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Diversity In Action

Suzlon Wind Energy Corp: growing and hiring worldwide

This international company, based in India, needs technicians, MEs, EEs and IT folks to work on wind power in the U.S. and/or nineteen other countries

The wind is blowing in new career opportunities for job-hunting engineers and IT pros. Suzlon Energy Corp, one of the largest wind-turbine suppliers in the world, is in the market for good technical people.

Suzlon owns more than 10 percent of the global market share for wind turbines. Since 1995 the company has expanded its operations into twenty countries; its total workforce of nearly 14,000 represents fourteen different nationalities. Suzlon recently developed Asia�s largest wind farm in Dhule, Maharashtra, India, solidifying its position as the market leader in India for more than eight years running.

With all this success comes a demand for good people. In fact, human capital is the company�s prime asset, its website proclaims.

Both engineers and IT pros are in demand, says Lionel Sweeny, HR VP at U.S. HQ in Chicago, IL. �It�s a new industry, so there�s a lot of opportunity to take skills and experience from other industries and transfer that knowledge,� Sweeny says.

Last year the renewable energy industry as a whole created more than 85,000 jobs, and 45 percent of them were in the wind area: a growth of about 120 percent. Like other companies, though, Suzlon relies on its investors for growth. �We had a large number of investors until the economy changed. Now we have fewer investors, so although we�ll continue to have growth, it�s hard to say just how much it will be,� Sweeny admits.

But there will be continued installations, and the company continues to builds up its service organization. So Sweeny expects to be recruiting EEs to work in the field. Suzlon is also building a monitoring center, and will be looking for MEs and EEs to assist with that, Sweeny says.

The company began operating in the U.S. in 2004, with services including development, manufacturing, marketing and maintenance of wind-turbine generators, the same services it provides around the world. Its broad wind-turbine product portfolio is customized according to each area�s geographical and climatic requirements.

The company began in the U.S. with one part-time IT pro in its Chicago HQ. Now it has fourteen IT pros covering twenty-two sites in thirteen states, primarily in the eastern, central and western U.S., Sweeny says.

Minnesota, for example, has a manufacturing facility and a service center. There are Suzlon wind farms near Pittsburgh, PA and in Oregon.

The HQ IT department has a director, a network engineer, a helpdesk manager and helpdesk support; there�s about one IT pro for every hundred employees, Sweeny notes. The growth of the IT staff depends on the growth of the overall company, of course.

IT professionals also have a critical role at the company�s wind farms, Sweeny says, so they may work in the field instead of or in addition to a corporate office.

�In the IT organization, it�s critical for people to be experienced,� Sweeny notes. �The wind industry is new to the U.S., so we need folks who have experience in other controls and systems.�

Running computer diagnostics via connectivity with the turbines themselves requires a keen systems creativity, Sweeny says. Technicians are needed to monitor the systems once they�re up and running. Each wind-farm site has some twelve to thirty total employees, and some sites have more than a hundred turbines.

More than two-thirds of the organization�s workforce is made up of engineers and technicians who work in the field, running diagnostics and doing day-to-day maintenance. The technicians need a two-year degree with a concentration in electronics or electricity.

Commissioning engineers hook up electric cabling after the turbine is erected, using field computers and tool kits to run through the diagnostics and electrical processes. They work with high and low voltage, both AC and DC. MEs usually find their place in construction.

The challenge for wind power companies is, of course, bringing in engineers with directly applicable experience. Suzlon prefers to hire folks with four or five years of experience in fields that can be transferred to wind power, where they�ve worked with electrical and control issues. The company also hires people directly out of college; paired with experienced mentors, they handle entry-level technician work. �We teach them the applied concepts associated with wind utilities,� Sweeny says.

The company brings in new grads from India to work in the U.S. on visas, and recruits from community colleges and universities. Formal diversity initiatives have not yet begun because the company is so new in the U.S., Sweeny says, but he notes that the company is certainly global and diverse. Sweeny is African American, �and we have some African Americans in the supply chain organization,� he notes.

�For where we are, I think we have a good mix of people. In the traditionally male engineering arena we want to attract females.� Women with associate degrees in electrical technology or related areas are one target.

The �women of wind energy� initiative of the American Wind Energy Association is focused on education and recruitment, Sweeny notes. So far there�s only one female wind-site tech in the U.S., so the field is wide open for women who want to enter an exciting new industry.

Training programs at Suzlon ensure that employees have opportunities to advance their careers. There�s the mentor-apprentice program, and another that covers the mechanical and electrical intricacies of turbines, OSHA training, troubleshooting and more. Most of this education is done at the company�s global training center in India.

A wind farm may be a rather remote posting, Sweeny admits, because the farms are usually located in areas that are far from major metropolitan centers. To compensate, the company has several flex-time options for its techs and engineers: a stretch of work followed by time off for home and family.

Suzlon has a robust corporate social responsibility program aimed at local community outreach. �It�s a strong part of the culture,� Sweeny says. �It may be done by employees individually or in groups.�

Suzlon techies also have the opportunity to explore the globe. Americans here may work with colleagues from Germany, India, China and elsewhere, and they�ll also have opportunities to work and live across international borders. A co-op program is being developed, and will include assignments at Suzlon�s many international locations.

�At the end of the day, we want to be sure that a lot of our people get to make use of global experience gained from other cultures,� Sweeny says.


Suzlon Wind Energy Corp


Headquarters: Pune, Maharashtra, India; U.S. head office in Chicago, IL
Employees: Nearly 14,000
Revenues: $2.8 billion
Business: Wind energy generation

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