Customer Service, Executive Insight, T&D

How did you get your Start in the Grid?: Kate Cummings of G&W Electric

Kate Cummings of G&W Electric is our latest entry in EL&P’s “How did you get your Start in the Grid” series. Cummings is product manager for switchgear and previously worked as supervisor for the G&W production electronics engineering group.

She has worked previously for Ohmite Manufacturing and Maplechase. Cummings is actively involved in IEEE and NEMA.

For more articles in the “Start in the Grid” series, see the bottom of this story.

 

1)    How did you get your start in the grid?

“My third job out of college was with G&W Electric, where I am presently employed.  I initially interviewed for the Applications Engineering job opening but during the interview G&W Electric felt I would be a better fit for production engineering.  I was interviewed by several people and eventually hired in as the third switchgear electronics production engineer.”

2)    So where in your youth did you get interested in electrical engineering and why?

“When I was in grammar school my love for math and science blossomed—so much so that I would bring home my science book and go through all the experiments the first weekend I had the book.  Good thing my mother was supportive because the kitchen was quite a mess by the time I finished “playing” mad scientist.  When I was finishing high school, I knew I wanted to be an engineer and looking through differing disciplines, I ended up deciding between aerospace engineering and electrical engineering.  Ultimately, I ended up in electrical due to where I could afford to go to school and which disciplines were and weren’t offered in their engineering curriculum.”

3)    Was there a mentor in your professional life that really helped set you on your career path?

“Yes, Tom K and Bill T.  Tom was my supervisor at my first job out of college and Bill was an engineer at the same company.  Both of them encouraged my curiosity as well as showed me it was ok to say I didn’t know something but I knew where to find the answer, whether that was a location or a person.”

4)    What’s a low point or mistake made that ultimately proved to be beneficial in how you help make the grid work better?

“Transitioning from production engineering to my current role as Product Manager of Switchgear Automation was a low point.  It wasn’t a low point because I didn’t want/like the position, it was because of how different it was from my previous role as supervisor of switchgear electronics engineering.  Once I realized that I could make more of a difference in our control offerings in my new position, I was able to bring changes to our standard offering as well as sculpt what is included as part of the standard control offering for the Distribution Automation group at G&W Electric.”

5)    You are G&W’s internal auditor for ISO standards. Does that broaden your outlook somehow?

“It is ISO as in ISO9001 and ISO14001.  I like having the opportunity to see other parts of the business that I wouldn’t normally be able to see such as CLiP, welding, the foundry or cable accessories.  It also allows me to see how others make their processes better.”

6)    What is the favorite project you’ve worked on that become a consumer product?

“The only products I’ve worked on that were consumer products were smoke detectors and CO detectors which were already consumer products.  From a grid perspective, my favorite project would be what I am working on now-training packages for G&W Electric’s customers.  Working with customers to help them understand the products they are using helps me to know the product better, to know the customer better as well as to see ways of improving G&W’s offerings (product and documentation).  I also like that I get to see where the switches and controls are installed as that allows me to see that sometimes the gear is in lifesaving situations (i.e. hospitals).”

7)    We’ve been told that you designed the Trident-SR switches at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Tell us a little about that and how much that means to you?

Being a Packers fan, I was incredibly excited to work on the project.  The control was based on G&W’s common bus ATC program with a little control customization.  I had hoped to attend commissioning but it didn’t work out.”

8)    You work closer to Chicago? Did you have to explain that job to Bears fans?

“As I work with many Bears fans, it was interesting to see their reactions when they realized where the gear was to be installed.  Some thought it was cool, others felt conflicted as they wanted to make sure we only shipped quality product but having to ship quality product to the “enemy” was conflicting to them.”

9)    What are your favorite hobbies and why?

“Participating in my parish, reading, listening to music and walking in the forest preserves by my home. Participating in my parish helps me to grow my faith.  Reading, music and walking are a chance for me to recharge my batteries by relaxing as well as learning.  You’d be amazed what you can learn while walking in the forest!”

10) Do you see the pace of change slowing down in the grid sector in the next decade? Why or why not?

“I see the pace increasing due to changes in how utilities are involved in the power game. Between DER, microgrids and some consumers becoming prosumers, there are many changes and upgrades in infrastructure that will be required to keep up with the evolving grid.”

 

Contact Rod Walton at [email protected] for more information if you have a good idea for the series.

Previous “How did you get your Start in the Grid?” stories:

Matt Kennedy of Doble Engineering.

Jennifer Didlo of AES Southland    

Ben Fowke of Excel Energy

Fidel Marquez of ComEd  

Kelly Speakes-Backman of Energy Storage Association  

Russ Vanos of Itron   

Brian Slocum of ITC   

Rick Riley of Entergy Arkansas   

Greg Ferree of Southern California Edison