The energy field offers a host of
There's work to be done in fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable energy, as well as alternative sources like hydro, wind, sun and even tidal and magma power. Whatever slot the diverse techies fill, their contributions are needed and appreciated
"I'm proud of the service we provide. A lot of engineering and technology goes on behind that light switch!" - Cynthia Lord, Alliant
By Laurel McKee Ranger
So much of what we do depends on energy. We wake up to the alarm, turn on the lights, enjoy toast, fresh-brewed coffee and a hot shower, then drive or take a bus or train to work at a heated or air-conditioned office where, whether we're working out calculations, writing memos, surfing the Web or sitting in a meeting, we're riding the electric power grid.
A career in energy is clearly a meaningful choice, with many options to be explored. As concern over power drain and global warming rises, companies involved in fossil-fuel based energy, nuclear energy, renewable energy, hydro, wind, solar, and even tidal and magma power work to find viable solutions.
Mary Ellen Beach, deputy director of the office of human resources at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, Washington, DC), notes that 104 commercial nuclear power plants are currently up and running. They provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity, she says.
But over the next ten to twenty years, "We will need more reactors just to maintain that 20 percent as our need for power grows," Beach advises. The NRC estimates that three to four new nuclear plants will need to be brought on line each year beginning in 2015.
Over the past thirty years the nuclear power industry has been more or less at a standstill. But now there are signs of a resurgence, Beach notes.
Barbara Williams agrees. As deputy director of the office of small business and civil rights policy and programs at the NRC, she has seen an increasing need for engineers and scientists. "We hired about 400 people in 2007 and expect to need more in the future. We're filling jobs in engineering, science and IT security disciplines as well as some administrative and corporate support positions," she explains. NRC recruiters look to professional organizations as well as colleges and universities to attract qualified and diverse candidates, Williams adds. There are also efforts to recruit former military personnel with nuclear experience.
Of the 400 new hires at the NRC, about half were to replace retirees, Beach says. "We hired across all engineering disciplines, including nuclear, electrical, mechanical, civil, fire protection and structural, as well as people with construction experience and of course physicists and nuclear scientists."
Many related college programs were eliminated or cut back as the nuclear industry went through its multi-year slowdown. In a recent speech at Ohio State University, NRC chair Dale Klein predicted that the demand for nuclear engineers through the end of the decade will exceed the supply by some 50 percent, and the need for radiation protection professionals will be even greater. The NRC and the Department of Energy are offering grants to encourage schools to rebuild their nuclear engineering programs.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, Golden, CO) is the primary lab specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency research for the Department of Energy (DOE), notes Peggy Rendon, staffing and diversity specialist. "We do research in areas of wind and solar power, electrical power systems, hybrid vehicles, biomass and building efficiency." In the past two years, research in these areas has increased greatly, she adds. "It's a very exciting time to be here."
The growing lab has about 150 engineers plus engineering managers and analysts, and current openings for twenty engineers and efficiency analysts with engineering backgrounds. Rendon is looking for MEs, EEs, ChEs and biochemical engineers. The lab participates in SHPE, HENAAC and NSBE career fairs and works with minority-serving schools. "It's very important to us at the lab that we continue to increase our diversity," she says.
Halliburton: lifecycle of oil and gas
Halliburton (Houston, TX) is involved across the entire lifecycle of oil and gas, starting with exploration and development, moving into production, refining ops and infrastructure, maintenance and upgrade, through to final shutdown. Its major business segments are drilling and evaluation, and completion and production.
"The world is changing and business opportunities along with it," says Lawrence Pope, VP of HR and operational excellence. Halliburton, he notes, is a global company with operations in seventy countries and dual corporate offices in Houston, TX and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
"We are committed to creating a workforce that reflects the diverse population of the communities in which the company operates," Pope reveals. "Having a diverse workforce helps to strengthen the company's competitiveness and profitability."
Engineers in the field at Halliburton provide tech support to ops and business development. Most are ChEs, MEs, CEs, EEs and of course petroleum engineers.
Haliburton's Melissa Calhoun supervises a hundred engineers
Melissa Calhoun joined Halliburton as soon as she got her BSChE from Pennsylvania State University in 1995. She began as a field engineer, learning skills at the wellhead. "At the rig site you can get a sense of all we do," she says.
Her years in the field, from 1996 to 2000, gave her a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in how Halliburton delivers products and services.
She moved on to business development, working with operators. Then she became a subject matter expert and today she's a tech supervisor managing field engineers. "I supervise close to a hundred engineers at five different locations in the Gulf of Mexico district," she says.
