Updating Results

SA Power Networks

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Keilah Gerardine David

At the end of the day, it’s knowing that you’ve helped keep people’s lights on but also put the community’s safety as the priority when helping operate the network.

What's your job about?

SA Power Networks is responsible for the safe and reliable distribution of electricity to customers in South Australia. I’m currently part of their Engineering Graduate Program where we have the opportunity to work in different parts of the business through 6-month rotations. Currently, my rotation is with the Emergency Management team within the Network Operations department. My team is responsible for monitoring weather and other information to optimise the business’ response to unplanned events such as storms and bushfires.

My role mainly involves:

  • Attending weather briefings with meteorologists;
  • Interpreting and analysing weather models and operational electrical load demand data;
  • Issuing daily weather and network impact forecasts to key people in the organisation which assists them with scheduling of resources (for example arranging for extra crews to respond to power outages caused by severe weather), preparing for our bushfire response on elevated fire danger days, maintaining system security on low operational demand days, and overall providing information that may be useful to our customers;
  • Contributing to the Emergency Control Room during bushfire risk days where big decisions are made (such as whether to turn the power off in extreme bushfire risk situations to ensure safety of our customers). My role is to monitor the weather and present my findings to stakeholders in the organisation. They then use these, along with other information, to make informed decisions on our bushfire response;
  • Keeping track of other information that may impact our network security (such as interconnector outages and contingency events) and alert appropriate personnel; and
  • Scoping and planning for our Bushfire Risk Management Program where we upgrade the devices that protect our network from faults in order to reduce the risk of fire start form our powerlines. My involvement in this program is critical to ensuring we enhance our bushfire response for the upcoming summer season.

What's your background?

I grew up in Cavite, Philippines which is a province 55km away from the capital city of Manila. My parents both worked in a utility (electricity) company – my mother as an accountant and my father as an electrical engineer. They often brought me to their office, and I’d ask them about the transmission towers and other electrical equipment I’d see. That sparked my curiosity, and with my dad being an electrical engineer, I decided to follow his footsteps.

We migrated to Adelaide in 2012 and I continued my schooling here. I discovered my love for Mathematics, Physics and generally understanding how and why things work. I wanted to pursue a career doing both, which cemented my decision to study a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at The University of Adelaide. I realised I wanted to work in the utilities industry, back to where my curiosity started, so I chose to major in renewable energy, which led me to the power systems industry path.

In 2018, I applied for the SA Power Networks’ Engineering Vacation Program and got accepted. I chose the company for its well-structured internship and the opportunity to later join their Engineering Graduate Program. I had the opportunity to work on exciting projects, learn from mentors and build my network. I knew then that I wanted to keep working at SA Power Networks because of the great and flexible work environment, people who are willing to invest in you, and that it gives back to the South Australian community. I also wanted to be part of the company that keeps people’s lights on because I know that the work I do has an impact. I continued to work here as an undergraduate engineer while finishing my studies, and later got accepted into the graduate program in 2020.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, definitely! The role is more operational than technical in nature and most of the knowledge and skills you need can be learned on-the-job. I also know a few graduates from other engineering backgrounds who have been in my role before. I think anyone who is great at solving problems, able to think critically and analyse data, has a high attention to detail and can work under pressure would be perfect for the role. Good communication and team player skills are also essential since the role involves liaising with different stakeholders in the organisation.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

For me, personally, it’s knowing that the work you do has direct impact to the organisation and the customers. I love that I get to contribute in the Emergency Control Room where big decisions are made during elevated fire danger days or storm events. The information I provide are used for social media posts and other communications to customers. I also get to interpret weather models and understand how the weather affects our assets and our business response. At the end of the day, it’s knowing that you’ve helped keep people’s lights on but also put the community’s safety as the priority when helping operate the network.

What are the limitations of your job?

Being in an operational role, it is important to be very flexible. During emergency events, you may be required to work outside business hours. Also, the team consists of just you and the manager, so you’ve got a lot of responsibilities and there is no one you can delegate the work to. You also have daily tasks you need to accomplish so it can be challenging to schedule or attend events and trainings. Fortunately, there are back-up weather monitors comprising past graduates who have been in the role before. The work that you do has a large impact, but your influence is only to an extent – you're not the one ‘pushing the red button’ as ultimately, big decisions are made by the managers and leaders.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Be comfortable in the uncomfortable because that is how you grow. You’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain, and you’ll never know how much you can achieve if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • Build your network, especially with other women in STEM. It can be invaluable to your career, and who knows, they might become your lifelong friends.
  • Continue to get as much experience as you can through volunteering, work experience and other activities. Take advantage of breadth of opportunities available because that is how you will discover yourself and what makes you tick.