Interview with PACWorld Guru Julio Eisman from Spain

PAC World:  When and where were you born?
J.E.: My parents lived in Madrid, but I was born on November 18, 1950 in my uncle's house in Quintanar de la Orden (Toledo) where he worked as an obstetrician.

PAC World:  Where did you go to school?
J.E.: My father was a teacher in a public school in Madrid and there I began to learn to read and write and so on. When I was seven years old I moved to a Jesuit school (Nuestra Señora del Recuerdo) where I finished my studies before going to the University. From this time I maintain a very good group of friends, some of them are now very prestigious professionals. I managed to keep my scholarship throughout the school thanks to my good grades.

PAC World:  Do you remember anything from your childhood that you think contributed to you becoming an engineer? 
J.E.:  The taste for arming / disarming mechanisms. Preference for construction games.

PAC World:   Who do you think is the person that had the most influence on you when you were growing up?
J.E.:  My father. When he was 14 years old he became an orphan. Some years later he moved to Madrid and worked and studied at the same time. As a teacher, he worked long days in a public school to support his family during a hard period of the Spanish history. I understood that one can get something, but it is necessary to work hard.

PAC World:  Why did you decide to continue your education?
J.E.:   It was a natural evolution. I was a good student and at home education was considered to be an opportunity for a better future. Education was very appreciated at home in part due to the environment in a teacher’s home, and in part because my father had very limited opportunities.

PAC World:  How did you choose the university to go to?
J.E:  The Jesuits influence during the school period was a critical point. I assumed at this moment and for the rest of my life some values concerning hard and rigorous work, the discipline to assume compromises, the desire to change the world… The Jesuits had a very prestigious High Engineering School specialized in electromechanical engineering. I thought that was a good way to provide better living conditions for the people, and the ICAI High Technical School could give me the opportunity to be well prepared. Attending a private University was not easy for a lower middle class family, but they supported me very enthusiastically.

PAC World:  Did you study electric power systems or protection while in college?
J.E.:  I studied some subjects of electric power systems: electromagnetic fields and circuits, electrical machines, Electrical engineering, Power systems (Generation, lines and substation) and labs. Also, I studied control and power electronics.
I learned something about very basic protection concepts in the Substation class.
Some years later, when I was working at the utility, I was for five years a professor of a new subject about Protection and Frequency Regulation. It was a very interesting experience that I recommend to anyone wishing to learn deeper a specific matter. You do not know well something if you cannot explain it in an easy and understandable way.

PAC World:   Did you have any other interests while in university?
J.E.:  Mountain hiking and climbing.

PAC World:  What was the early phase of your career?
J.E.:  When I graduated (June 1973) and after doing some job interviews in a couple of companies, I went to do a course on American Culture at the University of Berkeley in the United States. And there, in San Francisco, I learned that I had been selected to work at Hidroeléctrica Española (later Iberdrola). When I first showed up in September, they told me there were three available positions: nuclear fuel management engineer, assembly engineer and protective engineer. In 1973, at the age of 22, I started as a protection engineer.

I began at the engineering department designing one line diagrams and supervising the control and protection designs. I also participated in some training courses at General Electric (US}, ASEA (Sweden) and Brown Boveri (Swirzerland). Soon I began to teach protection and control regulation at the ICAI Engineering School. I remember especially my participation in the incidents and black out analysis and the technical discussions with colleagues of other utilities. This activity was very intensive, but very useful to learn the behavior of the protection system and to specify new protection functionalities and applications. During those years I was responsible for the control and protection engineering of the new power plants and transmission and sub-transmission substations.
Afterwards I assumed also the protection O&M responsibility. To integrate the complete protection cycle from design to the replacement was a big new step in the utility in order to have an entire view of the protection system and its behavior. With the merger with the Iberduero utility, to form Iberdrola, I was responsible for the Protection and Control Department and later for the Network Engineering Department.

PAC World:   How did your career at Iberdrola develop to bring you to the position of Director of Engineering?
J.E.:  At a time when engineering work was significantly reduced due to the reduction in the construction of new facilities, at Iberdrola it was decided to set up an engineering company (Iberinco) that would also work for other clients, in order to maintain the engineering capabilities of the company intact. In an electrical company with personnel accustomed to work without much pressure, this decision was a shock. I joined Iberinco from its beginning as a director of Networks willing to bid competitively in public projects. Thus, in addition to engineering Iberdrola's facilities in Spain and outside of Spain (Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, ...), we won contests to build transmission lines and substations for CFE in Mexico, automate and telecontrol the networks of Albania, etc.

