Intern Spotlight: John BarnardArticle
CNUC hired a Consulting Utility Forester (CUF) intern for the summer of 2017 named John Barnard. John, who interned with CNUC for six weeks in the Indianapolis area, wrote a summary of his experience.
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By John Barnard, Consulting Utility Forester Summer 2017 Intern
My time with CNUC was an experience not lacking adjectives in my journal: invigorating, new, expanding, fun, hard, interesting, inspiring, rewarding, and many others. I was swept up by what felt like a whirlwind of new information and new people from the moment I first spoke with Jordan in HR until I shook my supervisor Jeremy’s hand goodbye. I cannot say I have ever felt such a perfect storm and I feel truly honored to have been a part of CNUC for those six weeks. I genuinely felt many connections between the internship and education which encouraged me to tackle the myriad of new things coming my way every day. I would like to present to you a very brief overview of my actions each week, comments, takeaways, and how I felt that week went.
My first week …
During my first week with CNUC, I was lucky enough to be delegated to Matt, the regional manager of division 20. Doing my orientation with him was a rather exciting time. (I bet it must sound strange to hear someone say the orientation was exciting.) Matt brought a liveliness and energy to the work that he was teaching me all about eagerly. Those first four days I learned a lot about the job itself, right around 10 tree species just on my second day, and an enormous amount about how the company carried itself and treated its employees and how it managed them. I was very lucky to meet Brian, Jim, and Wanda too! Brian taught me hands on how the CUFs were doing their job on the first day I was in the field. He showed me what they were looking for, removals, and the distinction between the different levels of vegetation underneath the power lines. Jim, who was still relatively green (under supervision) at the time, was eager to show me how to read the paper maps that the CUFs used to find and work the lines within that map. Wanda was very nice and helpful in teaching me more about the technology side of things. The next day I was worked with Cody. Cody is a forester as well as a master arborist. He took me around on tickets most of the day, and showed me tree crews at work. We talked about many types of trees, tree diseases, risk factors, etc. Very interesting and fun week.
The first week was thrilling and daunting, but the extremely helpful and kind people around me from CNUC helped me each step of the way to feel more comfortable with the job and them. This was a very good week, and I learned an immense amount. (11 of my journal pages filled.)
My second week …
For my second week with CNUC, I was working directly with Jeremy, a lead CUF. Our first interaction covered some of the materials from the internship program overview such as the overall power distribution and how there can be conflicts of interest and communication between the client, consultant, contractors, and the customer. Then I was sorting papers in true intern fashion, going through a tall stack of Trouble Tickets (TTs). Jeremy took me out with him on multiple days to do TTs, learn about the job he was doing as a lead CUF, and taught me about time sheets as well as the materials that are often needed by CUFs. He took me, Brian, and Jim to see the tree crews in action, which was very interesting and insightful (knowing they were pruning what these CUFs had marked). I was able to learn about Brian’s time with the tree contractor and Jim’s experience as a teacher and how that affected their perspectives at work. While I spent much of this week doing TTs, paper sorting, and learning more about the industry, I had many great experiences each day with everyone around me. It is important work and very good fun. This week was the first week of my life working four ten-hour shifts, and the people around me supported every step of the way. Jeremy was amazing at being considerate of anything I may need and be very informative about any subject we talked about generally. He was extremely busy, but that didn’t stop him from doing his best to be a great supervisor. It was a good week.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences from my second week; I learned a lot about the problems that the customer, our CUFs and the tree contractors often run into and most of the issues arose from communication difficulties from one party or another. I learned about the industry in many different areas and from varying perspectives, and I also had a unique opportunity to hear both the client and our opinions on different matters.
My third week …
Now my third week with CNUC was wholly different. The company flew me on my first solo flight ever to CNUC’s corporate office located in Des Moines, Iowa, for what they call CNUC Leadership Academy. (You can learn more about that here.) Going in, I was completely unaware of what to truly expect. However, after expanding my comfort zone and introducing myself to as many people as possible, I worked to get the hang of it. We did ice breakers and got to know one another. I can say without trouble that my third week was an experience worthy of standing apart from the internship. I learned more about leadership, mindset, personal growth, and other important points at the one-week leadership academy than I had during my entire life. Each day was loaded with powerful speakers, important information, and valuable discussions with everyone at the conference. I wrote copious notes on the topics I found most interesting or important and feel as though I honestly may have a leg up on most people in my age group for having this experience. The leadership of the company welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to feel comfortable enough to voice my thoughts and contribute when I could. I think very few companies have the attitude toward their employees that CNUC exudes. Learning and growing with and from the employees with their involvement is, I believe, an integral part of what makes CNUC so special, accepting, and successful. The men and women I met in my third week were quite special people. Not one person was rude or condescending toward me; everyone was worthy of a much higher stature than me; yet no one acted as such, not even the upper management. It was very warming and impressive. It made me feel jubilant and deeply interested with each day. I had an expansive and exciting week in Iowa.
