission system faster – that’s even better!
I love learning new things – asking lots of questions about how equipment or processes work and trying to see the bigger picture. Black Start is definitely a big picture thing – it would affect us all! Speaking of the bigger picture – there’s also some work with the government or Ofgem around Black Start situations – how this would affect the country and how National Grid’s plans affect other contingency plans that are in place. Or perhaps work in Europe finding out how other countries plan for Black Start and whether we can learn from them.
No day is the same and there’s always a new area to look into, or new people to speak to – it’s definitely not boring!
Hopefully in the day there’s also time for a coffee and to write up my thoughts and notes from meetings so I don’t loose track!
What I'd do with the money
Promote positive engineering role models – real people in real jobs! (suggestions on a postcard!)
I’m still working my way around this one (and I’m open to suggestions) but I think I would like to use the money to promote good engineering role models for young people.
I didn’t have the best careers advice at school – no one seemed to know about different types of engineering or how you might go about finding out when I started asking. Which was (to say the least) frustrating.
Being able to get hold of good careers leaflets/brochures/websites are all helpful – but I don’t think anything beats being able to see someone in a job, doing a job and talking about their experiences (good and bad) and giving their thoughts.
So, leave it with me, I’ll have a think on this further and update again soon with more ideas!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Involved, caring, happy.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Designed plans to bring the lights back on – definitely making a difference!
What did you want to be after you left school?
An Engineer – probably since about the age of 13!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Nothing major I can recall!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
An Events Organiser – I do love lists!!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Chased kangaroos away from an alpacca grazing area (sounds very random – but true, and hilarious!)
Tell us a joke.
Beware alphabet spaghetti grenades, if they go off it could spell disaster!