“Classical music is impossible to do perfectly,” says Bryan F., a senior engineer based in SEL’s Boise, Idaho, office. “Learning how to deal with that, and still push yourself, impacts every part of your life.”
While perfection may not be possible, Bryan believes excellence is well within reach. An accomplished violinist, he says music taught him to overcome inevitable challenges, missteps, and frustrations in the spirit of continuous improvement.
It’s a powerful lesson that also shaped how Bryan approaches his engineering career at SEL, where he is the distribution automation technology owner, whose primary focus is developing automation products and solutions.
Much like music, Bryan says perfection is fleeting in the constantly evolving technical space where he’s built his career.
“Even if in that instant of time it seems like you have the perfect design, computers will get better. Screen resolution will get higher. Communications will get faster,” he says.
Still, with determination and a commitment to improvement, it’s possible to develop solutions that exceed customer expectations—and ultimately, deliver reliable electric power to millions of people around the world. Bryan believes this is a mindset that pervades SEL.
“At SEL, if we identify an issue, we figure out a way to measure it,” he says. “And once we measure it, it’s our responsibility to improve it. That kind of culture is the reason we‘re known as an innovative company that pushes our industry forward.”
Bryan’s interest in both music and engineering began at a young age. He started practicing the violin at age six and discovered that he enjoyed the competitive, performance-driven side of playing classical music.
A few years later, Bryan was introduced to engineering through an unusual fixture in his neighborhood: a county amateur radio club. By the time Bryan was 11, he had earned his ham radio license and knew he wanted to pursue a career in electrical engineering.
“Knowing engineers are the ones who invent those kinds of things and create those kinds of products—I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he says.
Bryan started interning at SEL while pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Idaho. At the time, his work focused on individual product components. But his drive to pursue mastery of a subject, which he honed while playing music, influenced the next step in his career.
Bryan wanted to develop a more thorough understanding of SEL’s customers, as well as how products operate in the field. After graduation, he accepted an automation engineering position in Engineering Services at SEL’s Atlanta, Georgia office. He worked there for six years and gained big-picture, industry insights that continue to influence his work.
“When we make a feature decision or develop a new product, I have a little better perspective on how it may be used, how it may be received, and what features will be important,” he says.
Today, Bryan works in Research & Development, applying the lessons he learned while creating custom solutions in Engineering Services to develop distribution automation products that will meet many customers’ needs.
One major undertaking has been leading the adaptation of fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR) from a custom solution to a software product that will be released through the SEL Blueframe application platform.
Through allowing customers to quickly locate and isolate permanent faults and reroute electricity to unaffected portions of a distribution network, FLISR technology improves service restoration time during a power outage and limits damage to equipment.
“When you have a power outage, the first question everybody asks is: ‘How soon is the power going to come back?’” Bryan says. “FLISR is a solution that makes that faster.”
To bring this project to fruition, Bryan’s time has been split between two overarching responsibilities: first, leading a product development team to define what the software will look like and how it will function, and second, collaborating with customers and SEL’s Sales & Customer Service team to thoroughly understand the needs of FLISR’s audience.
“It’s a dream assignment,” Bryan says. “Following the lifecycle of a product from inception to delivery has been an awesome experience.”
Something that fascinates Bryan about both classical music and engineering is the hidden complexities they possess.
“Show a score to somebody, and they’ll say, ‘That’s music,’” he says. “But what does that say? How do you translate that into something magical that people can listen to?”
Engineers face a similar challenge when developing power system technology.
“The power grid is the most complex machine that humankind has ever made,” Bryan says. “How do you make that simple? That’s a challenge that’s never going to end.”
Part of Bryan‘s work is to simplify those complexities into reliable electricity that people trust to work at the flick of a switch.
Delivering simplicity to the end-user is also a major goal of the FLISR project. Bryan and his team have designed the software to lead customers through configuring their system, completing settings, and addressing mistakes prior to deployment.
“When you first install FLISR, you should feel like SEL has taken the time to polish it to a level where they tell you what you need to know and guide you to success,” Bryan says.
Bryan believes achieving excellence depends on closely examining all aspects of a customer’s experience with a product, including the emotions that a product makes them feel. He credits music with teaching him the importance of committing to extreme attention to detail.
“Customers are going to be spending the majority of their lives at work and using SEL products all day,” he says. “So, what should their experience be like?”
At SEL, the answer goes far beyond delivering a product that performs as expected. Engineers must consider the emotional connection customers form with devices, or they risk producing functional technology that fails to deliver a satisfying user experience. With this in mind, Bryan and his team have carefully examined the finest details for the FLISR project, including the colors of buttons and how fast information loads on a screen.
Bryan says that SEL’s culture, which encourages employees to take pride in their work and own their responsibilities to their customers and the public, fuels this commitment to excellence.
“At SEL, you’re not just a resource,” he says. “You’re here to create something that has never been done before, and you’re expected to be proud of that.”Read More About Our Company Culture of Creativity, Innovation, and Collaboration