Powering up early career engineers
How do you expand your engineering skills to build the confidence and know-how to flourish professionally? Leidos’ Power Delivery Solutions (PDS) division has solutions at its core. PDS provides engineering, planning, and project management services for utility clients across the country. Through a wealth of coaching, mentoring, training programs and more, this division empowers employees to enhance their technical skills and advance their careers. By providing inspiring and challenging opportunities to explore, learn, and grow, Leidos also strengthens the organization and provides an enhanced level of service to its customers.
Strengthening the organization through opportunity
One career development program offered by PDS is the Career Outlook Rotational Experience (CORE). Piloted in 2021, CORE is a year-long program that engages early career employees and provides a formal structure that develops professional, technical, and leadership skills. The program rotates CORE participants into a different focus area than the one where the employee had been performing work. The participant receives specialized training and mentoring, and is given project assignments that put their new knowledge into action. The intent of CORE is to provide each participant with a broad experience that will accelerate and enhance his or her career growth.
Program Sponsor Reggie Ferguson casts the program as a “win-win” scenario. “Our engineers gain personal and professional development, which helps Leidos better serve our customers. Program participants emerge with a 360 degree-view of the industry, which drives efficiency and inspires innovative and creative thinking.”
New perspectives create confidence
Ranulfo Cervantes discovered a passion for substation design through his participation in the CORE pilot program. He joined Leidos as a junior transmission line engineer after graduating from college in 2019. His manager thought the CORE program would be a good fit because Ranulfo had expressed a desire to diversify his engineering knowledge. Upon completing the CORE program, Ranulfo accepted a new position as a substation engineer.
His CORE assignment with the substation team in his Chicago office “was like a fresh start since I’m still fairly new to the company,” he said. “At the same time, it fast tracked my advancement as a civil engineer.”
As Ranulfo gained proficiency in foundation and steel structure design, he was surprised to discover that the methods used to solve transmission line problems were different from the methods used to solve the civil and structural challenges associated with substation design. “My eyes were opened to new ways of thinking and problem solving,” he said.
Through the program, he also had the opportunity to lead a design project from planning through final approval, which is unusual for someone in the early stages of their career. “This gave me perspective on the overall project workflow, and I walked away with improved collaboration and coordination skills, a solid grasp on how to manage a timeline, and a lot of confidence!”
"I feel fortunate to have landed at Leidos," notes Ranulfo. "Of all the firms that I considered joining after college, Leidos stood out because they conveyed genuine interest in not only my skills but in me, personally. The positive culture and spirit of mentorship that I've experienced in my two years with the company is contagious!"
Confidence is also Brady Allred’s biggest takeaway from the CORE program. “Young engineers sometimes have a hard time feeling that they add value. Participating in the program enhanced my industry knowledge, which gave me the confidence to stand out,” he said.
Brady is an electrical engineer who was hired to support the PDS system planning team. As a CORE participant, he was assigned to work with the distribution design team where he focused on designing underground networks to support a grid hardening initiative. “The work I did with the distribution team was a direct compliment to my work on the planning side,” he said. “Our work in planning is focused almost exclusively on overhead lines, and we rarely need to consider what’s underground. The experience really expanded my perspective.”
Unlike Ranulfo who was interested in a change, Brady’s participation in the program was inspired by a desire to broaden his industry knowledge so that he could improve planning decisions. “The insight I gained from my experience designing underground networks combined with the industry training provided by CORE enabled me to add instant value to planning activities,” he said. “I’m now able to offer a unique perspective that helps manage risks by driving consideration of underground impacts associated with proposed aboveground layouts. My contribution helps reduce the potential for impacts to wildlife, vegetation, and properties in the project footprint.”
After serving as a college intern for a small electric utility, Brady wanted exposure to other utilities and figured the best path forward would be to work as a consultant. “I got lucky and landed at Leidos,” he said. “They provided the utility I was interning for with phenomenal support. Since I wanted to work for a great company, I reached out exclusively to Leidos and was hired.”
Lasting value – to Leidos, to utility customers
Both Ranulfo and Brady affirmed that the overarching consensus among all CORE participants was that the program was an extraordinary opportunity. In addition to acquiring new technical skills, the participants learned how to interact confidently with customers. The program instilled an understanding of project goals, awareness of project constraints, and the impact of decisions on multiple aspects of a project. And to Leidos utility customers, this translates into more efficient project planning, early identification of risks, and better decision making. As Reggie Ferguson stated, this program provides a win-win scenario, for the individuals in the program, for Leidos in developing and enriching the skills of our staff, and for the utility customers who benefit from the expanded understanding that our engineers bring to their projects.
“The level of enthusiasm among all participants and the sense of fulfillment that was articulated to the program sponsors and management was resounding,” said Reggie. “The pilot program demonstrated that we could make an impact in the day-to-day lives of our employees. Knowing that the program will drive lasting growth reinforces its value and gives me a sense of purpose for future program cycles.”
The 2022 program will engage a minimum of 20 employees. Ultimately, the vision for CORE is to open the opportunity to even larger numbers of the PDS engineering team.