The Adventure of Endlessly Exploring Life

by Nina Selak, S&C Electric Company, Canada

I earned my Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada, and was hired into the Engineer-In-Training program at BC Hydro (British Columbia Utility Government Corporation) in February 2008.
During my five years with the company, I rotated through a number of departments. This included substation electrical design, protection and control support services, transmission issues in BC Hydro’s marketing arm Powerex and a secondment to the Vancouver Olympic Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games where I worked as the Mountain Venues Regional Technical Manager responsible for the electrical design of the entire temporary electrical infrastructure on the mountain venues. I am now a Registered Professional Engineer with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists of British Columbia (APEGBC) and currently work as an Automation and Communication Field Service Engineer at S&C Electric Company based out of Chicago. I commission S&C’s smart grid solutions across the country using S&C switching equipment, controls and intelligent software products. I am also an active IEEE PES member.

In my spare time, I like to explore. An adventure to me can be anything from spinning the globe and pinning a place to visit or a street in the neighborhood that I had never walked through. My travels have taken me off the beaten paths and to places such as Cuba to experience Socialism first hand, Bonaire to scuba dive and windsurf for a week, to Vanuatu to witness the remoteness of Tanna Island and an active volcano, to the Australian Outback to see the Uluru rock and learn about their aboriginal culture, a week sailing and scuba diving trip through the Great Barrier reef, numerous camping and snowboarding trips in my backyard, the Canadian Rockies, scuba diving with Sea Lions on Hornby Island in the Pacific Northwest ocean (again in my backyard).
Of-course I have also traveled the popular destinations of major cities and countries such as Paris, London, Venice, Florence, Vienna, Istanbul, castles all over Ireland and Scotland, small towns and villages throughout European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, major American cities and Mexico.

I guess my fascination with seeing the world started with moving to Libya from back then Yugoslavia at the age of 6. In Libya, my parents (who are both electrical engineers) took me to see Leptis Magna (an ancient Roman city) and beautiful Oasis type beaches while traveling to job sites. I quickly learned that I wanted a job that will allow me to see places that others don’t even know exist or yet alone get to see.
Moving to Canada at the age of 10, my third continent, I lost my fear of change and started enjoying every minute that I get where I am and anticipating and looking for the next big change or new experience.

I started exploring new activities and roles to see what they are in order to be able to speak from experience:

  • In high school, I thought I’d give modeling a try. I enjoyed being on the runway and was featured on a few magazine covers and local newspapers. I didn’t enjoy the artificial nature of the industry but still from time to time I model for friends’ clothing lines or projects
  • I also enjoyed spending time on the computer and being able to program and create things. So I took up to do the entire yearbook in my high school in Grade 12
  • I also wrote movie reviews and interviewed local artists for a newspaper issued at all of Vancouver’s high schools.
  • At that time, I played the flute for 7 years

I always had an interest in physics and science and learning how the world works. I wanted to know what my parents were talking about when they saw transmission lines or substations on family road trips.
I wanted to be able to talk and argue with my older brothers. I watched a lot of Star Trek Next Generation where Captain Picard would talk about exploring new worlds and new civilizations. So naturally I was interested in Engineering.

I also had an interest in Law and discussing world events given that I had already seen so much of it. But when it came down to choosing a career I chose Engineering because I would like to be able to practice it anywhere in this world and even travel as part of my job.

Today I still see my job as a hobby since I get to be part of projects and see things or places other careers would not enable me to see. Some of my most memorable places were skidoo-ing Whistler mountain to look for power sources to feed heaters for ski start tests and on hill cameras for the Olympic Games, watching the Olympic Games from front and back stage as part of my job after designing the temporary infrastructure, going to remote hydro generating stations in the beautiful Canadian Rocky mountains, seeing small towns in the middle of the US that I would never otherwise go to such as Bentonville, Arkansas, or Stafford in England, old steam tunnels under Victoria, BC and other high security places.

  • The place I feel the most free though is on or under the Ocean. I have been part of sailing crews in Vancouver for small harbor races. This is something that I want to pursue and hope to one day spend a couple of years sailing to remote islands around the world
  • I scuba dive every opportunity I get when traveling to areas with somewhat easy access to equipment. I have gone on scuba diving specific trips
  • Windsurfing is a hobby that I’ve picked up since I was 16 but have never gotten proficient at. I enjoy it because there is so much to learn and to know.

It is a very physically demanding sport requiring strength and balance and yet it also requires knowing the physics of the wind and the currents. There is also an adrenaline rush that comes with planing across a body of water solely through natural forces. It requires a lot of time and experience on the water to get good at so once you learn one skill, you move on to the next one. I would windsurf every summer in order to do something productive while spending my summers at my family home on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. I also took a weeklong trip to Bonaire to advance my skills but still there is so much to learn.

  • Up until a year ago, I spent my winters on the Vancouver mountains snowboarding and took up snowboard slalom racing. Again, there is a lot of physics to making efficient turns and timing your power just right out of the turn to give you maximum speed
  • To keep up with the carving skills for snowboarding, I picked up long boarding and enjoy simply cruising the sea wall with friends on sunny days. I bought a small boat with a 4 horsepower motor to get me to small islands around where our family home is in Croatia. I could have bought a speed boat but I chose the small traditional fishing boat because I enjoy the act of getting to the destination and just cruising and feeling the waves
  • breaking and wobbling the boat
    I now live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which is another adventure that I chose to explore. I work based out of Chicago but I get to work from home and drive in a couple of times a week when I’m not traveling and commissioning automation projects. Chicago’s size is a bit overwhelming given that I came from West Vancouver where I lived half way up a mountain with bears literally in our back yard.
  • Every day I go to a Crossfit box where I do high intensity interval training incorporating gymnastics moves and heavy weight lifting. I started doing Crossfit as part of my snowboard racing to get fitter and for now that is all I do. (It’s been a brutal winter here in Wisconsin.)

I can do it anywhere I travel as there are now Crossfit gyms all over the world and the work outs are posted online so I can follow my own gym’s program.
I try to set new PRs for how much I can lift and how fast I can complete given exercises. It keeps me healthy and moving.


Biography:

Nina Selak received a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She started her career with BC Hydro in 2008. She rotated through substation electrical design, protection and control support services, transmission issues in BC Hydro’s marketing arm Powerex and a secondment to the Vancouver Olympic Committee for the 2010 Games.
She worked as the Mountain Venues Technical manager responsible for the electrical design of the entire temporary electrical infrastructure on the mountain venues. She currently works as an Automation and Communication field service engineer at S&C Electric Company in Chicago, USA, commissioning S&C’s smart grid solutions.

 



 

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