Member since: 2007
In the industrial world good fortune smiled on me many times, as an operator I was awarded and apprentice ship in the top plant craft, the Instruments and Controls shop (I&C). Having served an apprenticeship makes me among the last of a dying breed of well trained craft persons allowed to incorporate the experience and knowledge of a couple of generations of older craft persons into their own. This foundation was enhanced with in-depth training and experience on the state of the art at the time. These skills have served me well and are the backstop and safety net of my career. Throughout my career a good I&C tech has always been in demand and has made me more open to trying other things since I could always fallback on my tools and still make a good living. If one is good at it, few roles are more challenging or more satisfying than I&C work at large base load power plant. It is a well-balanced combination of physical and intellectual work.
Anyway, form my first stint in I&C I was promoted into engineering as a Senior Engineering Technician essential a non-degreed engineer continuing to work in SCADA systems. This was another great learning experience and enjoyable. We complete projects from justification and budgeting to design and implementation. I served five years in this role long enough to get good at it. I had many victories, my favorite was controls system reconfiguration to allow a scrubber designed for one unit to serve two. I rewrote thousands of rungs of logic during this project. The success of the entire endeavor is personal career monument of mine. Sadly, the job had come to consume almost every waking moment of my life, to a large degree excluding family and education. I was not successful in restoring any semblance of balance in my life. The only way seemed to be a career change.
I used my controls expertise to move to Integrated Combined Cycle Gasification (IGCC) plant nearing the completion of construction by my employer. It turned out to a great move, I triple qualified in I&C, electrical, and operations. Fortuitously, it was determined by quite an involved process that I was well suited for Control Center Operations. That brought with it another mass of quality training. After which I served in commissioning and then successfully and routinely ran a Combined Cycle Power Block, a Air Products Air Separation plant, A Monsanto Sulfuric Acid plant, and a Texaco, now GE Gasifier which as a whole used coal to fuel a combined cycle unit through a synthetic gas production process. Having become a skilled operator in an successful IGCC plant makes me a member another fairly small group.
As a sideline to my other endeavors, I continued to complete college courses, and finished a Bachelor in Management, and was working towards a Masters. Again after a couple of years the stars aligned and the energy-trading wing was looking for a someone with a Bachelors degree and technical knowledge of production to be developed into Power Marketer to trade from real-time out to a couple of weeks around the utilities assets and load. I was selected and after six more months of training and mentoring, I was one.
I have traded for both IOU and the sister Independent Power Producer (IPP). I traded mainly power but some Nat Gas out to Term and assisted on Origination deals. I even represented my employer as a little "R" on the ERCOT protocol revision subcommittee. Trading Power is enjoyable.
Admittedly as an IPP trader 2001-03 time frame I was outlier never having worked for Enron and trading within my own high ethical constraints. Utility marketers seemed to own the ethical high ground. I came to know a lot great of people in that endeavor and another few not quite so great. My role in trading was broader than my peers, I was NERC certified as a Reliability Coordinator so I also dispatched the organization's assets in ERCOT and bid in the ERCOT ancillary services producing an attractive revenue stream. I made the IPP a few coins, actually more than anyone else in my group. Power trading like all of life is bound by good Kings Law to quote Solomon: (I had to work this in somewhere)
"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." Ecclesiastes 9:11 (Yes it is actually 911)
Some of the other traders would say I am living proof of the validity of that verse. Several of my peers believed they were superior to me in every respect. I did make a lot of money for my employer during this time, but maybe it was simply consistent run of good luck. I will say this being consistently lucky take a lot of hard work.
The grass looked greener in the world steel compared to the world of money. The executive leadership in production were more to my liking, solid liked minded plant people that had paid their dues. I used my previous experience and trading successes to leverage a position in plant management as the operation and maintenance superintendent at a small plant. It was a great job with an outstanding group, finishing my career there and seeing what opportunity presented itself would not have been a bad choice.
Nevertheless, I did not take that route. The plant sold to another outstanding group; however, my first grandchild was born, and named after me, I waxed sentimental, homesickness got the best of me, and back to Florida I rode. It didn't work out like I had envisioned, I got the old "Cats in the cradle silver spoon ..." lesson that I so richly deserved. I am proud of my children and we all enjoy the limited time we have together but I still had more career ambitions.
My career continued on, after a short at stint at a CoGen, I went back on my tools for the employer I had worked for in several roles totaling over twenty years. I had a simple plan, I mistakenly believed with my previous history I would quickly move back into management or energy trading. It did not pan out so after a couple years my I&C skills were returned and I started looking outside for opportunity. It took about a year but eventually the fates smiled on me again and I was awarded the Maintenance Manager's role for and another exceptional organization at a Combined Cycle Nat Gas burner finishing construction. From there to operations and then to plant manager.
Career wise this is a short summary, To end with a quote from Homer Parson Grant that to a degree reflects my outlook on life: "We must free ourselves from the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds."