In October, Supervisory Electrical Engineer John Quintana received the Industry Leadership Award from RMEL – formerly the Rocky Mountain Electrical League – in Denver, Colorado.
“The Industry Leadership Award recognizes individuals whose leadership has made contributions that have made an impact within their organization," RMEL said in its press release. “Recipients usually have more than 10 years of experience in the industry. These individuals are often active in various industry affiliations, associations and/or organizations that serve the electric energy industry."
RMEL is a not-for-profit energy trade association that has provided the electric utility industry with education and networking services since 1903.
Closed Circuit sat down with Quintana to discuss the award.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I wanted to be an electrical engineer since I was in high school, and became interested in the electrical utility industry in my junior year in college at New Mexico State University. I had a couple of professors in the college of engineering who got me interested in power transmission, distribution and generation.
Unfortunately, when I graduated there were not many utility jobs close to New Mexico, where I grew up. I blame that on NMSU, the University of New Mexico and the Colorado School of Mines having strong engineering colleges. As a result, I started my career as an electronics engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company in Fullerton, California.
I stayed with Hughes for two years until I landed a job in Golden, Colorado, working for a small company that was under contract with WAPA. I felt like the luckiest person alive to get that job!
I was offered the job during the interview and couldn't wait to move to Colorado. After working there for three years, WAPA did not renew that contract, but I was able to apply for an opening before the contract expired and again was blessed to get the best job ever working for WAPA! That was July 1991, and the rest is history.
Can you explain your role at WAPA?
My current function is the transmission asset maintenance manager under the Asset Planning and Management Office.
I provide oversight and coordination of Power System Maintenance Policy, which includes the maintenance program, maintenance management, project management, maintenance safety, labor issues and facilitation and coordination.
How does it feel to be recognized this way?
It is very humbling to even be considered for this recognition.
When Rick Putnicki called me up to tell me that I received this award, I first thought he was kidding, and it took a while for it to sink in. When he said he was serious, I was speechless.
For all the amazing educational and networking opportunities that RMEL provides to the electrical power industry and the hard work that the RMEL staff does to make the events successful, they are the ones deserving recognition!
What has been your experience with RMEL?
I first became introduced to RMEL in 2010 and served as transmission section chairman from 2010 to 2015. I have continued to serve on the committee, representing WAPA to this day.
Being involved with RMEL and on this committee has benefited me personally in many ways that go beyond RMEL's mission of education and networking.
While serving as chairman, it provided me with opportunities to present to RMEL's Board of Directors, facilitate several roundtable discussions – some topics were brand new to me – as well as present at various conferences. It has kept me out of my comfort zone, which forced me to grow and develop new skills!
Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
I would have to say my role in developing WAPA's arc flash program. WAPA has two Power System Maintenance Manual chapters that I drafted that address the arc flash hazard exposure for high and low voltages.
Developing these policy documents required me to put a team together of subject matter experts, union and management representatives and safety mangers to come to agreement with the processes and procedures that are currently in place today, which most of the industry follows.
What is your definition of a good leader?
A good leader has a clear vision and can communicate it well and is willing to make sacrifices for a greater cause, having the humility to put themselves and their needs last. A good leader has a strong moral compass and can motivate and inspire others.
Some people seem to be born with all of these gifts.
What is one piece of advice you have for WAPA employees wishing to grow and develop as leaders?
If I could only give one piece of advice, I would have to say, “Get out of your comfort zone."
Yes, there will be times that you will mess up, possibly embarrass yourself or make mistakes, like I have and which I keep in my memory bank for constant reference.
But if you are humble enough to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes, and don't retreat to your comfort zone, you will keep moving forward.
Mistakes are part of the learning process, so from that standpoint I can honestly say I've learned a lot throughout my career!
Note: Reed is a public affairs specialist.
Photo: Electrical Engineer John Quintana.