Keeping It in the Family: Growing A Career and a Community Network at SVP

Working in the utility sector runs in Shreya Kodnadu’s family. Growing up, Shreya machu picchu - shreya solovisited substations and generation facilities in Bangalore, India, where her father worked. She took this passion with her to her undergraduate studies in Bangalore and then to Washington State University in 2010, where she received her master’s degree. Then, after more than three years as a protection engineer at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman, Washington, and a stint at Pennsylvania Power and Light, Shreya joined SVP in 2016 as a protection electrical engineer.

At SVP, Shreya works on programming and testing protective relays and analyzing power outage data. In her daily role, Shreya performs power system studies, compiles data to makes complex calculations and analyses, and troubleshoots problems with utility equipment and facilities. She loves that her job focuses on safety, reliability and helping the community. Shreya explained, “My favorite part of the job is working for the community. I can make a difference and see how my work directly affects Santa Clara residents and businesses.”

With the strong relationships Shreya has built at SVP, she is happy to be a part of the SVP family. “Not only is SVP serving Santa Clara residents and businesses, but I really enjoy the tight‑knit community at work. I continue to learn from and enjoy the company of my amazing colleagues. Collectively we work toward the same mission. That is why I love coming to work every day.”

When Shreya is not at work, she enjoys traveling and exploring the great outdoors. Shreya shared, “I love taking advantage of the outdoors, both locally and abroad. In 2015, my husband and I went on a six‑day backpacking trip to Machu Picchu, Peru, and I loved every moment. We look forward to our next backpacking adventure in Patagonia this winter.”

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A Passion for Teaching: Mentoring Peers from Silicon Valley to Suriname

Fourteen years ago, Dawid Coetzee, one of our electric crew foremen, moved to the U.S.SVP Lineman Dawid Coetzee with his two young sons holding fish in front of their boat on a lake. from South Africa and fell in love with the adventurous, fearless nature of the jobs performed by lineworkers. As he became more experienced, he joined our team and eventually was made the leader of his own crew. The role is a natural fit for Dawid, who enjoys teaching and mentoring. Working for SVP has given him the opportunity to assist Santa Clara’s residents and businesses, his crew members and faraway communities.

As a utility worker in Santa Clara, Dawid enjoys being part of a power-intensive, technology-driven community that maintains its small-town values. Today, he builds and maintains power lines throughout the region with a tight-knit, 20-person team.

An experienced electric worker, Dawid serves as a thoughtful and caring mentor to the new apprentices in the organization. The long duration of a multiyear apprenticeship combined with the challenges of electric work make this a tough program for lineworkers in training. Dawid takes these individuals under his wing and teaches them not only how to complete tasks but also tricks of the trade so they can do well in their roles. He enjoys finding something new to learn or teach at every job site, no matter how big or small.

Dawid takes this same teaching approach beyond the Santa Clara community. Earlier this year, he traveled to Suriname, in South America, to host a safety training for local lineworkers and share his best practices. During the trip, he met lineworkers who were tackling extreme conditions in the Amazon with very few resources. The experience gave him a new perspective on his work, and he hopes to return to Suriname next year with new training that is specific to the needs of the country.

In his free time, Dawid enjoys traveling to the Eastern Sierra mountains with his wife and kids to camp, swim, fish and boat. His love of the outdoors brings him to the mountains and the ocean on a regular basis, giving him to time to explore California’s diverse natural environments.

Making waves as a power engineer

ChrisKarwick2At twenty-three years old, Chris Karwick was working as a merchant marine engineering officer aboard a commercial ship in Antarctica when he found himself in a perilous situation: The ship had become trapped in a thick sheet of ice due to engine failure. Days passed with no solution, and Chris, a manager with several direct reports, was asked for advice and direction. Together with other crew members, Chris helped organize a makeshift repair to the engine that allowed the ship to break free from the ice pack and be towed safely to New Zealand.  

High-stakes experiences like this have shaped Chris’ ability to think quickly on his feet and communicate in tough situations. After traveling the world, Chris decided to settle down in Silicon Valley and bring his engineering and leadership talents to the utilities and power generation sector.  

