Julian Leslie - new ESO Chief Engineer

We’re proud to share that our Head of Networks, Julian Leslie, is the ESO’s new Chief Engineer.

Here he explains his passion for engineering and what he hopes to achieve in his new role.

Can you tell us about your role as Chief Engineer and your ambition in the position? 

I’m proud to have been appointed ESO Chief Engineer. I’m the second ever Chief Engineer in the ESO and I aim to build on the fantastic work started by my predecessor Roisin Quinn. 

I really see myself as an ambassador. I want to be a role model for engineering and to raise the profile of the amazing engineering that happens within the ESO. I believe it’s vital to think about the future and I also want to inspire young people to consider a career in the ESO. 

The role of Chief Engineer is also about creating an assurance process around our key engineering decisions.  

I’m currently creating a new stakeholder forum called the Engineering Advisory Council. While also making us an ever more transparent organisation it will also allow external experts including academics, to take a look at everything we do, and to make sure we have the correct processes in place. Every time we look at engineering innovation we’ll refer it to the EAC to test it out and get expert opinion. 

We’ve appointed Peter Roddy to develop this process and assist with assuring our decisions and we are about to start an external board of experts on the EAC. This Council is chaired by Professor Tim Green, Co-Director Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College. 

What made you choose a career in engineering? 

I knew I wanted to be an engineer at the age of 11! I grew up in the north east and from my back garden I could see steam billowing from the local power station. When on holiday in the UK, we’d often visit a power station. I was blown away by the size and scale. 

Engineering fascinated me as a young boy. I even wired up my wardrobe so my light would go on when I opened it! And I created a pulley system to open the curtains from my bed. 

After college I went to Liverpool University and studied electrical engineering as a sponsored National Grid graduate which led to me working in the Leeds control room in the summers. 

Can you tell us about your career in engineering? 

I’ve worked at National Grid for my whole career. I started in Network Access Planning which is looking at systems which systems that support the control room.  

Then I moved to a technology and model support function working on supporting the offline network models. I supported IT infrastructure and building models for network access planning. 

I moved into my first leadership role managing the team that scheduled day ahead generation and transmission access. You could say this went back to my childhood ambition of managing a power station! I loved the real time element where a power station would come online the next day because of our decisions. 

After this I went to live in the USA for four years. I spent four years in the mid-west setting up GridAmerica. A really exciting challenge to set up a team from nothing, find the office space and create the operational planning function. 

I then came back to the UK and supported our then Executive Director as Chief of Staff. 

I moved over to gas distribution which was more people focussed and came back into the electricity system operator in 2009. 

As well as my role as Chief Engineer, I’m also Head of Networks for the ESO. I lead our zero-carbon operation ambition and how engineering will drive us to net zero in 2050.  

What makes a good engineer? 

There’s no one type of person or particular approach that’s needed. 

I’m proud to be able to support diversity and we have 34 native languages spoken in our control room. 

Diversity is something we’ll continue to shout about, and I’m currently Chair of our ESO Belonging Forum. The Belonging Forum was established in September 2020 to help us nurture a culture in the ESO where everyone can feel that they belong. 

I want every single person to be able to bring their whole self to work, and to feel comfortable, welcome and supported. My aim is to listen to colleagues and remove any actual or perceived barriers so that anyone with the right skills can become an engineer in the ESO.