Mentoring from the top down
Mentoring from the top down
Operational Technology Engineer Nick Pappapetros - pictured - has risen through the ranks of Ergon in a relatively short amount of time. Starting out as a graduate four years ago, Nick has worked in a number of areas of the business and is now responsible for leading change, and the integration of new technologies into the electricity network.
Nick will soon add another tool to his utility belt when he is mentored by Ergon Chief Executive Ian McLeod. Talking Energy sat down with Nick to talk about his experience at Ergon so far, what he sees as the future for the network and how he feels about the next chapter in his burgeoning career.
Hi Nick, for those who don't know you; tell us a little about yourself?
I've been working with Ergon for four-and-a-half years. I started with the company in the graduate program and rotated through the business every six months in different work groups getting experience and expanding my technical knowledge and contacts. I started in Townsville, where I was based for a year-and-a-half and I did a stint in Protection, Sub-Transmission planning and then a Field rotation. Following that I moved to Brisbane and worked with Technology Development, Alternative Energy Solutions, and then Operational Technology, and that's where I have ended up, as an OT engineer working on strategies to assist the integration of new technologies into the electricity network.
Tell us a little more about your role as OT Engineer.
The work I'm doing at the moment will assist the realisation of the iNOC, the Integrated Network Operations Centre. The iNOC is a strategy put forward to enable Ergon to effectively manage the plethora of smart devices that will connect to the electricity network in the future. These devices may include smart meters, PVs with battery storage, EVs, and electricity network supporting technologies such as GUSS and STATCOM devices. Similar to how the Network Operation Control Centre, OCC, controls and manages the power network, the iNOC will be the mechanism that monitors any alarms that come from these devices and ensures maintenance is conducted should they fail. My role is looking at how the iNOC will look and what kind of work needs to be done in the background to make the iNOC operational.
What do you enjoy about your role?
At the moment it's all new territory and new technology. This hasn't been done in many other power companies, so the prospect of setting this up and working with different areas of the business to integrate and manage new technologies is quite exciting.
If you were going to tell a friend what Ergon will look like in five years' time, what would you say to them? How does it look in your mind?
Ultimately we will still be supplying electricity to customers, but how we interact with customers will be different. I agree with our Chief Executive and our strategy, the nature of our business is changing because of the power of choice – customers will have an even greater capability to generate electricity, and eventually they may look at battery storage and EVs. Consumers will be looking at cost effective but reliable options for power. So Ergon needs to set itself up to ensure that we are enabling these choices, and making sure that we are still a valued component of electricity distribution. We still need to supply a stable and safe supply of electricity, and we will need to maintain the required level of regulation in the electricity network. We'll still be a poles and wires business, but we'll be an information enabled poles and wires business. To be information enabled, we need to make sure that we are ready to facilitate the integration and interaction of new technology.
It's recently been announced that you'll be mentored by Ergon's Chief Executive, Ian McLeod. How did this all come about?
Whilst I was a graduate engineer, I was always wanted to see what a manager does in their day-to-day role so I had a vision of what I could potentially work towards. One day about a year ago, I was sitting with one of Ergon's other managers, having lunch and Ian came and sat with us. During our conversation I said I'd like to see what he did in his everyday role, just to appreciate what a chief executive does. He mentioned he had been interested in mentoring young talent. The idea was floated around the business, initially looking at having a graduate engineer mentored for a period of time as part of the graduate program. The business decided it would be more beneficial for someone who had successfully completed the graduate program and was looking at their next phase of development. My name was put forward and the rest is history.
What do you hope to achieve through this mentor program?
For engineers, there are generally three career paths: technical, managerial, or a little bit of both. I am hoping that this program will give me a sneak peek into the 'real life of a chief executive', to see if being a manager and ascending the ranks is something I want to work towards. I would really like to see how he makes his decisions based on the requirements of our stakeholders. I would like to see how the business operates, including how the strategies are made. I am very keen to learn from Ian, from his broad range of experiences, and understand more about what is involved in being the chief executive.
You've had a pretty meteoric rise through the company already, just four years after starting with Ergon as a graduate. What would you say to anyone considering applying for a role at Ergon whether it's the graduate or apprenticeship program?
If you see an opportunity, go for it. I've found that Ergon has been a great place to work, and is encouraging of new ideas. Whilst on the graduate program we put together a couple of things to enhance the program, such as our Learn, Experience, Develop sessions and on-boarding sessions for vacation and undergraduate students conducting work placement within Ergon. Graduates and students on placement are often quite isolated within their teams and regions, so we created these sessions so they could interact and share each other's experiences, as well as have a cost effective method of delivering technical and soft skills training. My advice, if there is something that you want to do, put it forward to someone, get some people behind you and make it happen.
Finally, where do you see yourself in five years?
After completing university and moving into the real world, my plan was always to finish the graduate program, work as a technical engineer for a few years and have a few projects underneath my belt before seeing what other opportunities arise. That's still ultimately the plan. As to what happens next, I guess we'll just have to wait and see where I end up. This opportunity to be mentored by Ian however will definitely help me define my desired career path.
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