Energy industry careers: interview with an engineering manager
Energy industry careers offer a wide range of interesting opportunities. You could manage site operations, develop new solar parks, or negotiate power purchase agreements with world-leading businesses.
But what’s it like to work in the energy sector?
Engineering manager Tony Freitag has worked at Infinis for 20 years. In this post, he shares some of his experiences, and explains how each job has helped him to develop and progress through the business.
1999: Apprentice overhaul technician
I had always been interested in mechanics and cars and wanted to do something hands-on after leaving school. As an apprentice I learnt about mechanics, electrics, and controls. As well as overhauling engines, the training included jobs on site - such as changing turbo chargers, diagnosing faults and completing overhaul work. I also did a two-year day release at college, which provided a solid theory to back up my new practical skills.
2001: Field service technician
Next, I moved into a field-based job, working on captured landfill methane sites. This was a remote role, which gave me the chance to work independently. You’re trusted to get on with things, figure problems out and work on bigger jobs, like responding to technical engine faults. I enjoyed talking things through with other team members and learning all the time.
2003: Field engineer
After training, I was promoted to an engineer position. I went around the country doing services, overhauls and fixing machine breakdowns. Some work was on very remote sites, and getting the keys to a van was exciting at the time.
2004: Team leader
The following year, I managed overhauls in the workshop, then took engines to site to recommission them. Within six months, I was promoted to team leader.
Infinis was growing (nothing changes!), and there were loads more sites and engines to deal with. This job showed me how to lead people, make sure things are done right first time and meet tight deadlines. I also had to sort the trickiest breakdowns. As every system is unwired, you learn loads about different problems.
2012: Field service engineer
Technical competence is critical in our line of work. I was promoted to a specialist field service engineer role with the final call on mechanical diagnostics - that’s about as high as you can get on the tools.
I trained and supported new starters, spending time with people to show them the ropes. I also ran job-based training courses and provided mentoring.
In this position, I got more involved in the business side of things. I looked at long-term business challenges and worked out factors that affected engine reliability. That offered the chance to develop new office skills – such as extracting technical information from systems, analysing data in Excel, and using pivot tables. I devised engineering solutions and presented reports to teams across the business – sometimes speaking in front of 200 people.
2018: Field service manager
Next, I was promoted to a field service manager job, covering sites from Warrington to Aberdeen. Our team of technicians covered 10 sites, and 30+ engines. This job was 90% leadership and 10% on the tools. I worked with the team, trained people, and shaped how things worked.
As field service manager, you’re in charge of the engines and other assets – and need to make sure everything keeps running reliably.
2019: Field service technical manager
When a new regional team was created at Infinis to look after engine breakdowns, I took the helm. We had to find new ways to work together, as there were people with different specialisms in the team - including overhaul specialists and engineers handling major problems, such as multiple head failures and complex control systems.
All the teams managed their own work but as a leader, it was my job to make sure people co-ordinated and supported each other. I also had to manage overhaul spend efficiently – with much bigger budgets than in previous roles. It’s always easy to put new parts on an engine, but you must know when it’s OK to reuse parts.
2023: Engineering manager
Earlier this year I was promoted to engineering manager, with the brief to focus on long-term projects. My team looks at business improvements, how to standardise jobs and quality of work. We’re also reviewing and maintaining engineering standards, and constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency.
What tips would you give to someone considering an energy industry career?
One great thing about operations is immediate results. By 5.00pm you know if you’ve done a decent job, because the engines will be running again.
I’ve always liked to be busy and get stuck into the job. To do this kind of work, you need to like engines and enjoy figuring things out. It’s a fantastic job if you are inquisitive.
Doing an apprenticeship helped me learn about something I enjoyed, learn on the job, and get decent pay. Otherwise, I would have gone into a garage or worked on HGV engines.
Infinis is a growing business, committed to developing its people. I have been given regular opportunities to progress and build my skills, like many other colleagues in the company. If you have the desire and commitment, there are several career paths to choose from if you are keen to pursue an energy industry career.