Some of my biggest takeaways from the academy was to always be willing to say yes to new things, expand your comfort zone, strive to learn and grow always, expand your certifications and qualifications whenever possible, network, be a leader, build goals and achieve them, and quite a bunch more important points. I took 11 pages worth of notes in the CNUC Leadership Academy, and I believe I’ll have a use for 80 percent of what I wrote down. I met some amazing people, from whom I learned a lot. I also learned more about the utility consulting industry than I thought possible. Truly a great experience, and I was very honored and lucky to have been invited.
Ending my third week and into my fourth …
Once my third week ended, Amanda Smith, CNUC’s project training coordinator, and I flew to California that Friday, and CNUC provided me with a beautiful hotel and a truck in Geyserville, California. After the weekend ended, Amanda picked me up, and we drove across the mountain ranges. She took me away from the administrative building and out into the geyser riddled mountains to give me a tour and a basic impression of the work being done out in this area. We spent the next four days doing one thing: pole inventory. However, each day was entirely different in our task. Tuesday was poles along a mountain side along a road. Wednesday, we went hiking down a mountain and across valleys. I used a wide variety of technology and equipment Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday had us facing cliffs and narrow paths cutting across the mountains, as well as dense overgrowth. I ran a mix of the three tools that day. While this week’s literal work may have been a little similar each day, I gained a lot of new experience every day I was out there. Amanda was incredibly helpful, informative, patient, and most of all she was honest and nice. She taught me about a seemingly endless set of codes within California, she took me up to a tree, showed me how to assess it, and how to enter it into the client’s system. I learned around 15 new tree species from Amanda, as well as information about the client and what her role was out in California. It was a genuinely thrilling and hard experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. After learning almost everything there was to know about our client and what CNUC does for them, I left for home Friday. My fourth and arguably most exciting week was over, and it had been amazing.
I learned a lot about myself, the world, and a ton about CNUC and its whole industry while I was away from home for two weeks. I learned how to get along with people much older than me, to learn from and hear those who were willing to help me, to begin critically thinking about everything I learned about, and how I could apply it.
My fifth and sixth weeks …
For my last two weeks, I am going to combine them into one ‘chapter’ because they flew by. Back in Indiana, Jeremy and I ran tickets for most of the fourth week. We went all around town, and I helped by putting in the data actively as we went and got out with him at every stop to gain experience. Wednesday I attended a big safety meeting for two clients along with the tree contractors for both clients. I also went out again later in the week and did some transmission line audits on the west side of Indianapolis. I had many good conversations with Jeremy and Cody. The team organized a farewell lunch for me which was very considerate and fun! For my last week, Cody took me out to do “outage investigations” which is, as he described it, Tree CSI. It was very fun and taught me a lot about how the power grid feeds itself (at least here in Indy) and how hard it truly is to maintain control over the expansive line miles that make it. Tom took me out and I learned a lot from him. We talked about the relationship between the client, consultant, and contractor, and how he views the utility vegetation management industry. Kelly took me out to do an assortment of transmission and distribution tickets, all of which were specific tickets just for him. He was an amazing character to witness work. Kelly accomplished his goals as soon as he was able and didn’t let anything slip away from him it seemed. He talked with me extensively about customer service and how he carries himself and interacts with the customers. He had a very impressive work ethic, and I don’t think he understands how much merit he has earned with Jeremy and the client for his good work. I learned a lot from Kelly.
My last two weeks were varied but fun and still very informative. I learned a lot from everyone and had a pleasurable goodbye lunch with everyone. I felt like I had accomplished a lot with every person.
Internship in summary …
Finishing the internship was surreal, and I believe it to be a course altering event within my life. I had an amazing experience learning about the UVM and CUF universe. I learned more about power poles than I’d care to admit. (Side note for everyone who warned me: I do see figuratively every pole on the road). I learned about 20-30 tree species in total, including defining characteristics, such as bark patterns, leaf morphology, diseases, and common indicators. I gained intimate knowledge of our clients’ systems. I learned how CUFs do their jobs entirely differently for each contract first hand and got to hear just how varying the contracts can be. I learned a lot about vegetation like finding growth rates, invasive species, poisonous and helpful plants, and how crazy varied the ecosystems are in the U.S. I learned a lot, probably most of all, through talking and getting to know so many amazing people. Different perspectives, getting along, communication, delegation, PPE, IURC guidelines, NERC, conducting meetings, the anatomy of a tree, rural and fire knowledge, TRAQ. All of this and much more would be completely lost on me without the help of everyone I worked with.
There was a theme to the internship: friendly encouragement. At no point did any of the people I worked with yell at me or push me to do something outside of my ability (or comfort zone). Instead, everyone very politely managed to ask or indirectly ask me to do the task at hand to the best of my ability and rewarding that with positive feedback. People made their points shine with examples and anecdotes instead of declaring they had the only right answers. (Matt did a particularly good job at getting points across.) Everyone was able to do this in a very polite and friendly way. There was literally nothing CNUC could have done better for me. I felt like I was treated as an honored guest. I had an amazing experience through and through on my end. Good luck in your coming years and may this company receive many good people as interns.