PAC World:  What is the most challenging project that you worked on at Iberdrola?
J.E.:  From a management point of view, participating in the creation of Iberinco, transforming a property engineering into a competitive engineering that manages to win orders, manage an income statement, create an environment for teamwork, was a very enriching experience Along with people with a lot of experience we hired fresh engineers and the mix was very motivating for all. The pressure and the challenges were great, but the experience of overcoming them and getting results was very enriching. Seeing an organization grow from nothing, creating its own philosophy and operational modes, managing to achieve results was a very motivating and satisfying challenge.

PAC World:  What was the most satisfying project you worked on?
J.E.: From the technical point of view, one of the most satisfactory episodes was when, after studying the oscillograms in the analysis of an incident, I found in my report that a nuclear power plant had fired by the under-excitation protection because the limiting stage of low excitation the regulation was not adequate. I found out that my conclusion was sent to the manufacturer who readjusted the underexcitation setting and a training course on the excitation of the generator was given to the electrical engineers of the plant.

PAC World:  Since 1994 you were working in parallel at COLEGIO/ASOCIACION DE INGENIEROS DEL ICAI. What was your role there and why did you do it?
J.E.:  I accepted the position as a member of the Board of Directors at the professional association.  I was responsible for the development of the association strategy and promoting it between my fellows. In particular, I was involved in the quarterly publication of the association and the technical articles selection. I now belong to the Advisory board to participate in the design of the association strategy and to review the annual results.
I am representing my engineering association, in the Engineering and Sustainable Development Committee of the Spanish Engineering Institute. We promote conferences to share the role of the engineering in the society.

PAC World:  After 27 years at Iberdrola you became the General Director of IBERINCO - the engineering and construction branch of Iberdrola. Did you prefer a management job or a technical one?
J.E.:  I had very good experiences with bosses who understood the technical problems, and not so positive when the management was in the hands of people that either forgot the technicalities, or did not worry them. Managing an engineering company with qualified technical personnel is not just another management. It has its specific connotations that are key to the success of the organization. You cannot develop a good technical work if there is no good engineering management.

PAC World:  In 1997 you went to business school. Why?
J.E.:  After a long time dedicated to technical works, it was a good opportunity to reinforce the managerial concepts and to network with colleagues from different sectors. I had to develop management abilities to be prepared.

PAC World:  Later you became involved with Energy without Borders. What is the goal of this organization and what was your role in it?
J.E.: I spent four years volunteering to work in Energy Without Borders (EsF), an organization of which I was part of its promoter committee but which I could not dedicate while I was in the company. EsF was formed by pre-retired personnel with high qualifications from electricity companies, and whose mission is to provide access to energy for isolated rural communities without prospects of having access to basic energy or water services. During those four years (2004-2008) I was a member of the Board of Directors, I coordinated the design and implementation of the first strategic plan, I directed the studies department and later I was a project manager. In short, I applied my knowledge and experience to provide access to energy to those who had no expectations of having it. Very poor people and communities from developing countries, with great needs and no voice to demand solutions. I learned the real energy problems on the planet, the energy poverty, the environmental problems that now begin to worry us.

PAC World:  During the last 10 years you worked for ACCIONA Microenergia. What do you think is the role of such organizations and why did you get involved?
J.E.:  In 2008 I began to work with the ACCIONA Group. The idea was to develop a corporate foundation with the mission to provide basic services, and especially electric services, to remote, isolated communities in developing countries where the conventional solutions are not applicable. At the end of 2008 the ACCIONA Microenergy Foundation was created and we began to work in the North of Peru and later, in 2012 in the Oaxaca Mexican State. Now the Foundation has also projects in Panamá, the Amazon region and refugees’ camps in Ethiopia.The Foundation is providing electricity to near 50.000 people with solar home systems. We developed electricity delivering models to get sustainability and affordability, and to empower the local communities.
Nowadays, The Foundation is a reference part in the social area of the ACCIONA Group which is an organization dedicated to sustainable development.

PAC World:  For many years you have been involved with different engineering organizations in Spain. How important do you think is their role for your development as a professional?
J.E.:  Today more than ever, it is necessary to rely on others to achieve results. And that is what professional associations provide us: a network of contacts which are able to support us when we need it. There are also issues that affect the development of the profession and that can only be discussed by joining. It is a way of transmitting to society the role of engineering, providing opinions, debates and possible solutions to current problems.

PAC World:  Have you been involved in any CIGRE or other international organizations’ work?
J.E.:  I have been involved in different committees of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to generate regulations on protections, measurement transformers, disturbances, ...
I was also involved in StudyCommittee 34 on Electrical Protections of CIGRÉ where I had the opportunity to be in contact with colleagues from other countries. This allowed me to meet the most relevant international experts in the world of power system protection.

