Black Start engineer Mark Jones on preparing for every eventuality

In our latest film and article profiling interesting roles at National Grid ESO, Mark Jones explains the importance of preparing for all eventualities – and why he likes it when people ask what he does for a living.

As a Black Start engineer, I’m responsible for making sure that we can restart Great Britain’s electricity system from a total blackout. While this has never happened before, it would have a huge impact on the entire nation if it ever did – so we need to be prepared for every eventuality.

We must think about the really technical engineering issues, along with how the industry would work together; like how we’d communicate if there was a complete outage – it wouldn’t be as simple as picking up the phone or sending an email without power. 

I started my career by gaining a mechanical engineering degree. I then worked for a highways company looking at different technologies that are used on motorways. After that, I joined National Grid ESO, where I’ve had a number of different roles over the last eight years. As a Black Start engineer my role is so varied, from tests at generators to meetings with the government.

I’ve got a great work-life balance at the ESO because the business offers flexible working patterns, such as early and late starts, so I get to pick up my kids from school when I need to.  

I think one of the best things about what I do is when I go to a party and people ask what I do for a living, it takes quite a while to explain everything there is to know about Black Start!