Describe your day-to-day responsibilities.
I’m mainly responsible for overseeing all power plant operations for the hospital and medical facilities on our main campus as well as three community hospitals. My team is responsible for anything to do with operations, that includes boilers, chillers, steam, chilled water, plumbing, air conditioning and waste. I think of us as being responsible for everything that either goes in or out of one of our buildings. I have a team of 17 currently report to me, primarily licensed engineers and a few maintenance mechanics who are in training to become licensed engineers. Most of them are here on our main campus. As the leader I try to visit each of our buildings at least once a month to meet with the engineers and operators at each facility.
I’m responsible for the water management program for our main complex and the industrial waste discharge permit for the city of Tulsa. I have an outside contractor who comes in to do the testing for that permit, but I’m responsible for all of the permit paperwork that must be submitted as well as water usage reports. When I started in this position, I really didn’t know anything about this permit, and it was a real education. The city wants to know exactly where all of our water is going, so I have to account for all of it whether it’s used for cooking, washing, or is lost through evaporation. My team is also responsible for checking fire extinguishers monthly in all the buildings and we hold some responsibility for the fire sprinkler systems, enabling or disabling them for any work or repairs that are being done by the fire systems team.
How did you arrive in this role?
I’ve been working at this facility for 25 years. In the mid 80’s I went to a local technical school where I learned the basics of heating and air conditioning, from residential to commercial. A portion of the curriculum was a stationary engineer’s class where they taught us about high pressure steam boilers and large tonnage chillers. In that class we went out and toured some large facilities in Tulsa. I was fascinated with the equipment and how it operated, and the sheer size was so impressive. I thought to myself, that’s what I want to do! I set a goal for myself when I got out of technical school that I wanted to work in a large hospital someday. There are three large hospitals here in Tulsa. When I graduated, I entered an apprenticeship program at a local hotel, and I worked there about three years and gained a third-class license. I then moved on to another facility where I could gain the experience to earn my first-class limited license. That license allowed me to operate any chiller but limited me on steam. I worked at Tulsa schools for a few years as an engineer and maintenance mechanic then an opportunity presented itself at a small hospital in Tulsa. That hospital gave me the high-pressure boiler experience needed to get my first-class unlimited license. Then an opportunity turned up at the large hospital I work at now. I fulfilled my goal and have been here 25 years now. I worked my way up to become a chief engineer, then when Medxcel came aboard the opportunity presented itself for me to become the facility supervisor.
What is something you’ve learned in this role that you didn’t expect?
With all my experience I thought I knew quite a bit when I became the facility supervisor. I found out really quickly that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, particularly when it came to managing and dealing with personnel who report to me. When you have 17 direct reports you have 17 personalities and 17 people that look at things 17 different ways. It’s amazing to learn how to deal with the human factor, not just a piece of equipment. Managing people is a whole different ball game.
What types of training has Medxcel provided you with to help you grow your skill set?
I have participated in several Medxcel University classes on leadership and management. I’ve learned more about managing and interviewing employees, and how to provide coaching as well as disciplinary action. Disciplining someone is very difficult for me and I don’t think it will ever get any easier. I remind myself that the issue was not my fault, the employee got themselves into a situation and it’s my job to help them get back on track.
Have you had the opportunity to develop any training programs for your team?
Yes, I’m very proud of the robust training program we use here that I developed. When one of our technicians decides they want to become an engineer, there’s a manual that I put together with an outline of every piece of equipment and every building on this campus. So when they’re working with their trainer, the trainer covers every single aspect of this facility in depth. When that individual becomes a licensed engineer, we know that they have had exposure to the operation of the boilers, chillers and other auxiliary equipment in each of our buildings, giving them all the tools they need to operate any building on this complex.
What is the best part of your job?
I love the opportunity to sit down and meet with my folks one-on-one for training. For example, I recently had the chance to sit down with my second shift. They are licensed engineers but they’re fairly new around here and they don’t know all the ins and outs of our equipment. I spent time with them one-on-one, doing training and sharing my experiences, the quirks of some of this equipment that maybe they’ve not seen before. That’s so rewarding for me, getting to share information and my years of experience with them so that they can grow and learn.
Which of Medxcel’s Core Values speaks to you and why?
I would definitely say Dedication. I have been working here a long time and I’ve been very dedicated to this facility and to saving the health system money on their energy costs and on everything that I purchase on their behalf. I work diligently with our vendors to get the best possible prices. Back in 2019 we installed a new chiller. When we purchased it, it was a very new technology and hadn’t been widely tested. There were only one or two places in the whole country that had this type of chiller. I didn’t feel comfortable putting this new unproven technology in our plant without having some king of extended warranty on it. I insisted on a 10-year bumper-to-bumper parts and labor warranty and I got it. Thank goodness we did, my gut was right and we’ve had some fairly costly issues with it in the past year and a half, all of which were thankfully covered by the warranty.
What is the most unusual thing that’s happened during your career?
When I was an operator, we had a sixteen-inch water main on the south side of our facility that tended to break. It seemed like every time that line broke it was on my shift and it was usually in the winter when it was cold and nasty out. When it would break there was so much water going down the street it looked like a whitewater rapid. We couldn’t keep the water pressure up in the building enough to push water all the way up to the fourteenth floor. It was like a major artery bleeding out. Once this happened during a blizzard and there was so much snow on the ground that the city couldn’t even locate the shutoff valves. It took them about 3 hours to dig out the vales to shut down that line so we could start building pressure back up again. That was a very long day.
Is there a project that you are particularly proud of?
I get really excited about energy savings! I started on an energy savings program back in 2008, designed to reduce energy consumption on our campus, primarily peak demand. We’ve succeeded in reducing it considerably over the years. It’s still our goal each year to try to reduce it just a little bit more, that results in big savings for our customer. The project was a real team effort, all three shifts have a role to play in how we use energy and reduce peak demand. I tell the night shift that they are just as important as those working in the afternoon, because the decisions they make and the equipment they start at midnight can make all the difference in what we’re doing the next afternoon when it’s really hot. The bottom line is we don’t want the customer to ever realize we’re doing anything differently. The message is “We’re saving you money but you’re still staying comfortable!”
What would you tell someone who asks you if they should consider coming to work for Medxcel?
Medxcel has been a great place to work. I was blessed to be presented with the opportunity to move into a leadership position when our team became part of Medxcel. My 25 years at this facility provided me with the technical foundation to do the job and to train others. Medxcel helped me advance my career in leadership by supporting me through leadership and management classes via Medxcel University. My leaders continue to support my growth as a manager.