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Be an exhibitionist

Please, hang with me on this one. It’s not what you possibly might have thought.

This week is the 50th Anniversary of the IEEE/PES T&D Conference and Exposition. As I write this I am in Chicago surrounded by approximately 15,000 of my closest industry friends, and a few lingering snowflakes.

Our industry is fortunate to have a number of value-added conferences from which industry professionals can choose. Looking back on my years in the electric utility industry, I find myself thinking of a number of memorable moments associated with this particular event.

My personal introduction to this event was a one-day trip to Kansas City in 1984. The sole purpose was to acquire vendor catalogs for the library of a start-up consulting firm. For you younger professionals, a catalog was typically a three-ring binder filled with all the information you would ever need on any company’s entire product line. Sales reps would typically stop by to “update” these catalogs to ensure we had the most recent information, and then we would go get lunch. There typically were no computers in sight. Really!

New Orleans in 1989 almost did not happen, for me that is, due to the lateness of my son’s birth. A last-minute call to a sister-in-law to come be with my wife for the week was the key to my attendance. I met and spent time with at least two utility guys who would eventually become co-workers. This was also the year a vendor (rhymes with Hughes Brothers) launched a line of fiberglass products. Remember the red walking sticks? Planeloads of departing engineers DID figure out how to get them into the overhead storage compartments.

Dallas in 1991 provided the opportunity to attend an evening vendor event that included a rodeo at a Texas ranch. My wife won the calf-tying event, I am proud to say, so it was a memorable evening.

This is also the year I met with Dr. Alain Peyrot in a tiny booth on the exposition floor. We had a nice, long conversation about a crazy idea of his to create a computer-aided line design software tool…which eventually became PLS-CADD. Guess that one turned out just fine.

Atlanta 2001 was particularly memorable as it came on the heels of 9-11. This was also the year that I became committed to making these conferences a priority for my professional development. My utility only sent one engineer on the company dime, and I was not that engineer. So, I took vacation, wrote a few checks and attended anyway. The post 9-11 effects on the country were certainly in evidence at that conference.

Chicago in 2008 found the economy in struggling times. I was also the chair of an upcoming ASCE ETS conference scheduled for 2009. That conference found me shamelessly promoting ‘my’ conference with anyone who would listen and display the brochures at their booth. Thankfully, our 2009 event experienced record attendance, which is a testament to the commitment of both utilities and professionals in our industry.

New Orleans was tapped to host the 2010 event. I recall watching Katrina slam into the city a few weeks before the event. I saw shots of the hotel at which I was to stay, thinking that they could replace a few windows before the conference and things would be fine. We all know the terrible result of the subsequent flooding…and the 2010 conference was postponed.

Now I am again in Chicago, and continue to be thankful for all the benefits I have gained from attending this particular conference. I have learned about the products I use in this industry. I have met the various industry experts that have provided information, mentoring and encouragement in my career.

Each meeting has provided another opportunity to network and reconnect with many amazing colleagues, and yes, now friends, who are active in this industry. It is also exciting to meet and interact with many of the new, younger professionals who are just beginning their careers in the electric utility world. I am convinced that the lights will stay on just fine.

The IEEE/PES T&D conference and exposition provides a high level of value to the electric utility industry, as do many other conferences. These provide many benefits to those that attend, and I encourage anyone in this industry to take full advantage, even if you pay for it yourself. It is a solid investment.

So yes, I am all for “being an exhibitionist,” and attending work conferences and exhibitions. I told you it would be okay…

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.