Mose Ramieh III says his path to success in the electrical testing industry has been “quite a road,” and his long list hits “just the high points.” A former Navy man, Texas Longhorn, vlogger, CrossFit enthusiast, and slow-cigar-smoking champion, Mose has been in the electrical testing industry for 24 years. Over the years, he has held positions at four companies in roles ranging from field service technician, operations, sales, business development, and company owner.
Closing in on 25 years in the industry, this Level 4 NETA Technician shares his thoughts on how to make the most of your own road to success.
NW: Please share your journey on how you got to the job you currently hold. How long have you been in the field; how did you get started? What attracted you to electrical testing?
Ramieh: My entry into the electrical testing business began in November 1996 around the time of my wedding. I was less than one year from leaving the U.S. Navy, and my role in the Navy was not a perfect fit. As a steam-plant engineer, my job was to boil water into steam to turn turbines. If those turbines turned generators, my responsibility ended when those electrons left the generator.
My father was weary of working for the electrical testing company that employed him at that time, and we had discussed the opportunity to join him in business after I left the Navy. So in August 1997, I left San Diego for Nashville, Tennessee, to join my father in the business he had started in January of that year — Power & Generation Testing, Inc. (PGTI).
While I had some electrical background from college and my time in the Navy, I had very little experience working on utility and industrial equipment. Because I also wanted to avoid the son-of-the-owner negative connotation that routinely occurs, I either volunteered or was volun-told to participate in every night, weekend, holiday, and outage. The less attractive the role, the better. I was going to earn my way. There was no going to a training class. Every day on the job was the classroom as I learned from some dedicated and hardworking men. I should mention there was also plenty of learning from books, equipment manuals, and NETA World. This was before the internet (LOL).
Before PGTI became a NETA company, I was the first in our company to take and pass the NICET exam, much to the surprise — dare I say frustration and confusion — of the more seasoned technicians we employed. After we became a NETA company, I took and passed Level 2 and Level 3 on the same day. At that time, it was a paper test, and it took weeks to get a pass/fail notice.
Somewhere around 2005, I became an owner in PGTI and continued to work daily in the business. I worked in every role: sales, project management, and field testing. I was the poster child for being a jack of all trades and master of none. My father and I worked to grow that business and had many wonderful years (and more than a few disagreements ). Ultimately, in October 2015, we decided to sell the business to CE Power. I’ll skip the details of my time with CE Power other than to say it is hard to go from being an owner to being a “sales asset.” I left my company in September 2018.
So there I was, an unemployable NETA Level 4 Technician with time on my hands. I tried some independent work and also worked as a manufacturer’s rep. During this time, I was able to travel to Chile for two months (June–August 2019) to put my NETA Level 4 skills to work. It was during my time in Chile that I received a call from Finley Ledbetter to become a part owner in a company purchase in Michigan. Our group of investors bought PowerTech Services (PTS) in October 2019. I relocated to Swartz Creek, Michigan, and spent most of 2020 turning that business around. With a good bit of hard work, and definitely a bit of luck, PTS began to run well, allowing me to return to my 24-year home base in Nashville in November 2020,
Now I’m Vice President of Business Development for CBS Field Services, which is the rebranded name of PowerTech Services, doing whatever is needed to help our business be successful.
NW: What about this work keeps you committed to the profession?
Ramieh: It’s a challenging business. It tests you mentally and physically. There have been times where I have wanted to throw my tools down and walk out the door. So what keeps me committed? The recognition I get when customers and other industrial professionals seek me out to help them solve problems. It’s sort of like that sweet golf shot that keeps you coming back and playing that frustrating game.
NW: What about this work is specifically challenging for you, and how are you overcoming that challenge?
Ramieh: I’m challenged by the “race to the bottom” pricing of many clients, including large utilities that shall remain nameless. As salaries continue to increase for P&C talent, customers continue to expect more for less.
NW: If you were talking to a young person interested in knowing more about being an electrical testing technician, how would you describe the job, and what advice would you give?
Ramieh: Every day is different. Just when you think you have it all figured out, there will be something new. A symptom of a problem that you have never seen before will derail your troubleshooting and challenge your understanding of electrical power. It can be frustrating to have to wait to take the NETA Level 3 exam, but those five years are important to become exposed to as many situations as possible.
My best advice: There is always that point in the project when the bulk of the work is done. Everyone is tired and ready to go home. Typically, one or two of the most experienced technicians are tasked with getting the plant back online. Inevitably, there will be something that does not work like it is supposed to. It is those moments where the greatest learning happens. Be in the hip pocket of those guys every chance you get. Avoid being the ones who are hanging out at the truck waiting to drive out the gate. Volunteer for every night, weekend, difficult job, and emergency call-out. That is where we begin to separate the good technicians from the great ones.
