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Perspectives from Our Advisory Board: Darren Tillman

Feb. 16, 2024
One of our members shares his varied experiences, concerns for the utility industry and thoughts about T&D World Live here.

The T&D World Live expert advisory board is instrumental in selecting the topics, presentations and speakers for our program. One of our members shares his varied experiences, concerns for the utility industry and thoughts about T&D World Live here.

Darren Tillman is supervisor of AMI Field Operations at Baltimore Gas & Electric, an Exelon company. He helps provide governance and oversight of contractor management, field execution, and inspection strategy for residential electric and gas meter maintenance, smart meter/advanced meter infrastructure installation, and gas service abandonments. Tillman has about eight years of energy utility experience, starting in 2015 in Chicago at ComEd working in field and meter Services, new business, and distribution operations business support. 

Q: How did you get into the utility industry? Is this something that you always know you had wanted to do? 

A: In 2015, I had just turned 23 and had the opportunity to become a meter reader for ComEd (Chicago-based electric utility). I read meter by foot up until the opportunity came for me to be part of the AMI electric deployment. I did not have a plan to always be part of the utilities industry. I originally had planned to go into project management or finance.

Q; Is there anything from your past that really pointed you to where you are now in your career?

A:  The main things from my past that helped me to get to leadership now were being intentional and proactive with networking, learning where other job functions were in and outside of my department and learning different sides of the business. Direct field experience of both gas and electric metering, to engineering and design quality assurance, to contract and project management all have prepared me as I deal with most of these same things today. It also allows me to help others in and outside of my department when necessary.

Q: What is one of the biggest obstacles you have faced in your life or career and how did you get past it?

A:  The biggest obstacle to date has been swift change in departmental structure. You get use to a certain way and comfortability of operating business, but when change came, collaboration, best practice sharing, and being adaptable was very beneficial. Change is constant in life overall, but how we handle change and actions we take is what we make it most times.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job now?

A:  I enjoy being able to lead and build up people. While I have direct experience in the past doing the work, now that I’m overseeing it, helping a new team learn it, instilling key values and best practices for productivity, safety, and customer experience, but also building them up. Building up also means being able to show them where they were, where they are, and expose them to opportunities to grow and network to strengthen their careers and knowledge.

Q: What is one of the more exciting things that has happened to you in your career?

A:  One of the more exciting things that’s happened to me in my career was speaking being invited to join the T&D World Advisory Board. Often, many see or hear about senior management or executive leadership on boards, and that those are the main opinions and perspectives that matter, but it’s not. As a front-line leader currently, I’m grateful to be on a utility industry board where I can learn from engineers, project management professional, operations professionals, safety, analytical professionals — which some are a mixture of individual contributors up to executive leaders. This allows me to truly focus and obtain perspectives across the industry for happenings, best practices, and innovative solutions.

Q: From your corner of the industry, what are the major problems do you see that need to be addressed?

A:   There are several major problems (or concerns) including not enough attention and energy spent on addressing workforce development. Our industry is changing rapidly with the way we operate, the customer demand for solar energy and electrification, new processes and protocols, innovation to name a few things. Many talk about it, but many don’t get involved as they should.  Another is grid hardening. 

Q: Any ideas on what can help those problems?

A: While this has been a focus of discussion the last couple of years, areas of concern are still there. More proactive surveying, obtaining big, clean data, and looking for opportunities for undergrounding high risk areas exposed to frequent power outages and safety hazards. Vegetation Management is part of this as well. Also, installation of more electric distribution viper/distribution automation switches when appropriate. Of course, we know that a lot of money and investments will be needed for this, but these two are key areas for me.

Q: What do you think has been one of the most exciting technologies or events that has happened in our industry in your lifetime?

A:  For electric distribution, industry implementation and use of drones. This helps with pole and component surveying along with other surveying benefits especially during storm season.

Q: What did you enjoy about last year’s T&D World Live event?

A:  Last year, I enjoyed T&D World’s attention to the carbon footprint, which was especially relevant to the host utility (SMUD) and California regulations. I also appreciated how T&D World allowed to have implemented its first Workforce Development panel session by industry leaders to discuss best practices and trends while providing each other and the audience on ways to get involved and to grow.

Q: What are you looking forward to this year at T&D World Live?

A:  More collaborative efforts and key learnings. The industry is continuing to evolve year over year, so whether it’s electrification efforts, transmission load, undergrounding efforts, or how workforce development efforts contribute to meet customer demands and provide opportunities, it’s good for the industry, and I’m looking forward to it.

Note: the 2024 T&D World Live Conferene and Exhibition will be at the Hilton Atlanta Downtown from Oct. 1-3.

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