NETA’s Corporate Alliance Partners (CAPs) are a group of industry-leading companies that have joined forces with NETA to work together toward a common goal: Improve quality, safety, and electrical system reliability.
In our continuing CAP Spotlight series, NETA talks to Jackie Peer, Head of Strategic Business Development about the thought leadership and subject-matter expertise at OMICRON electronics.
NWJ: What are the biggest challenges facing your company right now?
Peer: This is the magic question for many of us these days! Here at OMICRON, we are fortunate to experience continued growth. As a result, new opportunities are always being created for our employees to meet the business needs, and at the same time, we are investing in new talent to join our team from entry level to senior positions. I think what gives us an upper hand is offering flexible options for where and how employees work, and I must mention our culture — it’s quite unique and appealing!
Supply chain is a given for everyone — the key is how you manage the situation. A huge contributor to OMICRON’s success is our investment into R&D. We continually feed our innovation cycle and offer new technology and solutions as a result. As you can imagine, this process can be complicated because of supply chain shortages and lead times. I’m proud of our teams that manage product development and component procurement. They are doing an excellent job at staying on top of the issues to help us provide testing products to our customers.
NWJ: What are the biggest challenges facing your customers?
Peer: Our customers have similar challenges to most of industry when it comes to hiring and retention — it’s still a competitive market for talent. Those who are winning the hiring race are offering more than good pay. They are also offering flexible options for remote work, hybrid office and work-from-home scenarios, vacation, training, opportunities for advancement, etc.
Managing supply chains is testing many of us (no pun intended), and at the same time, we are proving to be resilient in the face of such challenges. Right now, we are dealing with two-, three- or even-more-year lead times on transformers, and the same holds true for bucket trucks and even for some of the electronics and components that go into products. I love hearing the examples of mutual aid where one utility comes to the rescue of another to keep the lights on by offering a spare transformer or sending line crews to help in restoration efforts.
Putting aside the challenges, the big one goes back to decarbonization efforts. Some states have arguably aggressive goals that in turn expedite things like integration of renewables into the mix. This has changed so much from the way utilities performed in decades past. Decentralized generation and control, bidirectional power flow, distribution, and transmission builds — all of these have their own challenges especially when combined with aggressive schedules and supply chain and resource challenges.
NWJ: Which industry trends are you keeping an eye on?
Peer: I’ve been keeping my one on the carbon reduction efforts. Electric vehicle (EV) mandates, adoption, and building infrastructure are headliners for sure. Sometimes it appears that the cart might be ahead of the horse when it comes to mandates and having an infrastructure in place to make the crossover seamless from fuel-based vehicles to electric. I’m also keeping a close eye on alternative forms of generation such as offshore wind and pumped storage as examples — this is fun if you ask me!
NWJ: Which new technologies affecting the industry are changing the way you work?
Peer: None, personally; however, automation and AI are big ones for our industry. I don’t fear them. I feel they create opportunities to improve safety and the dignity of work for our workforce, and at the same time, free many workers up for new and exciting work — and do so safely.
NWJ: What do you predict will impact your business most in the near future?
Peer: Our people. Industry trends will come and go. Technology will continue to advance, and we will adapt. In my mind, people and their diversity of thought and opinion, individual creativity, and experiences will influence how we do our work for the better. Our people are our greatest assets!
NWJ: Is this a good time to be in the electrical power testing business?
Peer: Of course! This is an exciting time to work in electric power. Monitoring, testing, and commissioning are critical to the process of ensuring the delivery of safe and reliable electric power. Whether we are talking about new buildouts or upgrades to existing infrastructure, protection, control, and communications assets must be tested. No one wants to be in a situation where the system mis-operates and the root cause is improper settings or logic or a wiring error that could have been detected if proper testing had been performed. What we do, providing testing products, is a critical step in ensuring safe and reliable electric power.
NWJ: If you could change one thing about how your business operates, what would it be?
Peer: I would love to see more women in technical positions, not only at my company, but in industry, and especially in power system protection and electrical testing. Diversity of all types is important, and we can’t underestimate the importance of gender diversity.
NWJ: What advice do you have for young people entering the field?
Peer: Where do I start? I think I can boil it down to this being the most exciting time in history to work in electric power. Whether you are working in electrical testing, manufacturing, consulting, etc., we all have critical roles to play in electric power — arguably the most important of all critical infrastructures serving society.
I wish I would have been told to just be myself. Individuality is so key to the diversity of our workforce, and so many benefits result when diversity is in place. Don’t try and be like someone else — just be you!
NWJ: How important is mentoring in the electrical testing field and why?
Peer: I’ve spent most of my career mentoring and advocating for the next generation workforce. When it comes to workforce development, I believe a combination of training and education along with mentoring is critical to one’s success. Our experienced workers possess a tremendous amount of knowledge and experiences that can’t be learned from a textbook or course but are better learned from someone who’s walked the walk. I like to share my lessons learned — where I’ve stubbed my toes as well as my successes and how I did it. This provides less-experienced folks with examples to consider as they go through their own learnings in their career.
NWJ: What strategies will keep professionals growing and learning?
Peer: Self-motivation all the way. You can’t force someone to learn and grow. Their desire to grow must come from within. I’ve always believed that to grow, you must get out of your comfort zone. You don’t grow when you are comfortable. When I’m uncomfortable, I know I’m learning.