The engineers she directs provide tech support for a variety of product service lines in the Gulf area. "They go out to the rig sites as needed, either on- or offshore," Calhoun explains. She also does some university recruiting.
In school, Calhoun interned at the local electric power plant, doing general maintenance and providing entry-level help. "It gave me a lot of good practical experience and a good idea of what engineers do," she says. She also interned with a lime company, doing QA and QC. "What attracted me to Halliburton was the variety in day-to-day activities, the flexibility and the hands-on nature of the work."
Calhoun finds plenty of new challenges in her work. "We are always moving ahead. As a service company we have to focus on new technology to work at greater depths or higher pressures. This is a very engineering-dependent industry."
She has, for example, worked with operators drilling deepwater exploratory wells under record-setting conditions. "It was very exciting and important to the industry. Now I'm managing the engineers who support those types of wells," she notes.
"Halliburton has provided a great opportunity to grow professionally and personally," Calhoun concludes. "I never imagined the interesting people I would meet and the interesting challenges and scenarios I would face. My work here far surpasses what I ever imagined."
In her spare time Calhoun enjoys traveling and follows college football. Her two young sons take a lot of her off-the-job time and energy.
Ramanujam Rajan supports peak shaving ops at Philadelphia Gas
Ramanujam Rajan is director of engineering at the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW, Philadelphia, PA). The company distributes natural gas within the city, but Rajan is not involved in that part of the operation. He and his department support liquefaction of natural gas and its storage during the summer for use in winter.
"Essentially we are a peak-shaving plant. It is more expensive to buy gas in winter so we get it in summer when it's cheaper. In the winter we vaporize the liquid back to gas."
The company has two liquid natural gas plants. "My people support the plants for capital and maintenance issues and we also support tank inspections." He and his staff of eight engineers and nine or ten consultants "handle anything to do with gas processing," he says.
He reviews the engineers' work, sets priorities, checks QC and does engineering studies when needed. "I estimate budget and develop scope of work, cost estimates and schedule for projects and upgrades."
Rajan is also the facilities manager for PGW, looking after the company's buildings and grounds outside the gas plants.
He has a 1963 BS in EE and ME from Ranchi University, Ranchi, India and is a registered PE in Pennsylvania. He came to the U.S. in 1969 and worked for several architecture and engineering companies before joining PGW as a staff engineer in 1975. He moved up to manager and then director of engineering.
"I enjoy engineering work," he says. "You design something and see it up and working. In fact, if you're here as long as I am you may also see it finally demolished," Rajan adds with a laugh.
On an industry-wide basis, the big challenge right now is the importation of liquefied gas from the Middle East. "The chemical content of the gas is different from domestic gas, and integrating it into an existing system is a challenge. We have to process it so it doesn't affect our equipment or our consumers."
Project engineer Brandy Wrenn launches her career at Alstom
Brandy Wrenn has been working as a project engineer in the Midlothian, VA steam turbine retrofit group of Alstom Power USA (Windsor, CT) since she got her BSME from the University of Virginia in 2006. Before starting fulltime, Wrenn interned with the steam turbine engineering group.
Alstom is a global power generation equipment company, supplying utility companies with new and retrofit steam generation equipment: boilers, generators, steam and gas turbines. Wrenn supports several project managers on steam turbine retrofit projects. She's involved from the engineering design phase to delivery and installation of the equipment.
In middle school and high school Wrenn attended several minority-oriented engineering programs. "They piqued my growing interest in math and science," she says. "Then in college Inroads found me the internship at Alstom. That introduced me to the power industry and gave me practical experience that complemented my ME studies."
The challenges of Wrenn's job include scheduling and supply chain. Customer satisfaction within the bounds of the contract are her goal. "It's been a positive experience," Wrenn says. "I enjoy the corporate culture here. I can go to almost anyone if I need advice.
"Being fresh out of college I can bring new ideas that are not so influenced by the ways things have been done in the past," Wrenn adds.
Joyce Coles, diversity/EEO compliance manager for Alstom Power USA, notes that the company is in a major growth mode. When looking for new employees, she says, Alstom seeks the multiple perspectives offered by diversity.
Ideas and innovation at GE Energy
Lani Hall is diversity manager at GE Energy (Atlanta, GA). The company provides products and services to the energy industry. Its product lines involve gas and steam turbines and generators, and equipment for gasification, biomass and solar energy.
"Our key business imperative is profitable growth through great ideas and innovation," Hall says. "As a global company, a significant part of our culture is our diverse and cross-cultural team."
The company supports affinity networks and has a robust supplier diversity program.
