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Don Dorris: Answering Questions

Dec. 16, 2015
Don Dorris from Nashville Electric Service will be presenting a case study on a power transformer failure for Doble's Life of a Transformer Seminar in Nashville, Feb. 1-5, 2016

Don Dorris is in a position where he gets questions from many different technical occupations in his company. He is Operations Engineer III over the Power Group for Nashville Electric Service in Nashville Tennessee, and he believes that when they call him, they need an answer.

“I know exactly how that feels. I don't want to end the conversation without helping them. Even if it is not my normal field of experience, I will research it and get them an answer or put them in touch with somebody that does,” Dorris said. “I am the culmination of all I have experienced. The years of troubleshooting, teaching, installing, commissioning, testing, and analyzing. All of these skills interweave with each other to give me the foundation I have today.​”

Dorris is involved in the power transformer specifications, factory testing and failure teardown inspections. He oversees the engineers and technicians involved in installing, commissioning, operating, modifying, testing, analyzing and decommissioning substations. He analyzes the test results on the power transformers and circuit breakers and recommends courses of action. He develops and calculates the condition assessments on the power transformers and circuit breakers. He also develops testing and operating standards for NES Operations. He has been with NES for 20 years.

Dorris got his start in the U.S. Navy where he worked as an Aviation Electrician and then as an Aviation Electrical Instructor for US Navy & Marine personnel. He transferred from the U.S. Navy to the Tennessee Army National Guard where he worked in various capacities as a Communications Officer at various levels. He retired from Military Service in 2001 at the rank of Captain.

He was an Electrical Systems Instructor for Northrup Grumman on the B2 Bomber. Dorris also taught for San Diego Community College teaching U.S. Navy & Marine personnel Electricity, Electronics, Mathematics and Electrical Troubleshooting.

He will be presenting a case study on a power transformer failure for Doble's Life of a Transformer Seminar in Nashville, Feb. 1-5, 2016, and is participating in the Thursday Panel Group Presentation on “Transformer Risk Mitigation & Failure Analysis.”  The Panel Presentations include a variety of similar topics that are discussed with a panel of experts from different companies including users and manufacturers. Panel group presentations include topics such as Transformer Bushing Fundamentals, Risk Mitigation, and Maintenance & Repair. These panel group presentations bring more voices and perspectives to the seminar providing attendees with a wider range of perspectives. He will also be participating in a panel discussion on Managing Contractors when Outsourcing Assessment Testing on Power Transformers and Breakers at the International Conference of Doble Clients in next April.

Dorris discussed the upcoming seminar and the importance of knowing about power transformer failure with T&D World:

Q: When and why did you decide to go into power at Nashville Electric Service?   

It was late 1994 and I was teaching for a local technical school. I had been teaching for several years and wanted to do something different. The idea of approaching Nashville Electric Service popped onto my thoughts one day out of the clear blue. I had taken a few power classes at college, but never thought about entering this field. 

I called and was connected to the human resource department. I spoke with a man that had some prior military experience, and I guess we connected on some small level. We talked for a while about various things and he asked me to send him my resume. I called him about a week later and he told me that NES had some engineering positions open but that I would be a great fit in the Operations department. He said few people know it, but there are Engineers that work in the field troubleshooting systems and such. I had several years’ experience troubleshooting electrical systems for the Navy, and teaching electrical systems and troubleshooting.

Few people know it, but the Navy teaches electrical troubleshooting to the sailors and marines. So my experience was a perfect fit for the Operations department and they had an immediate need for someone. Four weeks after I sent NES my resume I was offered a position.

Q:  Best thing about your job right now?     

I love knowing how and why things work. Electricity is quantum physics. You can't see it in motion. You can see the effects of it, but you can't see the electricity flowing. When you do, it is usually not a good thing. You have to grasp how the physics works in your mind, before you can work with it in your hands. You use measuring equipment to obtain electrical values that you can't see, to compare with the values in your head. When you find an inconsistency between the two, correct it, and the system works properly, it is a great feeling of accomplishment.

The ancient Greeks had a saying, "Wisdom is only achieved by suffering." Troubleshooting is a difficult skill to master and many don't. It takes years, and those who stick with it, never believe they have achieved it. Nashville Electric Service has been very good to me. They have let me do just about whatever I have wanted to do. I love figuring things out and then trying to predict their behavior. ​It is a great feeling of accomplishment.

Q: What courses/sessions have you presented in the past, and what’s coming?

I have not presented a case study for Doble before, so this will be my first one. However, I put together fault analysis reports for NES Operations when power transformers and breakers fail. It is something I have been doing for the past 10 years. I enjoy trying to figure out why something failed.

Q:  What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your past experience that you want to communicate to students or participants?      

There is something I would always say to each class when I taught and say today to our new personnel in Operations. I have observed that there are two types of people in the work force: those that know how, and those that know why. Those that know how, will always be in demand, but those that know why, will always be the last to let go. People that know why most always know how, but people that know how don't always know why. Learn as much as you can. Not only the how but also the why. As you do you make yourself more valuable to the industry.

Q: Why do you think the subject of power transformer failure is important to the industry?   

When we understand why things fail, we see the weaknesses of the system. Knowing the weaknesses, we can employ measures to keep them as strong and durable as possible. When we do that, we get the most life we could hope for, out of the equipment. Transformers and breakers will fail. It is the nature of the electromagnetic force, one of the five Elemental Forces of the universe.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time—do you see that as a complete escape or an extension of your career?

I spent my 20s in active military service and didn't have time for a family. I married at 36 and soon after, my wife gave birth to two boys. They are now 16 and 14 and are very active in sports. With housework, school work, travel soccer and travel hockey, we don't know what spare time is. I enjoy watching the boys play and try to see every game I can. I play hockey myself in an adult league on Sunday nights. We like to get away when we can and camp in a pull behind camper.

I like boating with the boys. They are movie junkies so we typically will catch a movie regularly. My wife and I like the Broadway Shows and regularly attend the theatre. I manage a travel soccer team and I am also on the Board of Directors of my Neighborhood Homeowners Association.

We also have two Weiner dogs that swing between joy and pain. 

I am always thinking about work issues or conversations I have had. I have a difficult time taking my thoughts off of stubborn problems. Sometimes I tunnel in a thought direction on an issue and can't find my way out. I find that I when I force my thoughts off of them with outside activities. I usually return with a fresh perspective. I encourage everyone to get involved with something outside of work.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

 I was a poor student in high school. I was one of those the system pushed through to get rid of. It wasn't until I was tired of manual labor in the military that I purposed in myself to get an education. When I did that and put my full effort into school, I excelled. I try to teach in a way that would reach a student like me. I want my audience to gain something they did not know before. I want them to know that with desire and effort anyone can do great things.

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