Meet Our People: GAI Protection & Controls Engineering Professional David Bierl

David Bierl, PE is one of hundreds of skilled GAI professionals who help clients create better communities, transportation infrastructure, energy generation and delivery, and more from our office locations throughout the United States. Today we’ll find out a little about what makes David tick—the background, motivation, and methods that he brings to the table every day for GAI and GAI’s clients.

Slide Name: David Bierl
GAI Office Location: Jackson, MI Hometown: Garden City, MI
Education: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Lawrence Technical University; currently enrolled in GAI’s MBA program at Point Park University Professional Licenses: Professional Engineer (PE) in MI Hobbies/Pastimes: Carpentry, mechanics, running, motorcycle touring On staff at GAI since 2014

Q: Please tell us a little about how you arrived at your area of specialization.

David Bierl: I have been working in Protection and Controls (P&C) engineering for substations since 2010. P&C relates to the wiring diagrams and schematics that dictate how equipment is supposed to operate within a system. The way I explain what we do is by relating our work to the breaker panel in the typical house. Instead of 120/240VAC breakers like you’d have at home, we install 13.8-500kV breakers in a substation. Though the breakers perform the same function—tripping on fault—they do so by different means. Your typical house breaker trips automatically, while a substation breaker needs to be told when to trip by a relay (often referred to as an IED, which stands for intelligent electronic device). GAI’s task is to develop the wiring diagrams and schematics that guide field crews on how to install the IED, show technicians how it functions, and instruct operators on how to control it.

I came to this profession by chance: when I went back to college using my Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, the VA selected Electrical Engineering as my most appropriate career path. I went to Lawrence Technological University due to their reputation as a premier engineering school in the state of Michigan. A random conversation with a fellow student led to me applying to work for a local major producer of protection equipment for power systems, which was the beginning of my current career.

Q: What role do you play at GAI, and what sorts of projects do you typically contribute to?

David: The projects I work on typically involve replacement of major substation equipment including breakers, transformers, capacitor banks, and switches. These projects require multidiscipline involvement and typically include substation physical, structural, and Protection & Controls, but can also include components like right of way, environmental, transmission, distribution, and permitting, just to name a few. We currently have steady work with some great utilities, and recently I have been involved with a unique green energy project involving one of the largest offshore wind farms in the United States at 800MW. I worked with fellow GAI technical staff to develop GAI’s Substation/Protection & Controls offerings, and I am now working to expand our services to include field services and relay settings.

Q: What do you like most about your job, and why do you feel GAI is a good place to put your skills to work?

David: My favorite part of what I do is addressing technical challenges: I love to solve problems, and our clients allow us the opportunity to work on many different types of challenges, each with a unique solution. Life is great when everything goes as planned, but what happens when things don’t go as expected? This is where I like to come in.

When you are on a site where something isn’t working as it should, and the team is scratching their heads wondering what’s next, I love to be among those who come up with possible solutions. Your knowledge is put to the test: You have to investigate prints, make calculated assumptions on potential causes, identify possible solutions, and find a starting point to execute a plan of action after the client has made a decision. I was at one site where an alarm was occurring randomly, and no one on site could make sense of it. It didn’t take long to figure out that there was a wiring error involving an extra wire on a terminal that was not shown on the prints.

As far as work satisfaction, GAI is an excellent example of how an individual contributor can make significant impact within a firm. When I look around, I see so many outstanding performers here at GAI who play important roles in our company’s achievements and success. We are called to accomplish challenging tasks on tight schedules, and as a result we are highly rated by our clients. This reinforces GAI’s company values of building trust through our quality controls and hard work. I would rather work at a firm like GAI where an individual’s contributions make a meaningful impact on the company than be a cog in a wheel within a larger firm.

I would rather work at a firm like GAI where an individual’s contributions make a meaningful impact on the company than be a cog in a wheel within a larger firm.

 Q: How do you measure your success?

David: Success to me is dependent upon the topic. In terms of work, I measure success by meeting and exceeding deadlines, producing high quality work, getting positive feedback from the client, and earning recognition of my hard work from my peers. Professional success is measured by growth and not staying stagnant or becoming complacent. It’s about attaining goals you have set for yourself, then setting higher ones. I could have stopped at my BSEE, or even when I passed my PE—but then what? Coast for the next 20 years? Nope, not me—I am pursuing my MBA through GAI’s in-house program and thinking about my next professional goal.

Personal success, on the other hand, is far more complicated. What is it that makes a person successful—wealth, prestige, knowledge, accomplishments? A life spent in pursuit solely of these as a measure of success would undoubtedly corrupt life. To me, the measurement of personal success is directly related to your personal relationships, quality of life, and level of serenity. As I see it, this doesn’t mean abandoning one’s ambitions, it means being more conscious about your time with others and being present in the time you do have. For me that means spending time with my kids, coaching soccer and softball, and volunteering at ROTC events. This is what personal success is in my mind, and it can be observed through the happiness and peace that one experiences.

Q: How do you feel that the job you do at GAI benefits the community and the world?

David: That’s a no brainer: our lights are on, you can charge your car, get your Starbucks coffee, and eat Hello Bistro for lunch! The work we do is essential to the growth and maintenance of the power grid, and though we may not always see the impact of our work, the grid doesn’t typically fail. Together we tirelessly work to compile deliverables,  meet deadlines, and accomplish impactful results. Our work at GAI and the work of others like us help meet the nation’s growing power demands—our combined efforts today pave the way for future generations to accomplish great things.

Contact David at 517.435.3941 and find out more about GAI’s substation and protection & controls engineering services—message GAI online and start the conversation about how our multidiscipline professionals can meet your unique project needs.

David Bierl, PE is the manager of GAI’s Relay Setting & Technical Services team and specializes in design engineering and project management. David currently leads a team of professionals in completing full substation design projects from conception to construction, ranging from simple replacements to complex multi-year projects.

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