In his role as the Division Manager of Power Generation, Chris oversees our power generation assets inside and outside of Santa Clara, such as the Donald Von Raesfeld Power Plant and the Stony Gorge Hydroelectric Facility. On a day-to-day basis, he makes sure that power is produced and dispatched properly, that our operations meet environmental standards, and that the power generation staff maintains a safe workplace. Building off his past experience managing others, Chris enjoys helping his team members develop their skills.  

In his free time, Chris loves spending time with his wife and two kids in Santa Cruz camping, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors. He rekindles his sense of adventure as often as possible and tries to pass on his love of travel to his children.

 

Sparking Inspiration in Silicon Valley

Jeff Duncan of Silicon Valley Power in front of a ladder that leans against a utility pole.An adrenaline rush – that’s what a coal mine electrician experiences every day. The tough working conditions and challenging electrical problems in a mine test one’s endurance and ability to solve problems under pressure.  

After succeeding in this demanding workplace, Jeff Duncan was up for a new adventure. One year ago, he switched from the coal industry to the utility industry and moved to Santa Clara to work with us as an electric meter technician. Jeff made the switch because he wanted to work in a growing industry where he could develop new skills and advance his career. His love of Silicon Valley and technology made the decision to join our team even easier.  

As a meter technician, no day on the job is the same for Jeff. He has a range of responsibilities, from inspecting meters that are recording no usage to testing faulty wires. He also assists with Wi-Fi troubleshooting calls and resolves connectivity issues. While the electrical work itself remains similar, these applications are very different from his previous job. A techie, Jeff is happy to learn new skills on the job. “I see my job evolving to focus more on wireless communication services in the future,” Jeff says.  

Jeff has also found an encouraging community here at Silicon Valley Power, with colleagues who support his growth. “Every day is great when you are working around great people who can teach you new things,” Jeff says. In his free time, Jeff spends time with his wife and three daughters. They love to play family basketball games, setting aside quality time to exercise and have fun together.  

 

A Local Focus Brings Big Impact

Erica JueFor an energy and environmental policy professional, designing national and international regulations from Washington D.C. or New York City might seem like the ultimate end goal. But to Erica Jue, it was simply a starting point for creating meaningful and tangible change at a local level.

Throughout her early career, Erica worked on large-scale policy at a federal and global level. She was introduced to the energy sector through work with the California Environmental Protection Agency. After that, she honed her technical and policymaking skills at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Center for Clean Air Policy, developing energy forecasts and emissions impact analyses.

Then, in June of this year, Erica decided to join Silicon Valley Power (SVP) as a resource analyst. “My biggest motivation for this role was to move from working at the federal level to the local level. I felt that I could have more of an impact on the area that I live in and see how the work that I do impacts the community,” she said.

At SVP, Erica has found a new avenue for her background in economics and statistics and her creative spirit – she manages our renewable energy portfolio and helps us meet our carbon emission reduction goals. “I like that I am actually implementing those policies now,” said Erica. “Part of that implementation is having an effect not just on Santa Clara, because we do have a cleaner grid, but also nationally because we are setting an example for other regions.”

Her role also involves analyzing potential investments in renewables and the role of new technologies, such as fuel cells and energy storage. “What’s exciting about the industry is that there’s a lot of technological change,” she said. “Not only is the state willing to move forward on green power and innovative technologies, but the industry is too.”

Her refined career focus has accompanied a welcome lifestyle shift. “In my former life, I spent a lot of time in the city,” Erica said. “I love being able to spend more time outdoors now – gardening and hiking in the woods with my fiancé. We have the Sierras, the Redwoods, and the beach all so close by.”

Trading Coasts – and Electrons

May_QiuManaging electricity rates and market risk sounds daunting, but to some people it evokes the thrill and pace of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.

For Yanmei (May) Qiu, a 10-year Silicon Valley Power veteran, supporting energy trading and analyzing rates is all in a day’s work to help her customers get the most affordable rates on the market.

