For GIS Specialist Ryan Cassidy, it took a while for him to get the “IS” part of his title — information systems — to align with the “G” — the geographic surroundings he wanted. But patience paid off as all the pieces fell in place with the specialist role he filled in August 2023 at Tell City-based Southern Indiana Power.
“When this job was created, I thought it would be a good opportunity to use the technical skills that I learned in college and on my first jobs with the real-world experience I gained here as a lineman,” the Tell City native said.
As GIS specialist, Cassidy is already comfortable with the staking and construction part of the job. Once a new system map for Southern Indiana Power is completed by a contractor, Cassidy is also responsible for keeping it up to date.
System maps for electric utilities chart all the components required to bring electricity to each consumer: physical location of every pole, transformer, wires, circuit breaker, up to and including every meter. They also denote sizes and capacities of the parts. While Southern Indiana Power digitized its map almost 20 years ago, it did so from the paper maps created over the course of the co-op’s history. As might be expected, some discrepancies crept into documents mapping almost 1,700 miles of line over parts of four counties, especially hilly and heavily forested Perry County. The new inventory of the entire system will pinpoint each pole with GPS precision and detail every piece of hardware and line in use.
That’s the kind of detailed information and technology Cassidy wanted to work with when earned a degree in advanced manufacturing in 2011. But his first jobs as an industrial engineer weren’t what he’d hoped. “I found out that I didn’t really want to work in a factory the rest of my life, and I didn’t want to sit behind a computer all day long.”
He also didn’t like the rush to push product out the door.
Then, he learned about electric co-ops. “Some of my friends were linemen and talked about how much they liked it at Southern Indiana Power. I looked into it and realized that the co-op was a great place to work. The only way I could get my foot in the door at the time was to be a lineman.”
Leaving the technology field was a big decision. Becoming a lineman required a four-year investment. But in 2015, Cassidy joined Southern Indiana Power as an apprentice. “I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I’m big into the outdoors. I love hunting and fishing. And so just working outside every day as a lineman, and working with my hands was a natural fit,” he said. He also liked the co-op culture. “Here, we focus more on customer service, making sure our lines are safe and providing reliable power to our consumers.”
With the GIS position, one could say Cassidy has mapped a new course for his cooperative career. “I can work outside and inside, and so it’s just a good mix for me,” he added. “I’m able to pull from my engineering background and hands-on knowledge of constructing power lines. What works in the real world versus what works on paper isn’t always the same.”