Transmission Maintenance Specialist | Memphis, Tenn.
Chad Reed is good at his job as a transmission maintenance specialist—so good in fact that he’s been made a trainer. He’s good at that, too. So good in fact that he works with trainees, and only trainees. “Right now I have two A-level trainees—I have to put these individuals through the training I went through years ago,” he says. “I’ve had mostly trainees in my group for the last eight years. I’m unique in my office in that it’s been a while since I’ve had a senior tech to bounce ideas off of. It’s just me and the trainees.”
“I enjoy being a trainer and enjoy sharing my knowledge and helping these individuals along their career paths,” Reed says. “But it’s also a challenge as well because it takes time. I want to adequately train them, but every job I have to slow down and explain it to them.”
Looking for Trouble
That can be frustrating, because Reed’s job is a big one. “What we do is maintain the assets that protect the transmission system,” he says. “We perform troubleshooting activities when there’s an issue with any of those assets. And we also support the generation plants in our area whenever they have problems with their relays or equipment.”
The equipment varies. “It can be anything from power circuit breakers to power transformers to instrument transformers,” he says. “We troubleshoot issues before they become hazards.”
Here’s a prime example, and proud moment for Reed: “Recently we helped to put in the Allen Combined Cycle Plant. There had been a lot of challenges for us on that project, so we actually discovered an issue with some transformer circuits and relays not programmed correctly. We discovered this just days before the plant being energized for the first time. If we hadn’t caught it, one of the transmission lines coming out of the plant would have false tripped and knocked off the generation. It wouldn’t have caused any damage, but it would have been a NERC-reportable event.” (NERC is the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a regulatory body.)
It was a big success story for Reed and his team. “We got in there and we kept working until we got that job resolved,” he says.
Something New, Every Day
Reed’s typical day is that there’s no typical day. “That’s one of the things I like best about the job,” he says. “We know what we have to do in terms of corrective and preventive maintenance one week or even two weeks out, but stuff comes up and you have to adapt. It’s a challenging part of the job—but also quite enjoyable.”
Reed’s territory is broad, reaching from Covington, Tenn., down into Olive Branch, Miss. “I have five 500-kilovolt substations and seven 161-kilovolt substation—it’s a lot,” he says. “It’s hundreds of assets that are on a routine maintenance schedule and are always becoming due for work.”
But then there are the whammies. “We get calls from Chattanooga saying, ‘Hey, we see something here that doesn’t look quite right,’ and then you have to drop everything to go check it out—and stuff is coming up constantly,” Reed says.
He loves that, he says. “The most rewarding and satisfying part of my job is finding and resolving issues related to the power system. There have been times where I have been out at power plants in the middle of the night trying to resolve issues, and once I find them and get them going it’s satisfying knowing that I was part of the solution.”
On the flip side of all that diversity is…all that diversity. “We have to shift our mindset a lot,” Reed says. “It’s like, ‘I’m working on this right now, and now I have to move to this substation and do something very different.’ It’s a challenge to stay focused on your job not knowing what’s coming next. You have to be familiar with all the substations in your area and know all the circuits.”
It’s exhausting, and potentially dangerous. “We work with live electrical circuits most days, and there’s a high risk of tripping equipment offline, which could jeopardize the integrity of the power system,” he explains. “It can be a high-stress environment. It can be overwhelming. I’m trying not to run the trainees off.”
Family at Home and at Work
Reed’s greatest passion in life is family—both at home and at work. He’s married to wife Julie, who works part time as a paralegal. Together they have three boys: Jackson, 12; Brayden, 9; and Gavin, 8. “They are my whole life,” Reed says. “They are what’s important.
They are an outdoorsy, action-oriented family. “Every day we are playing sports—two of my sons play baseball and my middle son plays soccer,” he says. “Right now we’re playing basketball and I’m helping coach for my oldest and my youngest. So we’re running everywhere. We also like to fish.”
He sees his coworkers as family, too. “I’m proud to work at TVA because it’s a family away from family,” Reed says. “I’ve always had great support from our staff folks; we’re always watching out for each other. We’re a safety-oriented company to make sure we all go home the same way we came in and that we’re all provided the safety tools we need to do our jobs.”
Reed says he gets great pleasure out of playing his part in the TVA mission of service. “We’re behind the scenes. People don’t even know what we do. They just want to turn on the light switch and the electricity is there, and it’s satisfying to know that you play a part in making that happen. We play a big part in that 99.999% reliability rate.”
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