When Hema decided to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering, she knew she had a host of industries to begin her career in. Fast-forward to 2017, she is now the Professional Excellence Manager (Substations) at Balfour Beatty. Find out the significance of Hema’s role and why she loves working in the power sector.
Hema Padmanabhan, Professional Excellence Manager, Balfour Beatty
Can you tell us more about your role?
I joined Balfour Beatty as a Design Manager at their Leeds office in 2011. Shortly thereafter, my role was expanded to encompass the management of teams based in our design offices in Leeds and Kintore. In 2014, I was promoted as UK Design Manager, responsible for all substation design work and management of approximately 50 engineers and designers.
In 2015 I was appointed the Professional Excellence Manager for Substations, responsible for professional competence management of the substation design teams. I manage the design team locally at Leeds and provide support to the design teams in Kintore and Newcastle through the local managers there for professional competence management.
We have multiple key clients who own and operate the electrical transmission & distribution infrastructure in England, Scotland and Wales. These clients engage Balfour Beatty to engineer, procure and construct high voltage substations, overhead lines and cable connections across the country. Each client is different, but we need to have a good understanding of their technical processes, procedures and technical documentation if we are to be successful. Ensuring that our people are competent and up to date with changes is critical as many engineering drawings have to be certified by authorised professionals like myself. A key part of my role is assigning the right people, with the right qualifications and knowledge to each job so we are able to meet the needs of our clients.
"Due to the age of the infrastructure in the UK, there are great opportunities in rebuilding the UK power network and transitioning it toward latest technologies."
How important is power and energy to people and their daily lives?
Our lives revolve around electricity, and we are dependent on the ready and uninterrupted availability of good quality electric power right from using the kettle for our morning cup of coffee, to comfort heating, computers for our work, and TV, tablets and phones for our entertainment, and more importantly we need electricity to power the machines in our hospitals and clinics.
Balfour Beatty is a key player in the Transmission and Distribution segment of the power sector. By designing and building world class transmission and distribution infrastructure in the UK and elsewhere across the globe, we play an important part in bringing energy to people’s homes. We create economic value and improve the lives of citizens wherever we work.
"A key part of my role is assigning the right people, with the right qualifications and knowledge to each job so we are able to meet the needs of our clients."
What attracted you to work in the industry?
When I entered university to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, I knew that as an Electrical Engineer, I could choose between many industries to pursue a career, as electricity is in all walks of our lives. It is one of the most versatile fields to pursue one’s education. After obtaining my degree, I initially worked in electronics based industry and then changed to Lighting design and low voltage electrical design for the initial few years. While this field gave me an outlet to have a feel for different industry and commercial sectors (as lighting is required in every sector), I felt I was not fully utilizing my electrical engineering knowledge gained during my study in the University. I then joined a premier Engineering Company in India, which was a joint venture between Larsen & Toubro (India) and Sargent& Lundy (USA) to do electrical engineering for Power Generation. At this point I was sure that I wanted to continue in the Power Generation and Transmission sector and I found the field of Protection and Control particularly interesting. I found a lot of fulfilment from resolving the day to day challenges working in this industry. I have since immigrated to the UK and have been working here since 2004.
The challenges to the UK Transmission network are unique and quite demanding due to the shortage of skills. Due to the age of the infrastructure in the UK, there are great opportunities in rebuilding the UK power network and transitioning it toward latest technologies.