Ten on Tech: Spotlight on Daniel Diaz

Interview with professional engineer and IEEE senior member

4 December 2018

IEEE Senior Member Daniel Diaz is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Georgia and currently works for renewable energy provider, Southern Company in Atlanta as a team leader of the Protection and Control Applications group (System Protection). As an IEEE volunteer he serves as the Regions 1 -7 Representative to IEEE’s Power and Energy Society’s Governing Board. He also served as the vice chair for the Atlanta Section and as the IEEE Young Professionals coordinator for Region 3.

Diaz has also worked for power management companies including Georgia Power Co. as a protection and control field services engineer and Eaton Corp. as a commissioning engineer. He also worked as a systems engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense.

When he is not working, volunteering, or studying for his MBA at the Georgia Tech, Diaz enjoys traveling with his wife and playing softball.

What are you currently reading?

I would love to read a lot more than I do right now! I have several books on my shelf but the ones that I am actively reading are The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement and Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. Although they talk about completely different subjects, both relate to the purposeful improvement of processes, which highly resonates with me both at a professional and personal level.

What invention has inspired you the most?

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Being the first major optical telescope to be placed in space, the Hubble Space Telescope has been showing us life from a different perspective for the past 28 years. We have been able to see an invention that went to space in 1990 do great things and then be given major upgrades by engineers at NASA. These upgrades have prolonged its life, allowing for continued space exploration and providing beautiful photographs of celestial bodies. It truly reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You'll Go!

What are the books, movies, or plays that you have enjoyed the most in recent years?

I enjoy the performing arts a lot! My two favorite musicals from the past few years are “Hamilton” and “A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.”

Is there anything in technology today that worries you?

All technologies bring their challenges but my main concern is technology disruptions. To think that within 150 years we have gone from traveling on horseback to self-driving cars is just incredible! We need to find out how to positively manage these types of technology disruptions for the benefit of all of humanity rather than for the benefit of the few.

In recent years, what aspect of technology has surprised you the most?

Information accessibility. I grew up in a rural area in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, and my access to information was a book dictionary and a book encyclopedia. It is incredible to see how information now is readily accessible on the computer at anytime and anywhere. For example, when I plan my travel, I go to social media and search for real-time pictures of the areas I’m traveling to. Who would have thought that possible 20 years ago?

What was the best advice anyone has given you?

“State the weather,” which, when used out of context readers may not understand why.

Early on in my career a mentor realized that I was an engineer’s engineer, meaning that I liked to state many details before presenting the point. One afternoon he asked me, “When a meteorologist states the weather, what are you looking for?” I quickly realized that the meteorological precursors that led me to dress in layers or grab an umbrella were not of interest to me. Rather, I was interested about the consequences of those precursors such as the day was going to be hot, cold, or rainy. This advice has served me well in my career.

What has been or is your favorite equation or concept in engineering, and why?

Voltage (V) = Current (I) x Resistance (R) and all its variances in real and apparent power. I am a power system protection engineer, so these equations rule my professional life. As a power engineer, V=RI is my bread and butter.

      The reasoning behind it resides in the fact that almost everything I do is being managed by it or is a variance of it. It is indeed a beautiful equation that relates to everyday things as well. For example, let us think of a water faucet. The more we open the faucet, the more water flows through it. What happens if the distance from the water source to the faucet is really far away? It takes longer for the water to get from the source to the faucet.

 The speed of the water is equivalent to current (I) and the distance between the water source and the faucet is our resistance (R). Voltage then ends up being the time it takes water to get from one place to the other. The bigger the water source, the more force it will have to get to the faucet quicker. Now, what happens if water is unintentionally diverted between the source and the faucet? The amount of water coming out of your faucet has decreased and we now have to figure out exactly where that leak is! That, in a very simplistic way, is what our system protection team does: make sure that if electricity goes somewhere it does not need to go, the issue gets isolated.

How many unread emails are in your inbox?

Too many! I have 21 unread emails.

What important life lesson can you share with readers?

Live life to the fullest! One never knows when a life-changing situation will present itself, and one should never have regrets.

What should IEEE be more involved in? 

Industry engagement is an area that I believe we, as an organization, will have to focus on more going forward. As times change so does the value of IEEE membership, both in the eyes of our individual members as well as the companies our members work for. We need to engage companies and entice them to be more involved at a corporate level. This would provide engagement from a ground level via our individual members as well as a top-down approach from executive officers.

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