Engineers' Perspectives

Andrew Mackay

Andrew Mackay, Commissioning Engineer

Andrew joined the company in February 1997 after completing a BEng at the University of Edinburgh. After his initial training period he has quickly become one of our most valued engineers and has travelled to such places as Turkey, Denmark, Belgium and Pakistan.

"Whether you enjoy the thought of national, international, or office based work, you should consider applying to my company for employment as a trainee engineer.

Our two main activities are design and commissioning, although we do get involved in all other areas of electrical power consultancy work, such as reducing power system harmonics and solving problems caused to equipment by fields emanating from large current or voltage sources.

The company gives you all the training in theory and technology required to work in the electrical power industry. This is by means of working with engineers in various locations, office based teaching and personal initiative. Very quickly you will get responsibility and experience that will make you feel, and be considered by others, a competent engineer.

Within a year I was working on very large projects, on my own, with engineers far older than me, gaining experience from them as well as from the job. On site you are your own boss, and people treat you as such. The jobs can be in the UK or anywhere in the world. You are expected not to be daunted by seemingly daunting locations, and this also helps build up your maturity.

After a little while, you begin to view the world as a much smaller place, and view things your friends see as an exciting event, such as travelling to Pakistan for three weeks, as commonplace. Also, large, expensive and previously highly complicated equipment becomes very simple and even relaxing to operate.

The job is suitable for intelligent, motivated and organised people, who can work independently or communicate effectively in a team."


Robert Milne

Robert Milne,   Trainee Commissioning Engineer

"Having spent a couple of years since university working for a large engineering design consultancy, I decided to join PEC at the beginning of 2009 as it presented an opportunity to broaden my horizons and gain important experience of HV power networks. Although only a few months into my role as a Trainee commissioning engineer, I have already travelled within the UK and abroad to work on sites as diverse as a television studio in London and an oil platform in the Gulf.

As we are a small yet dynamic company, I have been given quite a lot of responsibility early on while at the same time being provided with the support I need to do the job. Although much of our work is in the field, I have found the role played by our office based design engineers is also crucial for providing support. It is always nice to know there is a wealth of knowledge and experience at the end of the telephone if you run into problems, or should I say, opportunities to learn.

I want to push myself and the close relationship I have with the managing director and all the staff at PEC means I can progress at a rate that suits me rather than follow a set of guidelines from an HR manual. In terms of the sort of work we do, I think the commissioning of power generation and transmission plant is really interesting, yet also very satisfying from an ethical point of view. The world we live in needs power and I sometimes feel this fact is taken for granted in the UK. While working abroad, I have generally found the respect shown towards you by local people is really quite rewarding. It may not be as fashionable as building a school in Kenya, but in many ways the contribution you can make to developing countries around the world can be just as important.

I am really happy with my job at PEC and my only real regret is not joining them sooner!"


Andrew Maude

The following article was originally published in Hobsons Casebook:

Power Engineering Consultants plc


olving problems is the challenge of being a commissioning engineer. It's why we are paid. Anybody can read a set of instructions, but we have to know what to do when the equipment doesn't perform as expected. It's like a doctor diagnosing symptoms. the more experience you have, the more symptoms you recognise, and the quicker you know where to start looking. It can be pretty daunting, when everyone along the line is saying, "Why isn't it working?" and waiting for you to come up with the answers..

Our major customers are in power generation and distribution. Our work - designing and commissioning protection panels, together with associated generators, transformers, Switchgear and controls - is worldwide. It involves testing voltage transformers, protection relays, synchronising equipment and other control gear, all of which are part and parcel of a system. The challenge is to get everything to function together correctly.


In the first six months you always work with someone; it's like having several personal trainers. Then gradually you and your trainer become a partnership, and eventually you are sent out on your own. My first job abroad after six months training was in Cork, where I was sent to test relay protection. I was nervous and excited, but also quite proud of the responsibility.
As your knowledge expands, so do your capabilities, and you take on more responsibility. l recently spent three months commissioning equipment on a Russian oil platform in south Vietnam. The more remote the location, the more versatile you have to be.


Travel is very much part of the job. When I started, the work was UK-based, but

more of it is now abroad, which I enjoy. I've been all over western Europe, in the Middle East, South America and in the Far East. Working conditions and accommodation are generally very good, and for the most part you travel club class. However, there are also a number of jobs in developing countries. So it can be a five-star hotel or a camp in the desert.


Tact and the ability to communicate are vital. Although, as a subcontractor, you may have sole responsibility for commissioning a piece of equipment, you can also be part of a team with a number of people you need to keep informed. Because there are only so many engineers doing the job, you could be working with the same people again in the future, or calling on them for help. So maintaining good relations while carrying out your job effectively is important. Working in different countries with different cultures also demands an appreciation of the politics of relationships and of different work etiquettes.
Although I am now out commissioning most of the time, I also spend some time in the office carrying out protection

studies. This can be fairly complex, especially when dealing with large systems where you design to isolate a faults with minimum disruption.


When I took this job, l became an associate member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. This is the first stage in getting Chartered. I am now working on the second stage. Because this is a small company which doesn't manufacture anything, you don't get to work in different departments. This makes filling in IEE forms slightly more difficult. However, you do get broad on-the-job experience, which covers everything that is required by the IEE, but with more hands-on.
Commissioning is a hard job; physically and mentally demanding, with long days and a lot of travelling. However, it is well-paid, particularly if you work abroad. I don't want to do it all my life, but for the next few years, while I am young, I will take the opportunity to go to places I wouldn't get to see otherwise. Later, I expect it to open other doors for me.