Caron Bettenhausen, HR manager, notes that the GE energy engineering group offers challenging opportunities at all levels. She lists jobs available in combustion and emissions, advanced mechanical design, steam and gas turbine design, chemical processing, performance and systems, controls, software, materials and aerodynamics.
Maria Surprise is a GE Six Sigma black belt
EE Maria Surprise is sales quality leader for GE's energy services business. It's her job to ensure that all commercial processes follow proper procedures "from initial contact through contract. We audit processes and where procedures don't exist we formulate them."
Surprise, a Six Sigma black belt, has three direct reports now and expects to increase them to seven in the next couple of years. "We support about 1,200 people globally in sales and commercial operations. We work with customers, specify and put together proposals and make sure we meet customer needs." One of the greatest challenges she faces in this global business is ensuring compliance with changing environmental and technical requirements.
Because Surprise and her team support a global organization, they often start work at 7:00 a.m. with calls from Asia. The contacts proceed from east to west as the day progresses. "There are ten regions globally, and we review operations and major projects across the regions, tie it all together and communicate back to them."
Allocating about an hour for each region makes a long day, often seven a.m. to seven p.m., she notes.
Surprise got her BSEE from the University of Vermont in 1989 and began her professional career with a small electronics company. She was an application engineer designing systems for industrial manufacturing.
In 1991 she joined GE's technical sales program. "Selling equipment for power plants seemed to involve so much," she says. "There are different energy solutions, and figuring out the best solution for each customer sounded interesting.
"Since then I've been in and out of sales, marketing and application engineering, and now I'm doing quality. I learn something new every day and it's just great."
At first, however, it was a huge challenge. She was a young, single woman driving to power plants around the country to try to sell equipment in a male-dominated business. But, "As a woman I stood out," she says. "In some ways it helped me get my foot in the door. I feel I broke down some barriers and now I'm helping others."
Surprise enjoys mentoring others. She's active in GE's diversity forum and the women's network, where she chairs a committee. She also mentors five or ten people each year, and still finds time for outside interests like music, theater and opera.
Sandra M. Sloan manages new plant regulatory affairs at Areva
Areva NP Inc (Lynchburg, VA) supplies new and existing nuclear power plants with fuel, maintenance and repair services, plant engineering, and heavy component engineering and manufacturing.
As a regulatory affairs manager for new plant deployment at Areva, nuclear engineer Sandra M. Sloan is extremely busy. "I'm responsible for new reactor licensing activities for Areva in the U.S.," she explains. She also coordinates Areva's involvement in new plant activities at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and represents the company on the institute's combined license issues taskforce.
Sloan manages a group of twenty engineers and almost as many contractors, and spends a great deal of her time interacting with the NRC in connection with a new evolutionary power reactor (EPR) that Areva plans to get licensed. The EPR is one of several designs being reviewed by the NRC. "We have several customers in line, so electricity could be generated with this plant by 2015," she says.
The EPR, Sloan notes, is safer, more economical and more secure than the previous generation of nuclear reactors. But the NRC must certify the design before it can be built. Sloan is heading up all new plant licensing activities, which includes preparing submissions to the NRC and support for EPR.
"My group works with Areva engineers to get ready for NRC meetings," she says. "We have a lot of different criteria to deal with, and my group identifies the regulatory requirements and ensures that we comply with them."
It's very detailed work, culminating in a document thousands of pages long. More than 350 engineers in the U.S. are working on this design, she says.
Sloan has a 1988 BS and a 1990 MS in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M University. After graduation she worked for the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory as a line engineer, doing safety analysis of advanced nuclear power plants and some project management. In 1997 she moved to Areva's predecessor company as a line engineer and worked her way through positions of increasing responsibility in engineering and licensing.
The biggest challenge in Sloan's work is, of course, the dynamic regulatory environment. "The changes being made are to promote safety and efficiency, but it's a challenge to keep up," she says. The best way to deal with change, however, is to be part of it, so, "As Areva's representative I participate in the NRC and NEI initiatives to help make the licensing process more efficient," she reports with pride.
Outside of her work, Sloan's big passion is figure skating. Her son and daughter have been involved too, but "They're not as serious about it as I am," she says.
Gail Troupe-Tate helps ensure quality at Siemens Power
Siemens Power Generation Inc (Orlando, FL) provides power and energy solutions. These include planning and construction of power plants, upgrades of existing plants, and development and supply of components, systems and comprehensive plant services, from industrial plant needs to wind energy systems.
