Meet the team: Caren Netto

At RVA, we’re building a close-knit community where professionals are empowered to bring their best selves to work, lead at every level in their careers, and form connections that last a lifetime. None of this would be possible without our people. That’s why, as part of our Employee Spotlight series, we’re giving you a chance to learn about the dedicated individuals who make it all happen – their careers, day to day life, and the passions and philosophies that inspire them.

In this interview, we’re thrilled to introduce you to one of our exceptional teammates: Caren Netto, our I&C Junior Technologist in our London office.

Caren first discovered her passion for electromechanics watching ships sailing along the coast in her native city of Cochin, a port city in southwest India. After graduating from the Electromechanical Engineering Technology program at Sheridan College, Caren Netto joined RVA as a I&C Junior Technologist, where she brings an inquisitive mindset to find the best fit-for-purpose solutions to every project.

Here’s what Caren shared with us.

1. Tell us about a bit about yourself and your role at RVA.

I’m a recent graduate of the Electromechanical Engineering Technology program at Sheridan College. I’m a self-motivated individual and I find a lot of interest in researching about Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), and anything related to the Instrumentation & Control (I&C) industry. As a junior technologist, some of my prime duties involve drafting process & instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), PLC panel layouts, SCADA systems, and network architecture drawings. I occasionally get to do site inspections and contract administration, which involves factory-systems testing for PLCs and equipment before they go for full-fledged testing.

2. How has your background prepared you for a career in I&C engineering?

My studies in electromechanical mechanical engineering technology at Sheridan College covered PLCs and electrical drawings in detail and gave students lots of hands-on experience through labs and capstone projects, which offer a miniature version of what it would be like working in the industry itself. So that has been really helpful in developing my interest and fascination in the I&C industry.

But more than that, I believe the background that prepared me best for my role as a Junior I&C Technologist was my co-op experience. Prior to joining RVA, I also completed a year of co-op at an automation company, where I gained a lot of hands-on experience beyond the theoretical knowledge from my college program. I had a chance to work with the engineers and technologists there, working on mechanical assembling, cabinets, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and SCADA systems. That experience allowed me to wear different hats to understand the mechanical aspect, the electrical aspect, and the programming side. I got a chance to work in every sphere of PLCs, which I believe is the most important thing: that is the heart of the industry that you need to know if you are working in I&C. Although the water and wastewater treatment projects are a new industry to me, the core of my work is still focused mainly on PLCs and SCADA.

3. When did you first become interested in engineering technology?

My interest in the technologist field began in childhood, actually. I grew up in Munnar, a hill station in the south of India, but my native place is Cochin, which is a port city on the coast, where I got to see ships every now and then – those days are very treasured for me. What fascinated me about ships is that they are a massive weight floating on water, going from country to country, miles and miles away, and they are completely self-sufficient. Repairs, maintenance – everything is done onboard, at sea, without any external support. I’ve been fascinated by ships throughout my life since then, and being part of a ship’s crew has always been my dream. I decided to focus on the technical side of seafaring. When you see a ship, it’s completely made by engineers, and it’s a hub of electromechanics itself – you have PLCs, electrical components, machinery. But before I learned about electromechanical systems, I initially started studying robotics. I learned that the integration of robotics always needs a system to control it, and that was how I came across PLCs and electromechanics as an emerging field that was gaining popularity at the time, so that was what led to me pursuing electromechanical studies.

4. What are some of the common challenges you face in your line of work, and how do you approach them?

The I&C team are usually the detailers when it comes to a project. Although it might seem like we work on the smallest components, they can be critical for every other discipline – including civil, structural, and electrical – and their work is intertwined with the controls we work on. So, there’s a lot of interdisciplinary communication involved that’s important, and you can’t always get a full sense of the other disciplines just by having a simple conversation with them. We also have to learn from their drawings – how to read them, how to understand them. This can be challenging when, for example, you don’t understand a circuit and you need an electrical professional’s help, but sometimes you would have to rely on yourself and, at the same time, keeping up the progress at every stage of drawings is important.

