As a Network Systems Engineer, I am responsible for the administration of the SA Power Networks Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system – the automation control system that monitors, gathers and processes data on our network. This system and associated field devices, ensures high levels of reliability and accuracy of data to meet the operational requirements of the Network Operations Centre (NOC).
I am accountable for the provision of technical expertise and support in SCADA and associated remote control systems, including system development work. I am also accountable for general engineering support, and analysis to support the Network Operations Centre.
My daily tasks include:
Providing engineering and analysis support to ensure 24 x 7 reliability for the SA Power Networks SCADA environment
Managing changes to the operational SCADA system through Network Projects, including field devices such as Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) and Data Concentrators
Liaising with key internal customers and service providers to ensure system changes meet operational and end user requirements.
I grew up in Chengdu, China, a place famous for its relaxing lifestyle and hot spicy food. My parents both work at a University. My mother is a general practitioner and my father is a professor. I guess I became interested in engineering under the influence of my father, as he graduated as a mechanical engineer.
In 2008, I made the most important decision and came to Australia to study. My parents were both very supportive and surprisingly my adventure to Australia was much smoother than I anticipated. Study hard and play hard was my mantra for my four years of University life in Adelaide.
In 2011, I applied for the SA Power Networks’ summer vacation work experience program, and was fortunate to work with inspiring people. After the vacation program, my mind was made up. I wanted to join the Graduate Program at SA Power Networks. After jumping through hurdles and sorting out my Australian visa, I was accepted into the 2014 Graduate Program intake.
Every six months, the Graduate Program provided me with the opportunity to rotate to a different department across what is an expansive business. This is where I learnt about the various business aspects of the company. Along the journey I had immense support from mentors, training providers and fellow graduates. It was in the Network Control department that I came into my own and found the area I was most passionate about. In March 2016 I was fortunate to accept my ideal job in that very group.
To do the role of Network Systems Engineer, you would need an electrical and electronics background.
This requires good analytical skills and good engineering practice. Because it is a real-time SCADA system, changes made to the system will impact the actual network.
If you consider the massive technology improvements in telecommunication and computing over the years, you will find the electrical network today is surprisingly lacking in remote control and intelligent features. It is static instead of dynamic and less ‘smart’. However, things are about to change. The new SCADA system we are working on is more than capable of handling ‘smart’ features such as electrical fault localisation, load forecasting and network analysing. It will be the foundation of our ‘Smart Grid’, which will provide us with greater visibility of the network, be faster and allow more automated network switchings.
As a Network System Engineer you need to be on-call 24 x 7 and need to come in to work if there is an emergency on the system. Fortunately, we have a roster so our team members share the on-call duty.
If I had the ability to go back in time and meet the younger me at University, I will definitely tell him:
Following three years in the graduate program, Kai was appointed as Network System Engineer with our Facilities Systems department.