Back in ancient Greece, the great Plato dreamed of “tools which would teach men their own use”. After all, every hammer is only as good as its user – and vice versa! The provision of tailored information for users, the imparting of knowledge and the training of skills were therefore already central components in the range of today’s TSCNET Services when it was launched almost seven years ago. Our HR & Development Manager Aanchal Sood from the Corporate Services unit oversees all online and offline offerings of the TSCNET Academy. Especially the user seminars and trainings are also closely connected with Enes Halilovic, Lead Operations Manager in the Service Operations unit. He is not only “a man of the first hour” at TSCNET Services and has helped to develop the company and most of the services, but above all he has played a major role in the development and implementation of the training offers. We have met the man, who has been called “Doctor Grid” a few times in recognition, for an interview.
Where does your passion for this important topic come from?
I owe my passion for the training world to two factors: Character and experience. Character, because I am a person who loves to share and pass on knowledge, especially to the younger generation. In my eyes, when knowledge is being passed on and merged with innovative ideas from those who receive it, great positive changes come about. Experience, because I was actively involved in providing trainings at my previous job at ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator, and learnt about its strong importance for a company’s long-term success.
What role does training and educational activities play at TSCNET Services?
As we started, we first organised only internal trainings, because we were group of individuals with vastly different level of experience and we wanted to bring all operational staff to the required knowledge level. Afterwards we started also offering trainings for customers, and following their needs, the product trainings developed through time to three various levels. To bring TSCNET closer to the customers, we first organised Starter Training, presenting the whole TSC idea and TSCNET vision, goals, and service portfolio. Training was suitable for new employees of both, TSOs and TSCNET.
Does that happen here in the Munich offices? The technical facilities are ideal …
That’s true, but today this training takes place mainly online, because this way every user can go at his own pace, independent of time and place, and, if desired, team up with colleagues. It could not be more flexible.
That makes sense. What about the second level?
Well, on request of our customers, we introduced practical AMICA Features training, where we inform the users, i.e. the employees of our customers who work with it, about the various functions that are constantly being expanded. AMICA stands for Advanced Multisite Integral Congestion Assessment and is a main tool for the security assessment of power grid operation for TSOs in the TSO Security Cooperation initiative. Here, training is primarily about interaction and practical experience. For this reason, it takes place in person in a conventional classroom training. AMICA is constantly being developed and therefore the training programme, material and duration are adapted accordingly.
And finally, what is number three?
That is the so-called operational simulation. To make sure that the acquired knowledge can be applied in the right way, the handling of problems and their effective and efficient solution is crucial. There are two kinds of trainings in this level. Some are organised as online courses, but with live participation, when users interact with each other online from their home TSOs, and together they tackle simulated real-life problems to better understand how the various tools work and how they are most useful to them. The other one is organised as a workshop, when representatives from TSOs in specific region meet physically in TSCNET premises and work together as a team to work out the solutions to the simulated extraordinary operational situation.
What components must a good training portfolio have in your eyes?
Well, it conveys everything that is necessary to be able to take on and fulfil tasks. This also includes understanding the employer or partner company. But it also requires so-called soft skills – from communication and coordination to efficient work and IT tools. Lastly, product training for customers is key. It is great if there are innovative technologies and knowledge, but it’s far better if the user has the ability to really make use of them. It also lays the foundation for fruitful exchange – a common understanding as a prerequisite for great improvements.
How would you see the current range of professional training courses?
Our company is growing each and every year, our services are becoming more and more complex, and our industry is also evolving in seven-league boots. In this demanding situation we have managed to also expand our training and education programme in many exciting new directions. And we have also kept on breaking new ground. The best thing from my point of view is that we are still as committed to continuously improving our services as we were at the beginning.
So, what do you actually do when you develop a new training or course?
The basic principle is always the same: the needs of the participants, that is the users and employees. First, we identify the demands and wishes, then we collect material. Once we have enough, we decide on the format, including whether e-learning is suitable. We put ourselves in the position of the participants and estimate the time required for the individual aspects. Then we plan and organise. This takes between two and three months for small modules and up to six months for larger ones. During this time, we accomplish a variety of milestones, the main elements and also the right trainer.
Is it different with online courses?
For online courses, we collaborate with a specialised partner who has extensive experience in creating e-learning courses. We provide the ideas and content, and the specialists visualise them or create multimedia animations. In our experience, an online training course should be between 22 and 40 minutes long in order to achieve optimal effect. In a multi-stage process, we revise all content until the quality meets our high expectations. Only then do we release a course module.
How can the success of a training course be measured?
That depends on the training format and has also changed over time. Since the beginning we collected the feedback of the participants after each training was finished and asked them to evaluate different criteria such as room quality, material, IT equipment, trainers, etc. We collected the different points that the participants gave us in each of these categories to see where we stand. If we got more than 7 points, we considered the training a success.
Have you managed to achieve this goal sometimes?
Fortunately, the lowest overall number we ever achieved was 7.7! But nowadays you can measure success also directly, for example with a little quiz at the end of each module. The participant then knows immediately whether he or she has understood the content or not. And we know right away! Furthermore, occasionally the feedback on e-learning modules is collected from the customers and based on the feedback, the recent version is prepared to maintain the high quality.
How do Covid-19 and the coronavirus pandemic affect the trainings offered?
Unfortunately, a lot! We had to cancel and postpone several sessions already. This is really a pity, but we are not letting ourselves be beaten and are concentrating on turning these obstacles into opportunities. We can count ourselves lucky that we already have an established and proven e-learning platform. A good example is the MRA module, i.e. for Multilateral Remedial Actions. It has been an immense learning experience for both participants and for us. Or the GSK module on Generation Shift Key – it is exemplary for a high-quality, concise learning product. Or our Grid Repository Training, which presents various challenges and prospects of our sector. By summer 2020, all TSC TSOs will be presented with their respective modules.
One question to conclude: Which things would you like to change and improve in the future?
As I have more and more management tasks to take on now, an important task is quite banal – the search for a successor. Apart from that, it is primarily a matter of expanding technology and IT. On the one hand this means such simple things as enough data transfer capacity, especially in times like these, but on the other hand it also means new methods and functions. The corona virus “only” puts more pressure here. All in all, I am not afraid of the challenges. On the contrary: I am excited about the new approaches that will emerge. I am immensely proud to have been part of this exciting journey so far, and look forward to being one of the shapers and pacemakers of what the future holds.
Many thanks for the interview, Enes!