Success, it has been said, usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
IEEE Senior Member Chan Wong is a perfect example.
This super-involved member leads the IEEE New Orleans Section, Region 5, national and IEEE Power & Energy Society programs — both professional and technical. Here are just a few of his achievements:
- In 2015, he launched the first IEEE-USA Future Leaders Forum
- In 2017, he organized a Utility Communication Architecture 61850 Joint Interoperability event — followed a week later by an IEEE Power & Energy Society working group meeting on 61850 and digital communication
- In 2019, he chaired EVO19 — IEEE-USA’s premiere leadership conference
- Currently, he is serving on the prestigious Engineering Board at Tulane University, where he is also Robotics Coordinator for the IEEE Student Branch
- In May 2020, he obtained his MBA from Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business
IEEE-USA has honored Wong with the 2019 IEEE-USA George F. McClure Citation of Honor for his “significant sustained contributions in promoting professional development and fostering industry partnerships.”
IEEE Member Shreyas Pawale, who nominated him for the award, describes Wong as “a motivating figure for many new hires and young professionals with his unsurpassed passion and energy.”
Pawale should know; he met Wong in 2014. As an intern, Pawale was assigned to Wong’s department. Pawale is now an engineer in Entergy Distributed Energy Resources. He is also the 2020 chair for the New Orleans Section Chapter of the IEEE Power & Energy Society — a case in point for Wong’s abilities to mentor and encourage young professionals to get involved in IEEE.
“Chan is a very inspiring person,” says Pawale. “His energy, his knowledge and his passion for what he does set him apart.”
IEEE Senior Member Julio Romero Agüero was one of Wong’s endorsers for the award. Vice president and executive advisor for Quanta Technology, Aguero has worked with Wong on several important projects. He appreciates how Wong “always looks for the innovative angle.”
“Things are not static for him,” says Romero Agüero, “he’s always searching for dynamic, continuous improvements. His energy is contagious.”
Within Entergy, the electrical utility for 2.9 million customers in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, Wong’s colleagues, managers and company leaders know him for his out-of-the-box thinking, in exploring how to improve both power grid safety and reliability.
In 2015, Wong and his team piloted the world’s first multiple-vendor, digital substation protection system. Wong’s idea for a special Entergy lab for vendors was vital to the project’s success; at so-called “Plugfests,” the 13 vendors tested their devices for interoperability and integration.
A Benchmark for Others
The Digital Substation Lab is among the utility’s key grid-modernization initiatives — prompted by the catastrophe Hurricane Katrina wreaked in 2005. The hurricane damaged around 260 Entergy substations and 1,550 feeders, so storm hardening and grid resiliency are critical for the utility. Many U.S. utilities are now using Entergy’s digital substation pilot system as a guide to develop their own pilot system and introduce this emerging technology into their grid.
In mid-2018, the company asked Wong to head the company’s new Advanced Metering Laboratory, which he also designed and built; it measures and tests smart meters and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).
Through his energetic and committed involvement in the IEC 61850 Process Taskforce, and also the IEEE Power & Energy Society, IEEE-USA Energy Policy Committee, and organizations like CIGRE and EPRI, Chan Wong has become an influencer for digital substations and interoperability.
At the same time, he also is known for his passion of grooming talented young energy professionals for success — and, at age 39, of being a role model for them.
“He believes career success is about more than being technically savvy, and that the soft skills are just as important,” says Pawale. “Besides mentoring his Entergy team, Chan serves on Tulane’s Engineering Board — where he advises the school on topics that students need to learn in college, and recommends speakers for Engineering School events.”
Preparing Young Professionals
Wong says that preparing young professionals is essential. “We need them to continue to lead the way for future generations, and to increase the value they can bring to industry.”
Entergy supports his IEEE involvement. “They find it very beneficial,” he says. “At meetings and conferences, I learn trends, meet other people, and hear more about the power industry’s concerns. When I bring this back to the company, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
One example is Wong’s leadership, in 2017, of the Utility Communication Architecture 61850 Joint Interoperability event; and the subsequent IEEE PES working group meeting on 61850 and digital communication — both held in New Orleans. More than 200 subject-matter experts from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other key organizations attended the first meeting.
First Future Leaders Forum
Wong’s role in creating the first IEEE-USA Future Leaders Forum, in 2015, began at another event — the 2014 IEEE Sections Congress in Amsterdam. After he and other members from New Orleans heard James Jefferies, 2014 IEEE-USA President, mention a possible future event for Young Professionals, Wong and his colleagues went to work. During a break, they met with IEEE-USA representatives to suggest hosting the event in New Orleans. While discussing logistics, Wong used Facebook Messenger to contact a friend in the Tulane Housing Department about accommodating 150 people in a university dormitory the following summer.
He recalls that she immediately responded “Yes,” to which Jefferies told the New Orleans group, “You’re in!”
A native of Malaysia, Wong arrived in the United States in 2001, after two cousins who had attended Ohio State, encouraged him to further his education in America. At Tulane, he obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees — and also met his future wife. Cat Wong is currently manager of Entergy’s Transformation Strategy and Commercialization.
Chan Wong received his M.S. just before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. He spent the next year in San Diego, working in a friend’s international trade business, but decided that technical knowledge and business don’t necessarily blend.
“In the business world,” he reflects, “nothing is ideal and you always need to be thinking ahead about risks, uncertainties and strategies.”
He studied for and received his doctorate at Clemson University, with a focus on automotive manufacturing. After graduating, he interviewed at Entergy, where his diverse technical background – which includes robotics, AI, and automotive engineering — was a big advantage.
What’s next? As a member of IEEE-USA’s Communications Committee, he’s thinking about strategies to keep members connected and involved during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the AMI lab he manages, Wong says that work continues, maintaining its critical efforts to ensure a reliable power grid, while strictly following Centers for Disease Control Guidelines.
Continuing to groom young leaders is also crucial. “IEEE can bring enormous value to industry,” he says, “and I want to help lead the way.”
Seeking Nominations for 2020 IEEE-USA Awards
IEEE-USA is now accepting nominations for 2020 awards — recognizing excellence, outstanding service and contributions in furtherance of its objectives. The deadline to nominate is 15 September. For a full list of awards and for more information on how to nominate, visit: https://ieeeusa.org/volunteers/awards-recognition/
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.