Roger Grylls, CET, is a Senior Consultant with Magna IV Engineering Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In his current position, he works with the sales team to provide solutions for the electrical needs of the company’s clients. Grylls graduated from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) electrical engineering technology program in 1997 and joined the company as a new graduate. With more than 26 years at the same company, Grylls has gained broad experience at many levels of the electrical testing industry including field service technologist, sales, management and leadership roles, and participation in company ownership.
Grylls currently chairs NETA’s Volunteer Engagement Committee and recently joined the Membership Committee. He is also involved with several industry groups including the CSA Z463, Maintenance of Electrical Systems Technical Committee, and NAIT’s Program Advisory Committee.
In our continuing series, Grylls describes his journey and shares his thoughts for those new to the industry.
NW: What attracted you to electrical testing?
Grylls: Before going to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta, (NAIT) to become an electrical engineering technologist, I didn’t have much of an understanding of the electrical testing industry. It was the advice of my college instructors and my dad (who is an electrical engineer) that pointed me toward working for a consulting firm as a great way to gain experience in the industry.
NW: How long have you been in the electrical testing field, and how did you get started?
Grylls: I was hired by Magna IV Engineering in the spring of 1997 right after graduation. I was hired into the field service group and spent about 10 years working as a field service tech. The local industrial scene at the time was fast growing, which provided many opportunities to work on all kinds of systems, new and old, from low to high voltage, from cutting edge to relics.
NW: How did you get to your current position?
Grylls: As I matured in my career, I had opportunities to move into management and leadership roles and eventually the opportunity to participate in ownership. After about 15 years as a partner, the company was sold. Since then, I have been able to work back into a client-facing role with our sales team.
NW: Who has influenced or mentored you along the way?
Grylls: I have worked with so many great people and mentors over the years, it would be hard to keep a short list. However, when I first started in the field, I had a chance to work alongside a diverse owner group that not only imparted technical knowledge but also demonstrated how to be successful from a business perspective in an industry with so many different needs and demands. Those years had a profound impact on me, and many of the lessons I learned then hold true today.
NW: What is it about this work that keeps you committed to the profession?
Grylls: It is without question the connections I have built with great people who span the divides of industries and companies. This has truly been a core driver that has kept me engaged and connected to the electrical industry as a whole. It also doesn’t hurt that I met my beautiful wife within this industry and now have the good fortune to work alongside her quite often.
NW: Describe one of your best workdays…what happened?
Grylls: There have been many, from successful project completions to winning work, to saving the day on a trouble call or simply spending leisure time with industry friends. There have been far more good days than bad, and too many to simply summarize. However, if I had to pick a common element, it would almost always involve winning as a team.
NW: Please share the story of a day that didn’t go as planned. How did you respond and what did you learn?
Grylls: In my early days, I recall bidding on a maintenance contract for a facility I was very familiar with. I had a great relationship with the maintenance personnel, and it was a place where I felt we had done great work over the years. It was one of the first times that I had the chance to take the lead on the whole bid process, and I was engaged! I had put a lot of work into the proposal, and I was very eager to win the multi-year deal.
I hand-delivered our bid and was at the ready on the date of the award only to discover that we had lost out — on price — by a lot. To say I was deflated was an understatement. I rechecked my numbers and reached out to my maintenance contacts to make my case for a mistrial and restate our value, but soon realized they did not share my disappointment or concern over what had to be an inferior quality of work they were about to receive. I rather quickly came to understand that with certain organizations, price was not just important, it was all-important. Different industries and market sectors have different priorities, and understanding that helped my subsequent successes.
NW: What energy trend do you think will most affect your work in the future?
Grylls: With cheaper technology, increased sophistication built into basic devices, and the rapid proliferation of AI, I think we are going to see greater interest and opportunity for system-level, condition-based monitoring. Real-time monitoring of electrical systems might be complementary to typical shutdown maintenance routines. The possibility of data collection from a variety of discrete devices input into an overall system-health model could allow better operational and maintenance decisions to be made.
For service companies, the increased connectivity of equipment allows for remote monitoring, operation, and even troubleshooting of equipment and systems, resulting in a more precise approach to maintenance visits or unplanned events, upsets, and failures. If your refrigerator can tell you you’re out of milk, I don’t think it is a stretch to think that switchgear can alert maintenance folks to the presence of PD and diagnose the source — many exciting things to look forward to!
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 them?
Grylls: I would say that you are entering a career rather than a job as there are so many possible paths to go down as you grow and mature in this industry. It really is a journey of lifelong learning that rewards hard work and dedication and is filled with passionate people. The electrical testing industry needs people, so opportunities are everywhere for good technicians. Jump in with both feet!
NW: What question do you wish we had asked?
Grylls: Perhaps it would be good to ask about the lifestyle of a typical electrical test technician as this is probably one of the most challenging parts of the business, not only for individual employees but for companies. It is no secret that the demands of our industry can be great, but more and more we are seeing creative ways companies are using to help techs strike a work-life balance that works. Long-term career-pathing, training, flexible schedules, and technologies like virtual headsets are just some of the strategies employers are using to balance out demands. But as challenging as lifestyle can be, I would say most test techs can eventually find what works for them.