So, to solve this challenge, I’ve sought help from members of my team, engineers who have experience in similar projects and had faced similar issues. They’ve helped me understand civil and structural drawings and avoid time lapses that way. We also work with contractors and subcontractors, and it can be time-consuming at times to get the information you need, but what has helped me keep the train moving is to continually send follow-up emails, questions, updates, and letting my superiors know about the status of our requests. It’s all about communication, but proactive communication is the key.

5. What advice would you offer to new grads or young professionals entering your field?

For new grads and young professionals, from my experience, I would say one should be keen in two things. First, technically speaking, you should have a solid grasp of PLCs and SCADA – you should gain as much knowledge as possible on how they work, how they communicate with each other, the different types of communication involved. And when I say PLCs, there are a lot of technical factors involved in how the PLC responds to inputs and outputs with ladder logic and Function Block Diagram (FBD) programming. Even programming knowledge would help in understanding how PLCs work and how they communicate with other PLCs.

Second, you should maintain a broad-minded attitude. Be an inquisitive learner, always be curious about learning new things. Communicate with other professionals in the same industry to learn more about how things work, and of course, be open to correction. As new grads or young professionals, we tend to hesitate when asking questions, which I believe can be one of the biggest drawbacks, because questions lead to more questions, and that can give you new knowledge and broaden your horizons in the industry. When I initially started working, asking questions was something that was hard for me to do. But I found that if I’m given a task, and I try to solve it on my own, it can take me three or four hours; however, if I approached someone who already has expertise in this topic, they would be able to give me suggestions to help me get it done in less than 15 minutes. So, it’s about smart work, and not hard work!

6. How do you stay current with the latest advancements in your industry and use them in your work?

I love to listen to TED talks and do LinkedIn Learning courses. Some of the courses on LinkedIn Learning that have been really useful in helping me learn more about the industry include:

  • Industrial Control Systems and SCADA
  • Learning Industrial Control Systems
  • Learning SCADA: Collect, Analyze, Visualize Data for Industrial Automation

We also have Lunch and Learns and vendor visits. For example, we had an instrument manufacturer visit recently that specializes in analyzers that assist operators in maintaining water quality, which led me to research more about their company and see what latest technologies are out there. When you research a new supplier, you can get a good sense from their website and contact the salesperson about the equipment’s data. You can review their technical specifications on how it’s been used, whether it was successful in other projects, how long it lasted, cost efficiency, product lifetime, possible downsides, and so on, and that way you can decide whether to rely on the same vendor for your next project, or switch to a new one.

7. What’s your favourite thing about being part of #OneRVA?

My favourite thing is my team: my manager, my colleagues, the engineers I work with. They’ve all been supportive in guiding me in my work, and also helping me to learn about RVA and the workplace. They’ve all made it a very comfortable and a welcoming environment, and I really enjoy working here.

I believe RVA has a motivating spirit. You can strive forward in various ways and the company is ready to support it. For example, one thing I’m looking forward to is obtaining my designation as a Certified Engineering Technologist (CET). My manager, as well as my colleagues, have been guiding me through the CET process and the project I can propose for my technical paper. There are a lot of people at RVA who have been obtained their CET and CTech designations, and there are also employees who are involved in the OACETT community, so you have connections right in the company itself who can help you. It’s a great thing to have, and especially as a young professional, it makes RVA a great place to start your career.

8. What would we most likely find you doing in your spare time?

I’m involved in a poetry group that meets once a month and have few of my poems published in several books and magazines, including Woman’s Era by India Magazine, Forever & Always by SPI Publications, Doctors: Saviors of Lives by Noel Lorenz House of Fiction. My grandpa used to write a lot of articles, so writing has always been in my bloodline, in a way! I wrote my first poem in eighth grade about a dream I had, and I have been keeping up with it since then. I believe poetry is a horizon which has helped me slow down and enjoy the little things in life, and I like to write about random insignificant incidents that we choose to ignore amidst the fast-paced life we live in. For example, the latest I wrote last week was about visiting a random café on a Saturday morning, and there was a small child, less than two years old, who was so curious about how crowded it was and hearing grownups talk about their whole week. So, I believe poetry has helped me feel the essence of life.

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If you’re already feeling the excitement, why wait? Take the next step in your career with us! Explore our current openings on our Careers page and join a team that is as diverse as the challenges we solve every day.