Engineers Week: How to Grow into a New Role During a Pandemic

Feb 23, 2021

Starting a new role with a company is always an exciting and challenging opportunity. Starting one at the onset of a pandemic provides a unique set of challenges – getting on-boarded effectively, having access to the necessary resources to learn the trade, familiarizing yourself with the concepts that you’d be working on, and getting acquainted with your colleagues and clients virtually.

I started working for Nexant in March 2020 as an Energy Engineer in the Consumers Energy Building Tune Up program where my role primarily involves conducting retro-commissioning (RCx) audits in commercial facilities. Being new to the world of RCx, I spent a considerable amount of time learning RCx concepts and working closely with my colleagues to learn from their experiences. In June 2020, I also started to support the ComEd Retro-Commissioning program as a Project Coordinator. This presented a new challenge because the responsibilities varied quite a bit compared to my work with Consumers Energy. For the ComEd program, my role focuses more on day to day project management and working closely with customers and service providers. By reviewing both technical and non-technical work of the different service provider firms, I can successfully ensure delivery of the program for the utility company.

My growth and learning in the energy industry would not have been possible without the involvement of my peers and supervisors. When it comes to the idea of mentorship, one doesn’t necessarily need to be a direct supervisor. I believe mentors are all around you, with the plethora of experiences that people bring into work daily. These thoughts are by no means comprehensive, but I would like to share some pointers on things that I have learned from my peers while working at Nexant.

  • Focus on what you need to know – Things can get a bit overwhelming when starting a new role. Ask yourself the question, what do I need to learn to effectively deliver my work and how best can I approach this? I was taught by example – I reviewed old projects that my peers had worked on and, working on my own, attempted to learn by identifying solutions to problems that one might typically come across when performing RCx audits. This also served as a good guide to judge my capabilities which in turn helped in identifying areas where I required additional guidance or influence from my mentors.
  • Ask Questions – You’ll likely run into several situations where some of your colleagues would have ‘Been there, done that’. So by asking questions, you are not only learning, but gaining an opportunity to connect with peers that might not typically get within an organization.  Another benefit to asking questions is understanding different perspectives. With engineering, there is likely going to be more than one way to approach any given problem. 
  • Ask for Feedback – I believe this to be one of the most important attributes to bettering oneself in any given situation. Understanding and obtaining feedback from experienced professionals helps immensely in professional growth. It is also important to know who you should ask. I am fortunate enough to get this from both the teams I work with and quite honestly getting feedback on my work has helped me understand the reality of my capabilities, strengths, and flaws.

Above all, having patience was the key lesson for me during this past year. Like many folks reading this, my work was affected by lockdowns and several changes that we are not used to in our lives. But, my team helped me face these challenges and grow despite the pandemic. I’d like to thank Abdul Hadi Ayoub, Audrey Ewen, Hang Zhang, Kevin Coleman, Piyush Chitnis, and all members of the ComEd RCx team for their support and being valuable sources of wisdom and knowledge.

Rajesh Raghavan is an Engineer working on the Consumers Energy's Building Tune Up program and ComEd RCx program as an Energy Engineer and a Project Coordinator respectively. Rajesh is currently based out of Grand Rapids,Michigan. His role with Consumers Energy involves conducting RCx assessments for commercial and public sector facilities and helping identify energy saving opportunities. For the ComEd program, he is involved with both service provider and customer management and works closely with all entities to ensure successful completion of RCx projects. Prior to joining Nexant, Rajesh spent a year and a half working for CMC Energy on ComEd's Industrial Systems program and got his start in the energy industry by interning at the Industrial Assessment Center at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Rajesh has a B.E in Mechanical Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University and a M.S in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Missouri, Columbia.  

Within Nexant’s Utility Services, Engineering is a cross functional group led by the Director of Engineering, Lonny Peet. Engineering consists of more than 70 engineers across North America serving in various capacities to deliver innovative programs and technical services to utilities and end-use clients.