NEM 2024 Interview Series: Alectra Utilities

Engineering Insights: A Conversation with Namrata Joshi of Alectra Utilities

As National Engineering Month unfolds, we’re featuring key figures within Canada’s engineering sectors to gain fresh perspectives on where the industry is headed.

Recently we met with Namrata Joshi, Manager of Distribution Support Services at Alectra Utilities for an enlightening discussion about her perspectives on the engineering industry, innovation, and the importance of lifelong learning.

Tell me a bit about yourself & your background.

I grew up in India, and I relocated to Australia with my family when I was 17. Growing up, I was curious and was always interested in mathematics and science. My dad is also an engineer, so I completed my Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in Sydney, Australia. I was there for four years doing my degree, and then I was able to secure a job with one of the leading power utilities in Australia. That exposed me to see things in real life that I learned at university after I finished my co-op term. I was able to get a full-time job with the same utility and I was doing rotations as a graduate engineer. I met my husband through some common friends and he grew up in Canada, so we decided to live in Canada together. My first job in Canada was in a consulting firm designing sub-divisions. I was there for about a year and then I moved to another consulting firm, but I was involved in a lot of different types of projects such as master planning, new connections, and replacement of aged assets for various utilities like Toronto Hydro, the former PowerStream, etc,  and also worked directly with developers. I started at Alectra in 2020 as a supervisor of Industrial Commercial Institutional (ICI) & Layouts. In my role there, I was involved in providing new and upgraded services to residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Very recently, in January, I took up a new role as a Manager of Distribution Support Services. 

Why is National Engineering Month (NEM) important to you and the engineering profession overall?

I find that NEM serves as a platform to raise awareness about the importance of engineering. It inspires new students and also new engineers to pursue their careers by showcasing the exciting opportunities available in the field. It also brings together engineers from different disciplines and backgrounds to share knowledge, collaborate on projects, and address any common challenges we face in everyday life. I think what NEM is doing is great and provides a platform to celebrate the achievements and contributions that engineers have made to our society. In general, I think NEM’s vision aligns with Alectra’s purpose because, at Alectra, we support learning, innovation, collaboration, and diversity, all of which are essential for both the engineering profession and society as a whole.

The theme for NEM 2024 is lifelong learning. What does the concept of lifelong learning mean to you? Why is lifelong learning important in the work that you do? 

For me, the concept of lifelong learning means staying updated with the evolving trends of technology challenges and constantly adapting our skills to suit by continuous learning and updating our knowledge base so we can stay relevant and effective in a rapidly changing world. Today, in the electrification of heat and integration of EV chargers into our grid, I see both challenges and opportunities for engineers to build new electrical distribution grids and expand the existing infrastructure to support load growth. Engineers will continue to drive innovation through creativity, problem-solving, and with the help of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, smart grid technologies, and renewable energies. That’s something that will help drive innovation. I certainly enjoy collaborating with cross-functional teams and experts to tackle complex challenges. I believe in the power of brainstorming to refine ideas and develop feasible solutions. In my new role, I like to collaborate with my colleagues and teams to understand how we can use technology to improve our current processes, break down any silos, and foster a culture of collaboration.

Can you tell me a little more about Alectra Utilities and the types of projects you work on?

Alectra Utilities is one of the largest distributors of electricity. We provide power to roughly 1,000,000 residential homes and businesses in Ontario. Alectra is involved in a variety of projects such as the design and installation of new overhead and underground infrastructure, system expansion projects, subdivisions, and new and upgraded services for residential, commercial, and industrial customers. 

We work on a variety of different projects across Alectra. Our core focus has always been to ensure we can provide a reliable supply of electricity to our customers. This involves putting measures in place to prevent outages, always responding promptly to restore service in case of disruption due to storms, and improving technologies to enhance grid resilience. Additionally, Alectra prioritizes safety for both employees and the public. We follow strict safety standards and regulations governing the design, operation, and maintenance of the electrical infrastructure. 

In my new role, I am overseeing a team of highly skilled professionals, and the role covers Construction Verification and Compliance, Joint Use, and Process Technology Innovation. Our Construction Verification and Compliance team serves as an interface between the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) for public safety concerns and electrical incidents, compliance reviews, and due diligence inspections. This team is responsible for ensuring that Alectra is compliant with Ontario Regulation 22/04, including the annual audit that occurs with the ESA, ensuring that we follow standard applicable processes and the construction verification program. 

The second group I cover is process technology and improvement, which manages the development and implementation of technology and innovative processes that support distribution design. In my joint-use and agreement department, we process roughly 450-500 permits a year, including the review and hydro make-ready for joint-use tenants. These tenants are companies like Bell and Rogers who attach fiber to hydro poles, and we’re involved in reviewing those. Our vision at Alectra is to cultivate a team of skilled professionals who are always up to date with new industry trends, regulation changes, and technology advancements so we can drive innovation.

How has the engineering profession changed over the past 5 to 10 years & how is Alectra capitalizing on those changes? 

The engineering profession is constantly changing, and I believe it has changed a lot and will continue to change over the years. Engineering projects require a lot of collaboration across multiple disciplines and specialties. Engineers work closely with experts from various fields to develop innovative solutions. Engineers in our discipline are at the forefront of developing and implementing renewable energy technologies, optimizing energy storage solutions, and integrating clean energy into our grid. As engineers, we will continue to undergo significant changes driven by technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, globalization, and evolving market demands.

Are there any specific programs, initiatives, or outcomes happening at Alectra that you’d like to tell me about? 

At Alectra, we’re currently working towards consistency of standards, processes, and presentation of drawings, policies, and material across all regions of Alectra. Alectra was established in 2017 when five local utilities merged. We’re working every day to ensure that more and more processes are aligned for consistency. The customer is also heavily involved. The company is also involved in new and innovative projects focused on distributed energy resources such as solar and other alternative technologies. We also work on a variety of pilot projects in the innovation space, taking an alternative and innovative approach to delivering electricity that can help drive sustainability in the Ontario energy sector.

What does the future of engineering look like and how does Alectra fit into that? 

With the electrification of heat and integration of EV chargers into our grid, I see both challenges and opportunities for engineers to build new electrical distribution and expand the system to support load growth. Engineers will have to continue driving innovation through creativity, problem-solving, and with the help of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and smart grid technologies. It’s important to have a diverse team of engineers within the company who have different perspectives. Different teams can come together to creatively solve problems. I believe that the more diverse skill sets and backgrounds we have in the team, the more likely we are to come up with innovative and efficient solutions.

Any final thoughts?

One thing I would say is, as a mom of two daughters, they’re always curious and have an endless stream of questions. They want to explore new things as they grow older. Sometimes I feel like as adults, we forget to be curious and stop asking questions. I would like to see all of us continue the trend of being curious and willing to learn new things and keep asking questions. 

In engineering, we still see women comprising a smaller percentage of the workforce. I would like to encourage more women to pursue careers in the utility industry. Once again, I would like to thank NEM and Alectra for providing me the opportunity to showcase the engineering work my team does, and to everyone at Alectra, thank you very much.

Learn. Grow. Thrive. Together. 

National Engineering Month is Ontario’s platform for celebrating the remarkable world of engineering. With a dynamic mix of insightful discussions, industry expertise, and diverse viewpoints, we’re showcasing the best of the profession. Join us in advancing engineering excellence, igniting interest in future professionals, and recognizing the vital role engineers play in society. Be a part of the #NEM2024 experience by attending an event. Explore all the exciting details at

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