Gail Troupe-Tate is a Siemens supplier quality engineer. It's her job to ensure that parts and materials meet spec. She's also a liaison between the supplier and the company's own manufacturing folks. When a product fails to meet spec, it's up to her to investigate and arrange for corrective or preventive measures.
Troupe-Tate has a 1988 BS in chemistry from Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, NC). She worked for chemical and textile giant Celanese as a lab analyst, moving up to chemist, quality engineer and manager.
In 2005 she moved to the Charlotte, NC facility of Siemens Power Generation as a steam generation quality engineer, and in 2007 she became a supplier quality engineer in the generation area. She's a Six Sigma green belt, certified at Celanese in 2005, and became a Lean Sigma certified practitioner at Siemens in 2007. She's also been an ISO 9000 lead auditor and trained in ISO 14001 last year.
Troupe-Tate is enjoying her participation in the power industry. "Siemens continuously invests in R&D to improve the efficiency of existing technologies and get more power from the same amount of fuel," she says.
"Considering that the average efficiency of the entire existing power generation fleet is 33 percent, for each point of efficiency improvement we're able to gain, we lower carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tons per year." And that, she notes, "is about the same as taking seven million cars off the road for the year."
After work Troupe-Tate likes to mentor and tutor her daughters, their friends and other children in her community and church. She's had other opportunities to encourage young people during career days at a local high school. "I try to lead by example," she says.
Cynthia Lord helps Alliant keep the lights on
Cynthia Lord is manager of engineered projects at Alliant (Madison, WI), a Midwest utility company. Alliant serves Wisconsin, Iowa and parts of Minnesota with 6,000 mw of electric power.
"I'm responsible for fifteen engineers who provide engineering support to nine of Alliant's fifteen plants," she explains. "We're like an in-house engineering consulting group. We do repairs and improvements, fix boilers and turbines, replace pumps, fans and control systems. Recently we've also been helping another group install pollution-control systems on existing plants."
Lord provides guidance and direction on projects to see that they're done on time and within budget to keep the plants running reliably. Some projects are long planned and take two or three years to complete, others are emergency fixes.
Lord has a 1982 BSME from Iowa State University and a 1997 MBA from Baruch College (New York, NY). She's a licensed PE in New York and Wisconsin.
She began her career with Consolidated Edison Co (New York, NY) in 1982, working in an engineering group. While at ConEd she also worked in ops, tech service and finance. In 1999 she moved back to the Midwest to take a position as plant manager at Alliant. She moved into her current role in 2006.
Her varied background in energy gives her an edge in her current position. "I'm managing an engineering organization but I understand processes, and I use some of my finance background and a little of everything else to improve our processes."
Over her career Lord has seen significant changes. "I was one of the first women to be a plant manager. The first plant I worked at didn't even have a women's bathroom!" she recalls with amusement.
"But fortunately the companies and people I've worked for have been very interested in developing women. I've never felt any direct discrimination, though there have been some subtle moments; and my bosses have always been supportive.
"The industry has grown on me," she says. "I'm proud of the service we provide. I can't think of a single industry that has had more of an impact on the way we live than the power system. A lot of engineering and technology goes on behind that light switch!"
Schlumberger: "practically everything to do with oil wells"
Frank D. McKay is recruiting and university relations manager at Schlumberger (Sugar Land, TX), an oilfield services company. "For what we do, we are the biggest in the world," he states. "We do practically everything associated with creating an oil well except actually owning the well or the oil. That includes drilling wells, taking scientific measurements to identify where the oil is, putting the casing in the well, and all activities related to getting the oil out of the ground."
Schlumberger operates in eighty countries and employs engineers from 140 countries around the world. Field engineers have BS degrees in engineering, and are normally recent grads.
After an extensive internal training program, the field engineers manage crews involved in oil-well creation and analysis.
"We pride ourselves on giving our field engineers a lot of responsibility very early in their careers. After five years in the field they usually become managers.
"They keep moving throughout their careers. They move geographically, between product lines, and in different areas like marketing and operations, as well as up the corporate ladder to higher levels of responsibility," McKay says.
Shell Oil: from wellhead to local service station
Cary Wilkins, director of recruitment for the Americas region of Shell Oil Co (Houston, TX), says Shell's current need for engineers is moderate to high. "We're always looking for talented engineers with experience and credentials. This year we expect to bring on more than 500 experienced professionals, most of them in engineering and other technical roles."
Engineers at Shell perform a variety of jobs, ranging all the way from the well-head to the service station, and support both onshore and offshore projects. The company recruits petroleum engineers, of course, plus ChEs, MEs and more. For higher positions it typically looks for at least five years of relevant experience and a degree that supports the position.