May came to the U.S. from mainland China to pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, she left for the East Coast, earning a master’s in finance from Boston College and working in corporate finance in Boston. Before too long, she returned to the Bay Area, eager to escape East Coast winters and see old friends.

Since 2007, May has been working for SVP in risk control analysis, balancing SVP’s risks and costs to make energy transactions run smoothly. “I help ensure we have the reliable power we need and the credit to back it up,” says May. “We have a 24-hour trading floor, it’s kind of like a stock exchange.”

A few months ago, on top of her risk management position, May stepped in and became the acting division manager for market analysis and pricing. In this new role, she must look at the “whole picture,” as she calls it, to analyze how rates are structured.

Her multifaceted experience and holistic approach to the business has helped her optimize these rate structures. May is proud that she plays a part in offering customers some of the lowest electricity rates in California. While her years of education have prepared her well for her career at Silicon Valley Power, she says, “I learn something new every day.”

When May isn’t learning new skills or showing off her finance chops, she spends quality time with her husband and two daughters, ages three and seven.

“Height” of a career can have two very different meanings!

Phil Waterhouse wife Outlet June 2017Peering down from 90-feet up on a steel tower can be dizzying enough for most people. But staring down that tower and then into another 1,200-foot drop into a canyon excavated for a new hydroelectric dam can be memorable, if not downright scary.

That’s how our Senior Electric Meter Technician Phil Waterhouse described the “height” of a long career in the electric utility industry. At the time, about 30 years ago, he was placing microwave repeaters for the Pathfinder Dam in Wyoming.

“I remember looking around at the horizon, and the dam was the only sign of civilization that I could see,” he said.

Phil enjoyed being away from civilization as a youngster in Indiana, where he grew up next to an open space that was ripe for adventure. When he wasn’t “exploring the wilds of Indiana” as he described it, he tinkered with things, a pastime he still enjoys.

“Some people take apart clocks. I take apart computers and put them back together again. Why buy something fancy when I can cobble something together that does the job?”

As an adult he has extended his hobbies to scuba diving.

“During the 1990s I learned scuba under the YMCA program, earning Basic Diver, Advanced, Night, Cave, Wreck, Ice, Lifesaving and Advanced Lifesaving certificates.”

Fast forward to today, where Phil is marking his 15th year with us. He and his team are currently coordinating the distribution of more than 54,000 advanced meters to our business and residential customers in the City of Santa Clara, where he started as a lineman.

“Eventually we’re going to see some pretty exciting things for our customers with the new technology,” Phil said. “One day, a mobile app will show a customer the increase in their power consumption when they turn on a machine.”

Phil has witnessed the transition of the utility business as an industry professional for four decades.

“I have 41 years as an A-member Journeyman Lineman in the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers),” he said. “I’ve traveled the country and served as foreman on jobs that included most aspects of the electric utility industry, including a couple of general foreman stints on 69-kilovolt (69,000 volts) projects.”

Love of being under water certainly is a contrast to working high in the air over a gaping canyon. In either extreme, it seems Phil has been able to take a deep breath and enjoy his surroundings, wherever he is.

Serving on Navy Fast-Attack Sub Leads to Career at SVP

Submerged on a U.S. Navy submarine for two straight months probably strengthened tim_lynch_archeryevery sense of teamwork and duty for Tim Lynch. Our Electric Program Manager calls his service as a nuclear engineer aboard a fast-attack sub as the one of the most memorable events of his life.

“There is no bond stronger than the one made by a team that strives for the highest quality of work in its entirety,” says the Wilcox High School graduate who served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service until 2000.

After his naval career, Tim entered the semiconductor industry where he provided global support for plasma reactors. He followed his interests to move into the hard drive and robotics industry before settling into cyber security with Milton Security, a company that works with SVP and other utilities to protect their systems. SVP hired him full time in 2015.

IT project management for the utility is among his responsibilities. “We have a great group of professionals. My team and I are a little like the Swiss army knife for the Electric Department. We provide technology solutions and help out the division managers who oversee all the tasks associated with our local grid. I enjoy it because every day is different.”

