Challenging the Rules
Michael Hyland is the senior vice president of engineering services for the American Public Power Association. Prior to coming to APPA in 1996, he worked at Public Service Company of New Hampshire and at the Philadelphia Electric Company. He is a registered Professional Engineer and the former chair of the IEEE National Electric Safety Code for the 2012 and 2017 editions.
My father liked to tell me that you can't spell geek without an EE. I was driven to become that EE.
After graduating from university, I was a young engineer working for a few companies that taught me the same principles many inexperienced employees are taught today. I learned a lot of back-of-the-envelope calculations and rules-of-thumb that I was told to memorize.
Although I was grateful for much of the knowledge transfer, I did begin to wonder whether any of my managers had ever questioned the validity of these statements.
When I came to the American Public Power Association in 1996, I was given the freedom to challenge the orthodox way of thinking. I met up with a few other fresh, science-based minds. We decided that questioning the common wisdom was not just fun, it was fruitful in expanding and challenging our industry's approach to operations.
I learned early on that fighting the established this-is-how-we-do-things approach takes data. Lots of data.
One example is the belief that underground distribution lines have less frequent outages, but longer outages.