John McDonald, SmartGrid Business Development Leader, GE Power, Atlanta explains how CIGRE membership provides value for both engineers and their employers, thereby also benefiting the entire power system.
CIGRE is an international community that shares information to contribute to the betterment of power systems by enhancing the expertise of people within it. Those within CIGRE become aware of the benefits after their first experience of a conference, working group or task force meeting. This is mainly because CIGRE’s unique environment allows experts from around the world to meet in an unbiased, non-threatening environment. Members of working groups are often world experts in their own right and the exchange of views and information at that level provides for very interesting discussion and excellent training opportunities for young engineers.
The information received in this manner allows companies involved in the power distribution business to benefit enormously. This is due to learning from others’ mistakes, discovering the use of new products and understanding different solutions to common problems. The saving in capital and operational expenditure is often large but very difficult to determine. This is because the solutions applied via the CIGRE process are close to optimal. There is often not a “current” application and a “CIGRE” application which can be compared which will provide a level of saving. As such it is sometimes difficult to explain to management, who may not be engineers, the benefit of attending CIGRE working groups or functions. In order to assist in this regard, I have summarised membership benefits from both engineer and employer perspectives.
- Members are kept abreast of current technology in electric power through national and international conferences and expositions, and National Committee events.
- Opportunities to exchange information with the industry’s foremost experts are provided through participation in a large number of CIGRE events, including National Committee events, Colloquia, Symposia, and the General Session in Paris every two years.
- Most CIGRE events include tutorials, so there are many educational opportunities.
- CIGRE provides access to information at significantly less cost than commercially offered seminars. CIGRE also works to ensure that the materials presented are objective and without commercialism.
- Opportunities to network with women and men in all stages of their careers, who are united by a common interest in the electric power field. Building a network of professional connections is as important to success in any industry as staying on the inside track of happenings in the field. The camaraderie of CIGRE brings with it the opportunity to share your enthusiasm for the profession and to be re-energised by the enthusiasm of others.
- Access to latest information on electric power technology. Employees are kept abreast of the latest developments which, in turn, helps keep the employer in the forefront of the industry.
- An opportunity to significantly influence industry reports and brochures that bear on the employer’s business. Through participation of employees in the writing and revising of reports and brochures, the employer can influence the documents affecting its business and be fully informed of upcoming changes before they take effect.
- On-going training and education for employees. These days, learning is a life-long activity. Can you imagine designing a relay and protection system in the 21stcentury using 1970 knowledge? An educated workforce is crucial to success today. For the power engineering professional, CIGRE offers training that covers everything from the basics of power engineering to state-of-the-art technologies. CIGRE training and educational programs help employees reach and stay at the top of their craft. Remember, “When a company invests in education, it invests wisely in its future.”
- Professional development of employees. Members who volunteer for leadership roles in CIGRE not only gain influence on the course of the industry, they also grow in their ability to organise and lead groups of people. In addition, they can develop public speaking skills and enhanced interpersonal relationship abilities. “Self-actualisation” is the pinnacle of an individual’s professional life and is greatly facilitated by involvement in CIGRE.
- Employees gain increased sense of value. By encouraging its staff to be active in professional organisation activities and to attend conferences and meetings, an employer shows employees that they and their profession are valued. The result is a workforce stimulated by interaction with peers in the profession … a workforce that gains industry recognition for its professional accomplishments and is comprised of people who their employer cares about them.
CIGRE is in a unique position where in any Study Committee gathering you may find a solution to any problem related to a topic within the Study Committee scope. If there is no solution to the particular problem, it is likely others will have a similar issue and a working group can be formed to resolve the problem.
When members leverage the benefits of CIGRE to the benefit of their companies, they also benefit the power system community as a whole.