Tim recently took over Santa Clara’s advanced meter program (SVP MeterConnect®), a meter technology that will allow customers to view their hourly electricity usage and make adjustments that can save them energy and money. Separate from the metering technology, SVP MeterConnect also provides the free outdoor citywide Wi-Fi in the City.

When he’s not leading the IT efforts here, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and four children, who range in age from toddler to teenager.

“It’s really fun to hang out with each kid and watch them go through all the phases of their development. We do a lot of things together, like Irish Dance, archery, and camping.”

One other thing the children enjoy is learning about Tim’s submarine service in the Navy, and how that started a career path that led him here to us at SVP.

Race, Run and Remote Chopper Spell Fun for Utility Engineer

A perfect weekend in the life of Billy Quach might be building and flying a remote control img_7563helicopter, doing a 10 kilometer trail run, and topping it off with a race against the clock on an auto-cross short course. It’s pretty clear that our Senior Electrical Utility Engineer has no problems keeping busy with his various hobbies and family in his off hours.

While on the job, Billy works with business customers to assure their electrical systems meet SVP standards. Getting to his current position was a logical progression after finishing his degree in Electrical Engineering from Santa Clara University in 2003. He earned separate masters degrees in Business Administration and Science Engineering in 2009 from San Jose State University and was a power engineering consultant at a private firm before joining SVP in 2014.

“I definitely wanted to be in a utility. I was very interested in working where I could directly impact customers, and evaluating customer-owned generating facilities is very important,” Quach said. “If a customer loses their power for any reason, that impacts the bottom line of their business.”

The Silver Creek High School (San Jose) alum also helps maintain and enhance our Power Quality Monitoring Systems. “Much of the work we do here has to do with reliability,” he said, adding that his job offers “a great work/life balance. The hours are predictable and there’s flexibility for family time if needed. I love spending time with my wife and two daughters.”

That balancing act juggles his engineering assignments with his hobbies and his family. Because another one of his many passions is photography, all the fun he refers to is probably very well documented.

Going Face-to-Face With 800-Pound Sea Lions

While just about any 800-pound wild animal is pretty interesting, getting into an enclosed Arielle - Outlet Photopen with one is bound to get your attention. But not only did Arielle Romero share space with sea lions at the Moss Landing Marine Labs near Santa Cruz, she actually trained the agile beasts in behavior that helped them.

Arielle’s path to her position as an SVP Key Customer Representative was hardly ordinary. The Livermore High School graduate studied political science with an emphasis on energy and environment at U.C. Santa Cruz while also fulfilling a love of marine mammals with her work at Moss Landing.

“Often I was not only responsible for my life but also for another person’s life when supervising someone doing a training session in an enclosure with a 700- or 800-pound animal,” says Arielle, who trained co-workers in the care and training of the sea mammals.

“The sea lions couldn’t be released into the wild so we did some rehabilitation and used them to help us research their marine environment for the university,” Arielle says. “We also had educational programs teaching kids who came to our facility the importance of marine conservation, and the sea lions really got their attention.”

“We trained the animals in medical behaviors such as having them lay down so we’d be able to examine them. It’s beneficial to be able to give commands like ‘let me see your flipper’, ‘let me see your back flipper’, ‘open your mouth’. Unless you train a sea lion to do that you’d have to manually force them, and you can imagine how that would turn out with a wild animal.”

Her work at Moss Landing and U.C. Santa Cruz studies led Arielle to the conclusion that the biggest threat to sea life and the environment in general was climate change. “It wasn’t difficult to see that energy use based on fossil fuels was a negative factor, while renewable energy and energy efficiency are helpful.”

Pursuing a career in the energy industry, Arielle worked for two years with us as an energy conservation intern, then was hired by the local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee to help electrical apprentices successfully complete training. Taking the Key Customer Representative position with us this year was a natural next step.

“Our customers are ahead of the curve when it comes to energy efficiency and respect for the environment,” she says. “Working with them is very rewarding.”