Interview with Amanda Dagens

American Transmission Company (ATC) provides electric transmission service from the UP of Michigan, throughout the eastern half of Wisconsin and into portions of Illinois. ATC’s transmission system allows energy producers to transport electric power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. Meet Amanda Dagens, Intermediate Operations Engineer, who was interviewed by staff of the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program in February 2017.

KEEP Staff (KS): How long have you been an Intermediate Operations Engineer with ATC?

Amanda Dagens (AD): I was an associate engineer for 18 months, I have been an Intermediate Operations Engineer for the last 7 months.
KS: How did you learn about this opportunity? What inspired you to pursue this line of work?
AD: My dad inspired me to join this line of work. He is a system control operator and ever since I was young I remember we would play ‘guess the voltage class of the transmission line’ when we would go on long drives.  I got hooked on the power industry at a young age.  I went on to intern for three summers at ATC which is how I became aware of the team that I am a part of today.
KS: What is your schedule like and what do you do as the Associate Operations Engineer?
AD: I work a standard 40 hour week, Monday to Friday.  With that said, the team I am in supports 24/7 operations so I am part of an on-call rotation that will provide 24/7 support to the real-time operators.  In my role I support system operations, I do day to day SCADA modeling, I am an administrator for out PI system information achieve, and I work with our neighboring entities for ICCP data exchange, among other tasks.
i. SCADA: Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition
SCADA is taking measurements every 2 seconds out in the field (at a substation) and sending it back to the real-time operators, basically it’s the operator’s eyes and ears.
ii. ICCP: Inter Control Center Protocol
ICCP is a way for different utility companies to share data is a safe, controlled and defined way.
KS: Where did you go to high school/what city are you from?
AD: I went to Westosha Central High School in Salem, Wis
KS: Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
AD: I went to UW-Platteville for my major in Electrical Engineering with emphasis in both Power and Controls with a minor in Business Administration.
KS: Were there any classes you took or skills that you obtained from school that helped you get this position?
AD: In high school and college I think it’s important to take Math and Science classes, they are the foundation STEM degree.  I also think getting one of my emphasis in Power was very beneficial to my career.  Also do not underestimate the power of a good internship or co-op.  Real world experience is second to none.
KS: Did you see yourself working in an energy-related field when you were in high school? If not, what did you think you would do for a career and why?
AD: As much as I was intrigued by the power industry at an early age it wasn’t until the beginning of my senior year of high school that I decided I wanted to work towards my Electrical Engineering degree.  For most of my high school years I had planned on getting a BS in biology or chemistry and then going to pharmacy school.  After some soul searching I realized that being in the power industry was really where I wanted to be, and I have never looked back since.
KS: What is your favorite part of the position?
AD: I LOVE working in a real-time environment.  Every day when I am driving into work I do not know what my day will hold.  Every day is different, new challenges, ups and downs.  I love knowing that I am a part of something bigger, one small piece of the giant puzzle that helps to keep the lights on.
KS: What is your least favorite part?
AD: My least favorite part of my job is the off-hours/late nights.  Working late, in the middle of the night, or on the weekends is not the most fun part of my job but it does not happen very often.
KS: What is the most challenging part?
AD: The most challenging part of my job is also one of the most exciting parts of my job, it’s the troubleshooting! In my role troubleshooting can mean many different things.  Although at times troubleshooting can be frustrating I work on a fantastic team that is always willing to help and every troubleshooting opportunity is a learning experience.
KS: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
AD: In 5-10 years I hope to continue to progress in my career, whether that is moving up in my job family or moving into a leadership role.  Either way I hope to become some sort of a leadership figure.  I am currently working on a leadership certificate and hope to keep putting what I have learned and am learning to good use.  Anyone at any age can be a leader.
KS: What do you think is the most important thing to do/learn in high school?
AD: Learn!  Be a sponge, and not just in high school.  Be open to suggestions and new opportunities.  If you have the chance to tour a company/facility, do it; if you have the chance to job shadow, do it! Real world experience is the best possible experience.  Take chances, keep busy and do a wide variety of things in high school. Do something that makes you stand out from the crowd.  For me I was in choir from grade school all the way through college; it was an escape for me as well as it shows future employers that I am well rounded and a creative thinker.
KS: Any words of wisdom or advice for students in high school who have no idea what they want to be?
AD: Experience lots of different things, talk to people out in the workplace, job shadow, keep an open mind, and always ask questions! There is no such thing as a dumb question and you are probably not the only person with that question.  Dream big and shoot for the stars, you can do it!

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