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  • Role: Power System Engineer
  • Location: Warwick
  • University: Strathclyde
  • Degree: MEng Electrical & Mechanical Engineering

Susan McDonald

What do Power System Engineers do?

I am currently working as a Power System Engineer within System Development in National Grid. In my role, I have been responsible for developing the electricity system to accommodate increases in demand.

This involves analysing demand data and identifying any reinforcement works that may be needed on the network. This is to ensure the electricity flows on the network will remain secure and compliant with the electricity security standards. This role also requires me to work closely with our Commercial department and our transmission customers, for example a company building a wind farm who is looking to connect to the electricity grid.

I am currently working as part of a team that is designing a system to connect an offshore wind farm to the national grid. As a result, in my role I would look at the overall network to identify where the generator could connect to the grid.

To identify how the generator will connect to the system, I will carry out analysis of the various options, carrying out simulation power flow analysis to identify technical issues, and identify any environmental impact and the financial cost.

After this analysis period, you would then have to put forward a proposal to the committee groups. Once you have approval, you would then have to manage a team to carry out the work, working across the company from legal to construction to ensure the scheme runs on time and to budget.

As a Power System Engineer you have a varied role that allows you not only to work in a technical role but manage the overall process to connect a new generator.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think the best part of working as a Power System Engineer is that you interface with many people across the business; transmission customers, Commercial, Legal, Construction, Asset Investment and Land & Development.

Not only does working as a Power System Engineer provide you with a very technical role, but it is also one where you assess and implement the financial, management and delivery plan of projects.

I am also right at the heart of ensuring the UK is able to meet the energy targets set by the government. Therefore, it’s great to know that what I work on is helping to provide a safe, reliable, affordable and secure electricity network for future generations.

The energy sector has opportunities to work in an exciting, varied and challenging industry.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

At present, my main goal is to become a chartered engineer with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). As Power System Engineer there is a clear path to chartership.

How did you get your job at National Grid?

At present, I am on the National Grid Graduate scheme which involves three placements over 18-months. As part of the scheme I also have a very well structured training programme to develop my awareness of the company, technical and soft skills.

Prior to the start of the graduate scheme, I studied a MEng in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Strathclyde University. In my first year of my course I was awarded an IET National Grid Power Academy sponsorship.

Every summer, throughout my time as a university student, I worked with National Grid for 2-months. This gave me the opportunity to take the lead and work as part of a team on projects within Asset Health, Asset Policy, Electricity Network Control Centre (ENCC), and Construction.

During my time at the ENCC I worked on ‘Reactive and Voltage Control’ and ‘Best practice of Special Actions’. Both projects gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the control room and also the chance to do some circuit breaker switching on the electricity network.

Having already been through a selection process for the Power Academy scholarship and been with the company over a few summers. I was then invited to go to the assessment centre where they would decide who to take on full time. I was very pleased that I got the opportunity to continue to work for National Grid.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

If possible gain industrial experience during your degree. You will see how your studies apply to real life projects, be part of something that makes a difference to the company and help you figure out where your interests lie. It is also a great way to meet other people in that sector.

Being pro-active and keeping up to date with what’s happening in the industry through the news and lecture events that are offered through institute bodies, such as the IET is also very helpful.

What ‘soft skills’ have you found useful?

The main ‘soft skills’ that will serve you well in any work role is communication, organisation, how you manage and work within a team and punctuality.

What was the interview process like?

I found the interview process at my assessment centre fair, it allowed me to show my knowledge of the company and how I worked in a team.

Any advice on interviews?

Do your homework; you should have an appreciation of what the company does and who their stakeholders are.

I would recommend thinking of examples where you worked as part of a team, how you managed a project that wasn’t working successfully and a time when you led a team.

Just try and remember the interviewers want you to do well and if you are unsure of what they are asking you, ask for clarification.

Is there a work/life balance?

National Grid as a company offers a great work/life balance. At our Warwick HQ we have a gym which I go to with other graduates.

We have lots of sport and social groups, where you can meet other people with the same interests as you. My department also arranges a dinner every month so we can all sit down and catch up outside of work.

There are many opportunities to get involved in activities promoting science and engineering, like the National Grid School Power and Imagineering, where you can get involved in running fun science events for school pupils.

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