Burns & McDonnell's David Wallace builds a program to fortify the next generation of T&D engineers.
Ask David Wallace nearly anything about transmission and distribution, and he'll likely know the answer. He's been working in the industry for 37 years and has been involved with virtually every type of T&D project.
Wallace began his career at Burns & McDonnell in 1977 as a co-op student while studying electrical engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science & Technology). After graduation, he began working full-time in the Transmission Group at Burns & McDonnell. From there, he moved to the Substation Department, where he was a project manager for 24 years. He also managed the Distribution Group for two years.
Wallace is now sharing his wealth of experience with a new generation of engineers through the Burns & McDonnell Knowledge Transfer Program, an idea he originated two years ago.
"I was sitting in a meeting, and we were talking about upcoming projects and workload and staff. I got the sense that our newer project managers were getting left behind," Wallace says.
Off the Ground
He proposed his idea to John Olander, president of the Burns & McDonnell Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Division, and the program was born. Wallace stepped back from his role in project management and dedicated his time to providing training, quick access to answers and advice for anyone in the division who needed it.
"People come to my desk all the time and ask me how things work," he says. "This program has given me the time needed to explain the answers and teach them why we do something rather than just telling them what to do."
For Danny Kaminsky, who has taken over Wallace's careerlong role as project manager for client Duke Energy, having Wallace as a resource is a priceless benefit.
"Often our technical experts retire after long, successful careers, and the knowledge they've gained walks out the door with them," Kaminsky says. "For Dave to step back from his role as PM to dedicate his time to sharing everything he's learned over the past 30 years is invaluable."
Since he can't be available 24/7, Wallace is contributing to the development of an electronic reference manual for substation engineering that would provide easy access to his vast industry knowledge in a searchable format.
Wallace has also facilitated the formation of technical teams that meet monthly to focus on specific aspects of substation apparatus or design tasks, and to discuss best practices. "Sometimes it's the little details that get us stuck. Having these subject matter experts available gives the newer engineers access to those answers," Wallace says.
Olander says Wallace is a perfect fit for the job because he worked on both the technical and project management sides, and he is always willing to step up.
"Dave has executed just about every type of project. He's been through it all," Olander says. "He brings credibility to this role, and a true blue perspective. He has always been willing to help anybody, including me early in my career."
The Mentor Connection
By mentoring up-and-coming engineers, Wallace is paying it forward. He says he's where he is today thanks in large part to the influence, early in his career, of two people: Al Peabody, a transmission line structural engineer at Burns & McDonnell, and John Robertson, who worked at Public Service Indiana (PSI, now Duke Energy).
Wallace worked with Peabody in Wallace's earliest days as a co-op student. "Al taught me so many things about the structural equations used for pole analysis that I already knew how to apply them when I took my physics and statics classes," Wallace says. "He took the time to explain them to me in layman's terms so I could understand them."
Robertson spent countless hours with Wallace teaching him how PSI created its substation standards and why. "I learned a lot of the intricacies of how PSI designed its system. With that information in mind, when I met with supervisors to discuss projects, I was able to make some suggestions they thought were phenomenal," Wallace says.
He appreciates that his mentors spent time helping him understand how things work. "It makes you feel like you're valuable because someone has taken the time to invest in you," he says.
That's exactly what Wallace is doing now for young engineers.
What goes around, comes around.
Contact David Wallace at 816-822-3469.