Originally, I had planned to become an architect. I took drafting classes and construction related classes in high school to get me in the direction of becoming an architect. After graduating, I enrolled at the local junior college taking architectural classes, physics, math, etc. I got a job as a draftsman (yes, I am THAT OLD) with an electrical contractor that did a lot of design-build projects. My boss held a PhD and was a member of Mensa (as well as a former Nazi who had worked in the SS heavy water program) who had emigrated to the US from Germany after World War II. He was very tough and demanding about drafting standards, so we got along well. This was my first exposure to electrical design and construction.
Along the way, I worked for that electrical contractor company and another subsidiary for 13 years. The experience I got was invaluable. I decided to get my own contractor’s license in 1987. I was an electrical contractor for 7 years until the economy in Southern California fell apart. (Well, actually, I learned an expensive lesson and got burned by a couple of restaurant remodels for about $30k, which killed my cash flow and was the end of the story on that.)
After living in Southern California, I moved to Arizona and wasted time and money on contractor’s licenses – they make you get one each for residential and commercial – which was for nothing, as I never did any work. As luck would have it, while I was working designing trusses, I looked in the Las Vegas ads. There was a small item about an electrical designer wanted. I applied (by fax, no less) at about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. They called me about a half hour later. Long story short, I drove up on Saturday to interview, they made me an offer, and I started on Monday.
I lived and worked in Las Vegas from 1994-1999 and saw the city double in size. It was absolutely nuts! My largest project was the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, but there were literally hundreds along the way. Las Vegas is pretty much the Mecca of Electrical Engineering. Casinos have every aspect of electrical engineering involved in the design and operation of the facility. From 15kV utility feeds, standby power, slot data and surveillance systems, and more, there is a little bit (okay, lots and lots) of everything.
Right around 2000, my friend Terry got me an interview with a large electrical contractor in Denver who was doing the new FAB 23 for Intel Corporation in Colorado Springs. Electrical was $100M, and the project was about $1-2 billion overall. I was fortunate enough to be the MEP Design Coordinator, and was able to interface with all of the other systems and contractors from the main floor: from the Class I Clean Room to the fan deck with HuntAir laminar flow HEPA filters, it was an eye opener. I thought the Aladdin Hotel was a big job, but this one eclipsed that by an order of magnitude for sure. That project lasted about a year and a half.
After that, I was fortunate enough to be in that electrical contractors Engineering Department. They had an extensive technical library. My boss had me go through it and write reports on each and every book they had, which included: Building, Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical Codes, IEEE color books, complete NFPA library, SKM software manual, EIA/TIA and BICSI standards. This experience was invaluable, and I highly recommend it, but without getting paid to do it full-time, I can’t imagine how long it would take. For me, it all happened in about 2 months, which was about right. The clarity you get when you are exposed to the totality of the information that directly affects the design of virtually every building system is amazing. It has come in very handy in the many years since.
I was even certified for Building and Electrical Plans Review by ICC. Alas, the process to keep and maintain them became too onerous, and I decided to let them lapse. At one point I was thinking to go to the Dark Side and work for a city doing inspections or plan review. Happily, I found a new home at EVstudio before that ever came close to happening. I have been here at EVstudio for over 6 years now and am loving it! Our multi-discipline structure is awesome, and we are proud to have a large staff of highly competent professionals. The company has more than doubled in size since I arrived, which is amazing and awesome all by itself!
I would recommend the electrical industry whether it is in construction or design. It is an engaging and challenging endeavor, and very rewarding. It is so fun to drive around the Denver metro area and be able to say, “I designed that”, or “I worked on that”, to which my wife lovingly says, “Yes, Dear.”
I may only have 6 or so years left (who knows, I may never leave!), but during that time I am looking forward to sharing anything I can with the EVstudio staff to broaden their understanding of the electrical construction and design process, and to fully integrate it into all disciplines to deliver a quality product to our clients. Looking back on it all, I don’t regret taking the path I did. Each bump in life is a learning experience that benefits you, it just takes time and perspective to realize it no matter how crazy it seems at the moment. “This too, shall pass” is about right.
Back to work…