When did you join National Grid and what was your first role?
I studied Electrical Engineering at Belgrade University in Serbia and on completion of my master’s degree joined Queen’s in Belfast for postgraduate research. Before I joined National Grid in 2004, I did a lot of research on wind power, so it was a perfect fit.
All my roles have been connected to the control room. Firstly, I worked as the Assistant Transmission Dispatch Engineer, then as Transmission Desk Trainer and before I was promoted to be a Training Manager. I have also managed the control room supporting teams before becoming full time Power System Manager four years ago.
Throughout my time in National Grid I kept my control room authorisations and every one of my roles has been connected to the control room.
Can you tell us about your current role as Power System Manager?
I work as one of five Power System Managers in the control room. Each of us has 20-25 control room engineers reporting into us.
I have a flexible working arrangement where 85% of my time is in the control room, and then 15% of my role is supporting control room functions.
The support work can be anything from risk management, post event reviews, liaising with union reps and helping with business continuity planning. Basically, supporting the real time operation of the control room.
With the flexible working arrangement, I could do less time in the control room, but I really enjoy it.
The control room is the frontline of the business and I’ve always loved working in there. It’s hard work but exciting. No two days are ever the same.
What effect has the COVID-19 pandemic on the relationship with your team?
Since lockdown first began in March, we’ve been allocated a ‘home’ control room. We have two control rooms, so it means I only get to see half of my team and maintain the contact with the rest of the team via on the shift telephone conversations, emails and numerous Microsoft Teams meetings.
I’d like to be able to have a face to face off shift team meetings where we talk about everything. We’re doing it online which isn’t quite the same.
I miss that interaction with the whole team. I do however understand that I see more of my team than other team leaders, which I’m grateful for.
Things are a bit different in the control room as we’re social distancing. We have to keep very aware to make sure we stick to the rules.
One of my colleagues has a badge saying, ‘If you can read this you’re too close!’
How has your day to day work changed during the outbreak?
Managing low demand has been tough, but we have the tools and experience to manage it safely.
We get a lot of help from the control room support teams to provide new services and enhance existing services to help with the low demand and other operational challenges created by it.
The system has changed a lot since I started. Every couple of years there are new challenges. 10 years ago, it was wind power, then it was managing high volts, next came solar PV and now it’s Inertia management.
We’re doing a lot of work to maintain high system Inertia and having to be incredibly innovative as system is continuously changing.
Demand is starting to increase. In the last couple of weeks, the wind was really low and demand went up. We’re seeing a period of increased wind now and we’re still witnessing lower demand at the weekends.
We see the lowest energy demand at weekends when it’s 21-23c.
If it’s cold and wet people stay at home and use electricity. If it’s really hot then people still go out, but air conditioning is heavily used in the retail and leisure industries (and some homes).
We’re starting to see an increase in demand now schools have opened again.
Biggest changes you made during lockdown?
As I said I’ve been lucky that I wasn’t in full lockdown because I was able to go to the control room. Apart from work I haven’t done a lot!
It was tough to get used to the new dynamic. My husband and daughter were at home all the time.
I’m originally from Serbia as is my husband, so all my extended family is back there. We usually visit for Christmas and they often come here in the summer. That wasn’t the case this year and I really miss my extended family.
What does the future look like for you after lockdown?
I’ve started going outside for walks a lot more recently. This time has made me appreciate the simple things such as the time I spend with my family. I now plan and set aside time with my husband and daughter and I can’t wait to see my extended family.
I’m crossing my fingers that we can go to Serbia for Christmas and I can get back to Skiing!