PAC World:  During your career you were involved in the application of electromechanical, solid state and microprocessor based protection relays. What do you think about the transition from one technology to another in a large utility like Iberdrola?
J.E.:  I had to introduce and spread the use of digital protections, starting with the distribution networks, followed by subtransmission and transmission.
In the plants, it was possible to separate generation and protection and specify the protection system that we thought most convenient. This represented taking risks that could only be assumed if there was a deep knowledge of the subject, backed by the results.

PAC World:  What do you believe is the best way to share your knowledge and experience with the new generation of protection engineers?
J.E.:  Within the professional activity I think it is very good to include young engineers and engineers with great experience in the same team. What we saw in Iberinco when doing this is that they mutually motivate each other, some by valuing knowledge and experience and others by being valued and recognized.

I have always maintained a relationship with the School of Engineers and have proposed and directed Master's projects. Propose real problems motivates and gives meaning to the work and dedication of the student helping him to turn to work, and is a very valuable source to explore new solutions and to be able to put them into practice in your case.
Finally, at the Foundation we maintain field practices with students based on agreements with universities. In our case, the contact with reality and the operative to facilitate energy is a unique experience to know the part of reality that is normally unknown.

PAC World:  What do you think is most important for a protection engineer’s development?
J.E.:  Apart from a good technical background based on a good knowledge of the dynamics of electrical systems, I believe that today more than ever we must be aware of trends, new experiences and the directions of electric service and have the ability to adapt and provide solutions.

PAC World:  What do you consider the biggest challenge in your professional career?
J.E.:  Manage / motivate specialists. Develop and implement models, sustainable and affordable, for the provision of basic electricity service in isolated rural communities.

PAC World:  What do you consider your biggest professional accomplishment?
J.E.:  Digital protections. Development of sustainable and affordable models for access to energy in isolated rural communities.

PAC World:  Have you received any awards and if Yes, which is the one that is the most important to you?
J.E.:  I received some awards concerning the results with the ACCIONA Foundation. But the most important for me are the smiles and grateful words of the people in very remote places when they get electric light for the first time. They see a future for their sons.

PAC World:  What do you think we need to do to attract more young people to our industry?
J.E.:  Young people dedicated to engineering and especially women. The new generations do not find any sense in undertaking demanding careers in order to continue maintaining this unsustainable world. And that is precisely what we must make them see: that engineering can and should be a lever for change to create a better world.
Every year they invite me to talk to students and I tell them how we apply, for example, information and communication technologies to facilitate access to basic services of isolated rural communities, and every year I see faces of surprise. In short, I believe that the true spirit of the engineer is to improve the living conditions of his fellow human beings.

PAC World:  What is the advice that you would give when you are in front of an audience of young people?
J.E.:  Let them do what they like. Essential components such as passion, perseverance will be given if they dedicate themselves to something that gives them meaning. Young people are concerned and motivated by environmental issues, global problems of humanity. It is important to look for their solutions in the face of new challenges. Technology can and should help but it requires the will to apply it to solve the problems of the majority.

PAC World:  You have traveled to many countries. Do you have a favorite place to visit?
J.E.:  Amazonia.

PAC World:  Do you have a hobby or something that you like to do when you are not working?
J.E.:  Mountaineering in the past and now, walking, gardening, reading, but also to speak and play with my grandsons.

PAC World:  You have been married for 43 years. What is the secret?
J.E.:  Support and understanding. Recognition of the effort of each one. But above all, have shared goals.

PAC World:  How do you mix your professional and your personal life?
J.E.:  During the stage of professional development it is very difficult to dedicate all the time that one would like for the family. The professional demands, the trips, ... made it difficult to reconcile it with family life. Fortunately, my wife has dedicated herself to taking care of family relationships and attending to support needs. Over time I have been able to spend more time with the family and in recent years I have enjoyed and enjoy my grandchildren a lot.

PAC World:  You are still working in different roles. Do you ever consider retiring?
J.E.:  Most people like the retirement because they can do something that they like, without pressure. I am now thinking about my next initiative. According with the age you have to adapt your role, but there is a lot of things to do, and the problems of our world need contributions of educated people.

PAC World:  What is your favorite music?
J.E.:  When I work at home I like to hear Gregorian or jazz music in the background. They transmit me peace and tranquility.

PAC World:  What is your favorite entertainment?
J.E.:  Gardening, reading …and talking and playing with my grandchildren.

PAC World:  Do you have any favorite food?
J.E.:  I like trying new flavours and foods. I find Peruvian cuisine excellent. The integration of flavours of different cuisines seems a permanent innovation. It is not surprising that the two best Latin American restaurants are Peruvian.

PAC World:  Do you have a motto?
J.E.:  If you intend to do things "it is preferable that you ask for forgiveness than permission" There is no other way to learn than doing.

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