In today’s article we cast our eye on the Panama Young Professionals. We speak to the chair of the affinity group, Mr. Fotis Stringos.
Fotis tell us a little about yourself
From an early age I felt attracted to solving problems of all kinds. I was always passionate about mathematics and physics which motivated me to participate in different competitions representing my school. This offered me new challenges, constantly pushing me to excel. At that moment, I realized that my future was in engineering, encouraged by the examples of my father an uncle, who were also engineers.
I studied at the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá (Technological University of Panama) and obtained the title of electromechanical engineer. I also have a postgraduate degree in Management and an MBA from the Univesidad Latina de Panamá.
My story at the IEEE began in the early years of my engineering career in 2008, when I became a student member. I found in the Spectrum magazine a constant source of knowledge and saw in the IEEE a complement to my professional career, keeping me updated with the new trends in technology. As a senior student, I became an active volunteer at the university chapter, and participated as chair of the IAS (Industry Applications Society). My enthusiasm with the institute resulted in me becoming a volunteer with the Panama Section when I graduated, becoming treasurer of IAS and currently Chair of the Young Professionals Committee.
Currently, I work for Banco General, the largest private Panamanian bank with 60 years of existence and 69 branches. As a project engineer of the maintenance division, I collaborate with the manager in the elaboration of proposals for energy efficiency projects and their implementation, as well as projects for the replacement of old assets. I run and track projects related to electrical power, power plants, UPS, air conditioners, lighting and our recent incursion in a photovoltaic plant project. I’m also responsible for the implementation, operation and maintenance of remote monitoring software and hardware systems in progress for this equipment. In conclusion, I’m always searching to obtain the most efficiency in our electrical operation.
I am proud to manage a photovoltaic plant project on one of our branches, being the first financial institution in Panama to have this type of system. I hope that this project has motivated others to invest in renewable energy and contribute to lower the carbon footprint that affects our world climate too.
Panama is a relatively small country. However, the IEEE Panama Section is extremely active and has a long tradition of great volunteering work. Can you tell us a little about the Section and some of the activities it conducts?
Yes, Panama is a small country with a population of around 4 million; but we have a great tradition of volunteer work, from student members to professional members, always proud to belong and participate. In 2014, our sustained effort was recognized by earning the award for Outstanding Small Chapter of the World and in 2015 the award for Best region 9 Chapter. We have 7 active chapters and 4 active committees that often make a balance between technical, social and administrative activities, making members stay engaged with the section.
Regarding technical activities, we engage in tours, seminars and tutorials, among others. For social interpenetration we do hiking, camping and all sort of sports, as well as holidays celebrations. And as of administrative activities, the chapters and the general assembly meet regularly. Maintaining the balance has been the formula to keep members exited about participating on the activities and in many cases becoming volunteers.
What are some of the major development projects in Panama/Panama City and what are the major sectors in which IEEE Young Professionals are employed in?
The 2 biggest projects in Panama City are the Panama Canal expansion and the new subway line. We can proudly state that we have active young professionals participating in these projects as well as in many other important projects that are under developent in Panama. Our country, having the greatest economic growth in the region, offers a variety of opportunities in our field. Traditionally, IEEE Young Professionals were employed mostly in the electric and electromechanical sectors but as of late, there has been a tendency towards more employment in the telecommunications and computer science sectors, becoming the ones that hold most of our members.
The Young Professionals of Panama recently undertook a tour of the country’s largest brewery.
The tour started with the history of the brewery which was the first to introduce a Panamanian beer. Then, we went through the different stages to produce beer, from the dispatch of the grains, to the filling of bottles and cans. The participants were interested in the PLC systems that control most of the processes in the plant including valves, conveyors, volume levels, product filling, temperature levels, pressure etc. All these signals are sent to several Scada software systems which are operated by qualified personnel that have the responsibility production of the plant.
We also learned that the plant has a water treatment system that cleans water from bacteria which produce gases that are used afterwards, in the boilers, for production. At last, participants had the chance to have a recently produced beer tasting.
What advice can you offer to students transitioning into the workforce and becoming young professionals?
Learn the more you can about soft skills. Most young professional engineers have a great understanding of technical skills after completing university, but they lack management abilities. These days, companies are often recruiting engineers, not just for their technical knowledge, but for a much broader spectrum of abilities. I would advise that new young professionals develop skills and knowledge in communication, leadership, human resources, project management, customer management, accounting, finance and others.
Anything else you would like to add?
Our 2016 plan for Panama Young professionals include, in addition to traditional technical activities, management and entrepreneurial activities. We will benefit from the participation of experts in their respective areas .These activities look for young professionals to get familiarized with these important skills.
Interview conducted by Eddie Custovic, Editor in Chief, IMPACT by IEEE Young Professionals