"In my job, a lot depends on the wish to progress: surfing the Internet in search of the solution won't work"
Since the dawn of time, Russian women were renowned for their ability to do hard work while retaining the charm and femininity. Times have changed, but women still show interest in the traditionally masculine professions. Irina Pashueva, PhD in Engineering and Electrical engineer for equipment and systems operation and maintenance of the separate subdivision – Toll Plaza at 515 km of M-4 Don Highway, tells how UTS Company sets unusual tasks and everyday creates conditions for the progress of its employees.
– A toll plaza is the complicated facilities. You are the one, who keeps all these facilities up and running, aren't you?
– Right. I ensure that everything works fine. I am in charge of all equipment – toll bars, arms, reduction gears, automation tools, controllers, UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies), RSCs (road switchboard cabinets), weather stations, gantries and even surveillance camera masts, of course, only on the highway site of 492 – 545 km of M-4 Highway. But it's more than enough for me (smiling).
– And what do you do, if some equipment has failed?
– If any failure occurs, my main task is to reveal the reason, and, of course, fix it. This can be either a mechanical damage or a software failure, power outage or mains damage. Of course, there are different situations, and it's not always possible to resolve the issue right away. Sometimes you have to replace all the equipment or some of its components, and it takes time. If the breakdown cannot be fixed remotely, we arrange the on-site visit, where we carry out diagnostics to identify the failure. All incidents are recorded in the dedicated reporting system. We use this system to track procurement of the required components, maintain statistics and check out similar incidents. No matter what happens, we always find the solution, the most important thing for us is users' satisfaction.
– What are the strangest failures that you have faced in your work?
– You won't believe it: there were cases, when the lightning struck the equipment and its components burnt out. Of course, this is very unusual, you don't see that often. We have even saved the video from the surveillance cameras.
– How do you find out that the equipment has been damaged? How do you keep a check on its operation?
– According to the established procedure, every employee that takes over the job must accept the shift from his/her colleagues. For example, my schedule of work is two shifts followed by two days-off, with the shift lasting 12 hours since 9 a.m. till 9 p.m., but I always try to come earlier and find out about all incidents and the measures taken to eliminate them, as sometimes the charge capacity during night turns out to be much higher than during the day time.
The headcount of our department for equipment and systems operation and maintenance is not actually numerous – only seven employees. We usually don't see each often, but we always keep in touch. Each of us, during his or her shift, always inspects the equipment on toll plaza lanes and checks, if the it is up and running. The same regards the equipment on the road, but for that, you don't have to go out on-site, we have the dedicated monitoring systems that help us check everything remotely.
Besides, every morning we get the report from the Traffic Management Service (TMS) operators – about cameras' mobility, image transfer, etc. We always inspect the server room, electrical distribution board rooms, DGU (diesel generator unit that supplies standby power in case of external power outage). We record the inspection results in the special log that is handed over to the next employee on duty. This is how you can prevent the failure or order the required part beforehand.
– Do you have any services that help you to do your job? Who do you interact with most often?
– During the on-site visit I often need help of TMS operators. As a rule, they help us with the equipment performance evaluation after the repair using the monitoring system. If the malfunction resulted from the car accident, then the operators call Traffic Police to record the incident. And of course, our important assistants are traffic & safety inspectors. They sign the scene of work performance to ensure our safety.
– You have mentioned the established procedure. Does it include any safety rules you must follow in the first place?
– You have to follow all the rules. An employee must understand that health, fire and electric safety is a must. The main rule is to be careful in everything, not only during your job. This is especially obvious on the highway: for example, several years ago, the large truck tire got blown, and the truck overleaped the road safety barrier to the oncoming traffic lane. The driver was not injured and escaped with nothing worse than a fright and a couple of scratches, and drivers of the upcoming cars managed to put on the brake. But this was a large truck, so eventually it shut off three lanes causing a huge traffic jam. The truck driver has turned out to notice the issue, but ignored the problem hoping to drive to the parking area. As a result, he has put his life and lives of other drivers at risk.
Or here is another case – as I've said, every on-site visit of ours is accompanied by the traffic & safety inspector – he signs the incident site. This is done not only for the sake of our safety, but also that of other road users. This is also a rule.
And if you have to work at height, you must use the fastening. There are many rules, and you have to observe all of them.
– You sound like an experienced employee. How long have you been working for the company? Have you learnt anything new, when you started working in the toll road maintenance field?
– I have been working for UTS for almost five years. I think any newcomer faces something unusual in a new workplace, but if desired, he or she can learn and understand everything. And in my job a lot depends on the wish to progress: surfing the Internet in search of the solution won't work. We have to search for a lot of things by ourselves: to research, examine the equipment manuals, diagnose and analyze the failures.
We often turn to mutual aid – we share information and the ready-to-use solutions with our colleagues, sometimes we investigate and search for the answer together. Besides, it's really interesting for me to work with the technical tools, mostly, with the software. It is in UTS that I have had a close encounter with the equipment, and it became an important experience that helped me address the arising issues from different angles. In our work, you cannot just watch and do nothing. There can be a case when a toll collector calls you from the lane – some equipment is out of order. You don't have time to open and read the manual, you have to respond quickly, to make the decision so that road users could pass quickly.
– What is the most unusual task you have faced while working for UTS?
– An interesting question. This one! Once I had to weld metal by myself. I had never done it before and I haven't thought that I would ever do this. It was definitely interesting. I cannot say that I am good at it now (smiling), but this is the experience I've acquired.
– An electrical engineer is usually not the first choice of profession for a lady… How come that you have become so interested in this area of work?
– I don't classify professions as male and female ones – everyone chooses the occupation based on their interests, character and possibilities. I have never been a girl in the pink dress, you know. You see, I had always enjoyed helping my dad, especially when he repaired a TV set, or let me use a volt meter.
At school I liked physics and mathematics, I regularly took part in academic competitions, and after I graduated from school, I entered the University and studied computer-aided design systems. After that, I defended my thesis and became PhD in Engineering. Believe me: it was not all of a sudden, as if something dawned upon me. I have always been interested in this kind of things.
– Do your professional skills help you in everyday life?
– Of course they do. I wish all my home appliances always work fine (laughing), but there is no such thing – and I have to repair them.
– Right, there’s never a dull moment in your job. Do you want to get distracted once in a while? What helps you in this case?
– My job is really very diverse, and I'd say I’m very lucky as it makes the job even more interesting. But when I come home, my six-year-old son meets me. He's such a fidget: together we go skating, skiing, sing and dance, bake biscuits, cook meat pockets, dumplings, and of course do his home tasks (laughing). I love him so much. When I am with him, I get distracted and have a rest.
– What would you wish to UTS female employees on the threshold of the International Women's Day?
– I wish every woman to find a job she is comfortable with. We spend so much time at our workplace, that is why it's really important for the job to be useful and enjoyable. And of course I wish everyone to have your nearest and dearest that would meet you when you come home!