Welcome Daniel Ohlendorf: New Expert in the Utility Management Community - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]
- Dec 10, 2020 1:10 pm GMT
If there’s one truth that 2020 has really hammered home for us in the utility industry, it’s how important great leadership and calm, thoughtful management is to the sector. Recognizing the value of this leadership, Energy Central has been doubling down on finding great leaders across the world of utilities to tap into for our Network of Experts, and as we do so it’s just as important to make sure these experts are visible and available to providing insights and discussion in the community. One of the best ways we keep that up is through the official Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Today I have the great pleasure of sharing with you the conversation I had with Daniel Ohlendorf as he starts his post as newest expert in our Utility Management community. Daniel’s long career in the utility industry has allowed him to gain unique perspective, and so we’re grateful to have him as a part of our community. If you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments below and he’ll be eager to keep the conversation going!
Matt Chester: I’m thrilled to introduce you to the Utility Management community of Energy Central as our newest expert, Daniel. Can you introduce yourself quickly so your fellow members know where you come from, your history in the utility sector, and what expertise and experience you bring to the table today?
Daniel Ohlendorf: Hello community! I have had the honor of serving the customers of a major western utility for the last decade across multiple sides of the business – customer care, electric operations, technology, emergency response, and innovation and R&D. Through every position I have been tasked with the cutting edge and business transformation – whether it was new technology to solve a business need, standing up a new organizational function, or even adding new approaches to structure and governance for standard operational work. I thrive off of the need for change and embrace the challenges that come with it. Perhaps that comes from my experience before the utility leading engineering and product development for a Silicon Valley company, an environment where pivoting fast and keeping up with the market is critical to achieving business objectives. The most rewarding part of my career thus far has been the employees that I serve. When I look back at the last decade it is not the latest technology in place that I look back on and smile, it is those who I have had the opportunity to lead and mentor who have since gone on to be leaders themselves.
MC: You’ve been quite customer-focused in your utility career. Utilities enjoy a unique relationship with their customers compared with other industries—can you share a few ways in which that relationship is an advantage for the utility operations and where it can be a unique challenge?
DO: The customer side of the business is where I started in the utility, and as I have moved through other areas of the business our customer relationship remains very close to my heart. After all, if we are not in this business to serve our customers then why are we in it at all?
The largest advantage utilities have in the customer relationship is trust. Given the long standing relationship we have with our customers, they trust us to not only provide for their energy needs but also to be there when something goes wrong – from a larger than expected bill to a wire down in their neighborhood. When customers think of us, they tend to visually see the troubleman out in the rain climbing the pole to restore power, and it brings a since of appreciation.
However, that trust and appreciation is fragile. Utilities must be sound operationally, especially when it comes to safety and asset management. A utility can easily become a source of spite if injuries, equipment caused fires, or other events occur. By nature, our business is a dangerous one, and therefore safety of our customers and employees must always remain top priority.
MC: You’ve also helped to shepherd in some innovative new technology programs in your time working in utilities. Can you talk about a particular R&D project or technological progress that made you particularly proud?
DO: My educational background is Aerospace Engineering and Systems Engineering, so I fully admit I “geek out” a bit over what we are doing with UAVs to improve our system inspections, and how we use that data to be more risk informed in our operational planning. Outside of that, www.pge.com/epic is a great resource to see and read details about some of the great innovations I have been blessed to be part of.
MC: As you look to the coming decade in the world of energy, what has you most excited about the changes and evolutions that are on the way?
DO: The amount of innovation occurring in the utility industry makes this a great time to be part of this industry. Utilities were largely unchanged in how they operated for decades. Now we have a huge growth in renewable technologies, electric vehicle adoption, and the impacts of climate change which all require evolution in the utilities operational model. At the same time, we have an aging infrastructure which presents increased risks for safety and system stability and adds enormous cost pressure to maintain. To both enable coming innovations and be able to safely maintain the base infrastructure it is going to require innovation and completely new approaches to how our industry functions. I am excited to continue to be a part of it!
MC: As you’ve started to get involved with Energy Central, what do you find to be the value that the platform brings to you and to the industry? Why do you participate and stay so engaged, and how do you hope to bring value based on your experience and knowledge to fellow Energy Central users?
DO: Platforms like Energy Central enable the exchange of ideas and collaborative problem solving which are critical to the industry’s transformation. This diversity of thought and experience used to only be available through expensive society memberships and conferences. With social platforms we can collaborate as needs arise and innovate that much quicker!
MC: Is there anything else you’d like the community to know about you?
DO: All thoughts and opinions expressed here are mine personally, not necessarily those of any company I may be affiliated with. In any of my posts, questions, or responses I will always be responding based on my experience alone. I love my day job and the company I work for, however I will leave all company viewpoints to those who are responsible for providing them. This also means I do not respond to paid consultation offers.
Thanks so much to Daniel Ohlendorf for joining me in this interview and for his participation as a Utility Management expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Daniel engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make him feel welcome!
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