Get to Know: Our Network Services Team

March 14th, 2023
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Justin Higdon, Manager of our Network Services team, helps us learn about what he and his team do behind the scenes to help our operations run safely and reliably.

Tell us a little about your team.

There are 19 people on the Network Services team, working both in the office and in the field to provide network connectivity to over 150 of Hydro’s sites across the province. We operate and maintain of all of Hydro’s regulated and shared services network assets.

Describe your team’s role at Hydro.

Our team provides all of the telecoms services for Hydro – it’s an immense amount of behind the scenes work to ensure everything is running smoothly and safely.

We’re responsible for all administrative and internet connectivity, all telephone systems, including our customer service lines, cell and satellite phones, to Hydro offices, line depots and operational sites (like hydroelectric generating facilities and terminal stations).

We also run the meteorological sites that monitor reservoir levels and provide weather data to our energy marketing and resource planning teams. We’re also responsible for the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) network – one piece of the puzzle that gives Hydro’s system operators 24/7 visibility and real-time control of our provincial electricity system. And of course, we run the Network Management Centre which monitors all of Hydro’s network assets.

What does an average day look like for you and your team?

This is a hard question to answer, as the most consistent part of our jobs is that each day brings something different – new challenges and new opportunities make our days anything but average.

Our field techs keep things running smoothly, which means preventative maintenance and responding to any of our sites across the province. They’re based out of either St. John’s, Bishops Falls or Deer Lake and cover areas from Ramea to Nain, St. John’s to Wabush, or anywhere in between! That’s a lot of ground to cover, but they’re always on the move and willing to help.

The technicians who work in our Network Management Centre support the field crew while also monitoring the entire network using our Network Management System, which provides feedback from all our sites and systems, to make sure everything is working as it should – and responding if it isn’t.

The remainder of our team, along with help from other areas of the company, are often digging deep into a technical issue, planning and scheduling work or managing our inventory to ensure we have critical spares needed to keep everything running smoothly.

What’s something about your job that most people may not know?

People may not know that our team operates Hydro’s own telecommunications transport network – a physical connection of microwave radio towers and fibre optic cables that make up the backbone of our whole network. This means that, while we have back up support from traditional carriers (such as Bell, Eastlink, or Rogers), we also have our own secure, reliable connection to support our critical operations. This includes teleprotection between our terminal stations which helps ensure system stability for our customers while also protecting our electrical equipment.

While this is common practice for most utilities, to add an extra layer of security and reliability to their connection, it’s a practice that’s fairly unique to a traditional corporate environment – making it pretty cool to be such an integral part of its operation.

What role does your team play in ensuring Hydro can provide safe, reliable power to our customers?

Communications and connectivity are critical to our operations. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes but what we do seldom gets noticed – and that means we’re doing our job well, creating a seamless connection across all of Hydro.

Think about it this way: everywhere there’s a Hydro employee, there’s a network services asset. Whether that’s an administrative network connection allowing an employee to do their day-to-day job, a satellite phone available to a line crew operating in a remote area, or the systems providing real time data for our entire power system, these are all network services assets. And each of these assets helps Hydro provide safe, reliable power to our customers.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

I personally enjoy finding creative solutions to issues and love the challenge of consistently trying to improve our processes. But the most rewarding thing for our team overall is providing reliable connectivity so our co-workers can do their jobs. Knowing that everything we do, even indirectly, helps Hydro keep the lights on for our customers – that’s what motivates us to do our best work every single day.