Mohammed Alfayyoumi leads system operations at Dominion
This EE was always committed to the power industry. Today, he spends his days working on the big picture, “inspiring people, setting direction, creating a vision.”
'I try to do the best I can wherever I am,” says Mohammed Alfayyoumi.
Alfayyoumi is director of the system operations center at Dominion Virginia Power (Glen Allen, VA). Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion (Richmond, VA), a producer and transporter of energy, and operator of one of the nation’s largest natural gas storage systems. It serves utility and retail energy customers in ten southern and midwestern states.
He was born in Kuwait and grew up in Jordan. “From an early age, I was interested in the sciences, math and physics,” he says. “I always liked the problem-solving aspects of these subjects. After high school, I wanted to study engineering but I didn’t know what branch.”
Alfayyoumi attended the Jordan University of Science & Technology. “It offered courses in science, technology and medicine. I was most interested in electrical engineering because it used more math and physics.”
Positive about power
Alfayyoumi earned his BS in electrical engineering in 1996, graduating first in his class. He was drawn to power systems and control. “When I was driving on the road, I saw those big towers and always wanted to know more about them. The lines, transformers and power stations were a visible part of my life.”
Alfayyoumi was accepted at three universities in the United States for graduate school. He chose Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA) for his masters degree in electrical and electronics engineering. “At Virginia Tech, a research grant from the United States Navy paid my tuition in return for my work as a research assistant.”
After he graduated in 1998, he started looking for a job with a power company. “My advisors told me that power companies weren’t very exotic, but I said, ‘I’m a power engineer and that’s the job for me.’ When Virginia Power offered me a job in Richmond, I accepted.”
Building a career with Virginia Power
Alfayyoumi was hired in 1998 as an associate engineer, and he worked in the distribution planning department, reviewing and updating the power grid as the customer base changed. He moved to northern Virginia in 2000 to work in the distribution reliability group.
A year later, Dominion initiated company-wide Six Sigma, and Alfayyoumi’s director chose him to be trained as the black belt for his group. In 2002, he became a master black belt and was given projects with more scope and dollar impact, some outside the area of reliability.
“We looked at issues like whether we were using mobile devices optimally. We had about three thousand phones and we needed to determine the correct calling plans. The bottom line was savings,” Alfayyoumi emphasizes.
He was promoted to engineer III in 2003 and moved into electrical transmission. “The vice president was looking to implement some new improvement initiatives. He wanted to measure the performance of the transmission business, and he wanted a black belt to be involved,” notes Alfayyoumi. “He chose me to develop new metrics.”
Alfayyoumi was promoted to consulting engineer in 2006. “A consulting engineer is a technical leadership role,” he explains. “You’re still hands-on, but you’re an expert in your area. My strength was analytical, and I became the go-to person for other engineers.”
In 2007, Alfayyoumi moved into management. “The next step after consulting engineer is principal engineer. There are very few in the company. It’s like a consulting engineer on steroids,” he laughs. “At this point, my peers were directors and when I saw the way they inspired and directed people, that registered with me. I knew that was where I wanted to go next.”
He built a consulting group for the field operations organization from four engineers to fifteen over four years. In 2011, he seized an opportunity to move to the system operations center (SOC), the control center for the transmission grid at Dominion. “Becoming the SOC manager was a lateral move for me, but it was a good one because it gave me more exposure across our business,” Alfayyoumi says.
Changes spur leadership
Ten months later, after an internal re-organization, Alfayyoumi was promoted to his current post as director of the system operations center. “We monitor real-time operations of our grid in Virginia and North Carolina, and are responsible for reliability. We have real-time tools that help us monitor the status of the grid twenty-four/seven. We’re also responsible for restoring power from unplanned outages.”
Alfayyoumi now has less hands-on involvement in day-to-day operations. “Now it’s more about inspiring people, setting direction, and creating a vision. I have five managers reporting to me, and they’re responsible for about sixty people. My managers are system operators or engineers who are now in management roles.”
Leadership and the future
Alfayyoumi is a member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers. He is also part of Dominion’s diversity council.
He is a year away from receiving his MBA from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. “As a leader at Dominion, I feel the MBA will help me be more effective.
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about where I’ll go next. As long as I find the best way to do my job, the future will take care of itself.”
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