Second best advice: Do not violate the laws of physics to explain why something happened. The vast majority of electrical problems and failures are simple, and people try to make it way too complicated.
NW: Describe one of your best work days…What happened?
Ramieh: My best day was actually a several-week-long project. It involved testing a 34-breaker metal-clad substation three times: once at the factory with the individual sections free standing in a warehouse, and the second time after the individuals sections were packaged into their e-houses. The final testing was after their installation onsite. The final installation was completed in seven long days involving dozens of men from the equipment manufacturer, relay manufacturer, electrical contractor, and our company. When the power to the plant was restored, the client and I stood outside the substation fence and enjoyed a cigar in celebration of a project well done.
I also got a hug from a client. On a Friday around 4:00 PM, a small data center lost power, and their transfer switch didn’t transfer to emergency. I got the second call and was the first to arrive onsite. The facility manager (a young lady) was frantic and her boss (in New York City) was on the phone attempting to give directions. Following one of my rules (slow it down), I calmly assessed the situation and politely ignored the guy from New York City. Identifying the problem, I enabled the transfer switch, and the lights came back on at the data center. She was so overjoyed, she gave me my first and only customer hug for a job well done.
NW: Share the story of a day that didn’t go as planned. How did you respond to the situation and what did you learn?
Ramieh: I can think of several:
- A technician opened a switch under load causing damage to equipment and shutting down production.
- A set of grounds on a 161 KV system was overlooked and closed in a live switch, causing significant damage and an extended outage.
- A technician re-energized a 13.8 KV system, and a potential transformer drawer blew up because of condensing moisture in the room.
- A technician inadvertently left a tool in a breaker, and it exploded and caught fire.
Some lessons were also learned from pain:
- Superior performance is often the result of prior bad experiences.
- In each of these situations, immediately stepping up and taking ownership for any contribution to the event would have created customer loyalty in my experience.
- When things go wrong, slow it down. Rushing to fix the situation can create additional issues and hazards.
- Take care of the people involved. They are often scared and are beating themselves up for the mistakes they made. You aren’t helping by beating them more.
- Document the lessons learned and update procedures and processes to avoid these mistakes in the future.
NW: How important is ongoing training and professional development in this field? How do you keep updated on standards, safety, and new technologies?
Ramieh: It’s important to stay involved in the industry to stay relevant. Training and professional development is important, but it pales in the face of doing the work. The best technician will get rusty if they aren’t in the plants and substations doing the work.
Building relationships with individuals and companies that are developing the technology is the best way. New testing technology? Become an early adopter. Learn how to use it and be part of the group that refines the technology. Build your network so that when you come across a situation you are not familiar with, you can call on others for help. Avoid being an island. As tempting (and easy) as it has been for me to be a “cowboy” over the years, my best results have come from involving other smart individuals.
NW: What are some of the energy trends you believe will affect your work in the future (e.g., EVs, wind, solar, etc.)? How are you preparing for future changes that may be coming your way?
Ramieh: I’m of the opinion that I don’t much care how the power is produced (carbon fuels or renewable sources) — electrons are electrons. In my view, my function and our team’s function is to ensure that the power systems that distribute that power are safe and reliable. I am personally most curious about energy storage systems and how they could possibly change the future of power production.
I am currently working on using wearable, hands-free computer technology to see how that will empower the technicians of the future, including the availability of remote expert assistance and streamlined testing processes.
NW: As an industry, what do you think should be the No. 1 priority over the next year? Where do we need to improve and grow as an industry and a profession?
Ramieh: The No. 1 priority is recruiting the next generation of technicians. The demand for our services is only increasing, and the supply of the men and women to do the work is not keeping up. As an industry, we must focus on hiring inexperienced people and training them quickly.
NW: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Ramieh: The Internet of Things (IOT): The technology exists today that virtually every power system failure can be predicted or prevented. The best part is that most of this technology can be implemented on legacy systems. What gets in the way is the cost and a lingering perception that so long as the lights are on, there isn’t a problem. The cost still outweighs the benefit for many facilities.
This task of reflecting on my career (life) has brought a great deal of gratitude and thanks to mind. I am so thankful to have the support of Dusti, my wife of 25 years. Her amazing strength and resilience kept our family together through the rough patches. Thankful that our grown young men are finding their path into adulthood. Thankful for the opportunity that my father provided for us to work and grow together. Thankful for all the electricians, technicians, and engineers who worked with me, trained me, challenged me, and coached me over the years. Finally, I’m thankful for all the friendships that I have built in this industry. So many wonderful peers, partners, and customers. I am blessed in so many ways. Thank you all.
“We have all drunk from wells we did not dig;
We have been warmed by fires we did not build;
We have sat in the shade of trees we did not plant;
We are where we are because of what someone else did.”
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