From Intern to Engineer, Helping to Build the Grid of the Future

James Hernandez started as an intern at SCE’s Advanced Technology Lab and is now helping drive innovation at the utility.

SCE is celebrating Engineers Week, a nationwide event Feb. 21-27 showcasing how engineers are making a difference in today's innovative world.

Raised by a single mother and bouncing from school to school in the Inland Empire, James Hernandez didn’t spend much time thinking about what he wanted to do when he grew up.

Today, barely one year out of college, Hernandez is helping build the electric grid of the future as an engineer at Southern California Edison. Recently, work by Hernandez and other SCE engineers was showcased at DISTRIBUTECH, a leading industry conference that attracts thousands of utility professionals from around the world.

Hernandez’ journey from childhood to top-notch engineer starts with an English teacher at Hesperia High School. David Cain presented Hernandez with his “Mr. Cain Award for Excellence” — a copy of Macbeth inscribed with an encouraging note.

“James was a memorable student,” he said. “His work ethic, positive spirit and pursuit of excellence really stood out in high school. I am not at all surprised that he followed through with an engineering degree and a cutting-edge career.”

Hernandez admits he never finished the Shakespeare classic, but Cain became a mentor and was there whenever he needed support. Soon, Hernandez realized he was very good at math and science, and his teachers noticed it too. He moved on to Cal Poly Pomona where he majored in computer engineering.

At the edge of the Cal Poly Pomona campus sits SCE's Innovation Village office complex. The complex, and its promise of innovative engineering, piqued Hernandez’s curiosity. His senior year, he applied for an internship with the utility’s Advanced Technology Lab and was accepted.

SCE’s Advanced Technology department develops and tests technologies that will help build the electric grid of the future. For Hernandez, it was an opportunity to get hands-on experience and be part of something larger.

“The internship was an amazing experience,” he said. “Advanced Technology is unique to SCE. There is so much work going on, and so many opportunities to contribute. And everyone was so welcoming.”  

After graduating in December 2014 and ending his student internship, Hernandez immediately began working as an engineer at Advanced Technology. He is helping to better integrate solar power, electric vehicles and new energy-efficiency programs into the electric grid.

He is also helping SCE make a mark in the industry. In addition to his contribution at DISTRIBUTECH, he has written about new standards for electrical equipment. Hernandez is among a crop of young engineers and millennial problem solvers, both learning from and teaching their more senior peers.

“They have a vision for the grid of the future that is interactive, computer driven, green and utterly unlike the grid of today,” said Zeus Xioco, a senior engineer and Hernandez’s supervisor. “They continually inspire us with their creativity and commitment.”

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