Attending the Electrical Insulation Conference as a Young Professional

I joined the Manitoba Hydro High Voltage Test Facility as an Insulation Systems Test Engineer in January 2016. As part of my regular duties, I plan, coordinate, and execute accelerated aging and diagnostic tests on generator stator coils/bars for external commercial customers and Manitoba Hydro. Since day one, my supervisor, Nathan Jacob, has recommended that I attend the Electrical Insulation Conference (EIC) and IEEE Materials Subcommittee Working Group meetings. He emphasized that attending the EIC not only benefits our Test Facility but also my professional development and future career progression.

In June of 2017, I got the approval to travel to the EIC in Baltimore as an exhibitor for Manitoba Hydro International Ltd. Attending your first technical conference as a young professional can be intimidating at first, especially if you are going there by yourself. However, as I realized later, the benefits far outweigh a few hours of nervousness. To my advantage, I was accompanied by Bill McDermid, who has a great wealth of knowledge and experience. Everybody at the conference knew Bill or had heard of him, and Bill knew everybody.

On my first day at the EIC, I was busy attending an informative short course on Stator Winding Insulation System Aging Processes delivered by Greg Stone. In the evening, I joined the reception and poster session. Drinks and food were provided at the reception, and it was a great time to meet numerous industry and academic professionals. I even ran into some of our commercial clients and took the opportunity to get their feedback regarding their experience at our laboratory.

The following days were filled with technical sessions and manning our booth at the exhibit hall. I greatly enjoyed the papers presented at these sessions, and I gained knowledge on recent developments and current issues in electrical insulation.

Specifically, the presentations on rotating machines gave me new insight on results that I obtained from bar and coil testing in the laboratory. They also brought me up to date on new testing methods and techniques.

During the coffee breaks, lunch, and evening exhibition, I spent my time at the exhibition booth promoting our high voltage laboratory services and answering questions. Having only a couple of years of experience in insulation testing, I was a little worried that I would not be able to answers all the questions. However, as I started talking to people who came to the booth, all my worries were gone! Everyone I met was very friendly and kindly shared their knowledge and experience with me. Time flew by as I was manning the booth; it was an excellent opportunity to meet potential customers and for me to get noticed as a young professional.

At the conclusion of the conference, I attended the IEEE Materials Subcommittee Working Group meetings. The Standards under review were directly applicable to my work in the high voltage laboratory and our department’s field insulation testing. From Working Group discussions I gathered some background information on the history of the Standards. I found it interesting that some practices date back to the old days; some methods were developed based on issues that were encountered a long time ago but may not be present anymore due to modern types of insulation. Furthermore, I was able to get clarification from Working Group members about certain clauses of the Standards that were not clear to me and found out how certain test criteria were developed.

In June of 2018, I traveled to San Antonio to attend my second EIC event as an exhibitor. This time I did not feel nervous; rather, I felt excited to see some familiar faces. There were numerous networking opportunities, so I did not have a problem meeting new professionals and students. Once again, the technical sessions were excellent and a great learning experience.

This year I prepared a promotional video for our materials laboratory and set it up to play at the booth. The video attracted the attention of exhibit attendees and was a great conversation starter. Prior to the conference, I also prepared a 15-minute commercial presentation about Manitoba Hydro International’s high voltage test services. I presented my slides during one of the commercial time slots in between technical sessions. Afterward, I was approached by multiple people who provided feedback about the content and delivery of the presentation.

The Working Group meetings this year were much more fun! I was able to relate some of the issues discussed at the meetings to instances I encountered in the laboratory while working on accelerated aging tests for stator bars and coils. This time I was not shy about participating in the discussions, and I was able to provide input based on my experience in materials testing. I feel that Working Group meetings are an excellent chance for young professionals to share their ideas and have an influence on the development of Standards.

To conclude, I think that attending the EIC and the Working Group meetings provide invaluable experience to young professionals. With numerous networking events, technical sessions, and exhibits, there are plenty of opportunities to get noticed, share knowledge and experience, and have fun. If all else fails, there is always great food and drinks provided.

Valeria Pevtsov
Manitoba Hydro
High Voltage Test Facility