With humble beginnings and a grand vision, SOS Intl (SOS) was established in 2002. Today, with more than 16,000 students representing nearly 1,000 organizations, SOS is a recognized and commended training and compliance company.
“I knew there was a need for improved training in this industry. NERC had just implemented the System Operator Certification Program in 1998. The utilities were searching for quality training to help system operators achieve the newly required certification and meet the North American Electric Reliability Council’s (NERC’s) requirements to improve performance for their system operators,” said Rocky Sease, Owner and CEO of SOS.
Sease, a 35-year veteran of the utility industry, is no stranger to the operations, delivery, and management of the electrical grid. “I’m an old utility guy, so I felt comfortable with offering up my expertise, sharing my knowledge, and recounting some unnerving events with other operators,” Sease said.
His vision was simple: Develop a company to help improve reliability of the North American electric grid by training the people who run it on a day-to-day basis. This sounded simple, but the early days were long and grueling for Sease. “I remember going on the road to facilitate classes during the day and then staying up late to develop instructional material. Hotel rooms, airports, and training facilities were my new homes almost every week,” he said.
As the request for classes and new material grew, so did the company. A sales team was implemented, along with instructional designers and developers. Sease added trainers to help with the demand. His one-man training company now began to flourish. Not only did his staff expand, delivery methods also expanded. Answering the request for online training, the SOS instructional designers and developers began producing online material for the industry. As a result, SOS was the first company to offer an online NERC System Operator Certification course. This course, coupled with the company’s proprietary Learning Management System, proved to be the right call for the young company.
As NERC standards became more demanding, additional course content was developed to meet the continuing education hours requirements. Soon, SOS added an Advisory Services business line to track and interpret NERC Reliability Standards. Subject Matter Experts translate the standards into customized training and compliance solutions – helping companies to manage risk and ensure reliability for the North American power grid.
As the years unfolded, Sease’s vision was realized by continuing to meet the needs and challenges of an ever-growing and complex grid. Emergency Operations training was developed using simulator-based instruction. “The competency of system operators is critical, especially in an emergency. The industry realized a lack of situation awareness and inadequate reliability tools could negatively impact performance of the operators. Our solution was to incorporate a simulator into the training content that fully mimics the power grid to prepare system operators for real-time events,” Sease said.
Never the one to be complacent, in 2015, Sease once again realized an opportunity to enhance SOS services. SOS acquired the power division of APT Global to expand and strengthen their technical training and compliance programs for the electric industry. The new arrangement provided additional training content and delivery in the distribution and generation areas to students and professionals in the electric industry. “We have to give our students the tools, resources, and expertise for them to be successful. The more opportunities we seek out and provide, our chances for a more reliable grid come to fruition,” said Sease.
In addition, SOS recently began offering small utilities with limited training resources a more efficient and effective way to manage their training programs. Sease explained the SAT Advantage tool was launched with the small utilities in mind. “We’re constantly reminded of the toll it takes on resources for small companies to comply with training and compliance requirements. This tool may likely be the answer to their needs,” explained Sease. The SAT Advantage is yet another example of how Sease continues to search for answers to help utilities meet reliability challenges.
According to Sease, the past 15 years have flown by. When asked about the secret to SOS’s success, he is quick to commend his staff. “We’ve been smart a few times and lucky a few times. I’m convinced a CEO must have a good team by his side. A vision isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if you don’t have people who can execute and make things happen. I can’t take all the credit for our success. I believe you hire the right people and allow them to help make decisions based on their knowledge and experience. The staff here at SOS continues to support me, each other, our customers, our students, and the industry. We all have the same mission – reliable training, reliable solutions, and reliable customer service,” he commented.