An Interview with Dr. Wallas Khella

Dr. Wallas Khella, Ph.D., P. Eng., SLMIEEE, FEIC

Dr. Wallas Khella, SR VP Power Systems InstructorCould you tell us about your professional background in power distribution? How did you get started? Where did you work?

My first job in Egypt, after graduating in Engineering from Cairo University, was in the power distribution field. Later, I went to Germany, where I received my Ph.D., and then, in 1968, I came to Canada. I started with Hydro Mississauga, where I worked as a design engineer for a couple of years. Then, I joined Etobicoke Hydro, where, after 24 years, I retired as Manager of the Planning and Design Department in 1994.

 

How did you get involved in training and education?

Actually, I started teaching in Egypt, where I designed a special course in electrical engineering for students studying to work in oil refineries.

Later, when I came to Canada and joined Hydro Mississauga, I had to learn how Distribution systems are designed and constructed in Canada. This meant I was continually writing down technical information because the voltages, frequency, wire sizes were all totally different from what I had been used to. In Egypt, power distribution is based on the British Standards and in Germany, where I got my Ph. D., it follows the German Standards.

“E-Worx courses bring in the practical aspects of the design, construction, and maintenance of power distribution systems.”

At the end of that process, I had collected a wealth of information, and it occurred to me that it might be of interest and value to others. I suggested to the IEEE Toronto Section that it offer a course in power distribution Equipment to those who work in the power distribution sector.

What made the course so unique was that it provided a blend of theory along with proven practical applications.

The enthusiastic response to that first course led me to develop other specialized courses in the power distribution field that covered topics like PROTECTION, GROUNDING and POLE LINE CONSTRUCTION (basically sags, tensions
and guying).

 

You established a private practice in 1994, was training still a big part of that practice?

Yes. Before 1994 I used to hold these courses in the evenings because I had a day job. But after I left Etobicoke Hydro, I could offer them during the day and for 2 or 3 days in a row. With that change, the courses began to attract people from all over the country and I was able to travel and offer the seminars in different cities in Canada and the United States, as well as overseas. I’ve delivered seminars in three Caribbean islands and in Zimbabwe in Africa.

 

“…many people who have taken the courses have gone on to hold leadership roles and senior executive position at many of the country’s largest power distribution companies.”

 

How many people do you think you’ve trained over the years?

I estimate at least 2,000 over the last 40 years. Moreover, I’m delighted to say that many people who have taken the courses have gone on to hold leadership roles and senior executive position at many of the country’s largest power distribution companies.

 

What kind of feedback have you had?

In terms of direct feedback, we generally received comments ranging from “Good” to “Excellent” with respect to things like technical content and the quality of presentation. The most compelling feedback came from the fact that these seminars were in high demand for 40 years. That’s the real testament to their value and their success.

 

In 2014, you began to work with E-Worx to provide online training. Tell us a bit about that experience? How did you adapt your content to fit the E-Worx platform? Why was that important to you?

In 2014, I announced that I was planning to retire from holding my seminars. Shortly after the announcement, Toronto Hydro asked me to run all my seminars for their engineering staff – once in the spring and once in the fall. It was at this point that E-Worx approached me with the proposal to take my material and convert it to web-based seminars.

So, we arranged to videotape my presentations, which covered 10 days. The videotapes were transcribed and I reviewed the text to ensure absolute correctness. E-Worx engaged professional presenters to deliver the seminars and took full advantage of the digital environment to make this information more accessible.

Finding a way to continue presenting this material was important to me because it continues to meet a real need. It is still true that there are no other publicly-available training courses in Canada that are designed to support and educate those who are working in, or those who want to join, the power distribution industry.

At the end of the process, I was very pleased with the quality of the final product and proud to be associated with it.

 

“E-Worx courses bring in the practical aspects of the design, construction, and maintenance of power distribution systems.”

What skills and information does E-Worx provide that is not provided through standard university and college courses?

Universities and Colleges teach mainly the theory of electrical engineering; but E-Worx courses bring in the practical aspects of the design, construction, and maintenance of power distribution systems. So, these seminars fill an important gap and that is why they are always in demand.

 

Who should take E-Worx courses?

As I mentioned earlier, these courses are beneficial not only to individuals working in the design and construction of power distribution systems, but also those providing consulting services to Hydro Utilities and even those supplying material and equipment to local distribution companies.

 

Why did E-Worx design a set of courses for non-technical staff?

Lately, we have seen an increasing number of non-technical staff joining the Hydro Utilities especially those in administrative positions. The E-Worx team
developed an introductory course called: Power System Fundamentals Course for Non-Technical Staff to provide these individuals with an accessible introduction to all aspects of power distribution.

 

“E-Worx continually monitors any changes in relevant industry practices or material standards and updates the seminars accordingly.”

How do you ensure that your content stays up-to-date and relevant?

E-Worx continually monitors any changes in relevant industry practices or material standards and updates the seminars accordingly.

 

Can E-Worx courses help engineers in Ontario meet their PEAK requirements?

In March 2017, the Association of Professional Engineer Ontario launched a new program called PEAK which stands for Practice Evaluation and Knowledge. This program requires all practicing engineers to maintain their professional competence by taking courses relevant to their field of work.

E-Worx courses qualify for PEAK and I would encourage all practicing engineers in Ontario working for Local Distribution Companies to use these courses to help meet their continuing knowledge targets.