Kennedy Darko – Senior Project Engineer – G&W Electric Company
“I want to be known as the guy who never gave up. If you’ve got ambition and you work hard, you can get to where you want to be. You can invent your own future.”
My Dad owned a mechanic shop while my family lived in Ghana. People in Ghana have to be innovative, due to a lack of resources. Maybe that’s why I have always had an interest in how things operate, even as a boy. One time, I dismantled my mom’s clothing iron, out of curiosity, just to see how the heating elements worked. My parents were upset, but I put it all back together and it worked perfectly fine. An electrician even inspected the iron and could not tell it had been taken apart. From that day on, I knew I wanted to be an engineer.
I was ill-advised to attend a technical high school in Ghana. There I learned to run the lathe and milling machines, which gave me an insight into manufacturing processes, but technical schools in Ghana did not provide an avenue to attend university, preventing me from getting an engineering degree. I had to go back to normal high school where I passed exams to get into the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and eventually the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago for my master’s degree.
I want to be known as the guy who never gave up.
It was a lot of hard work to get my degree, but I never gave up on my goal of becoming an engineer. When I first arrived in Chicago from Ghana I worked three non-engineering part time jobs simultaneously, just to make ends meet. I decided to seek out a manufacturing company that would give me an opportunity to utilize my engineering skills. Eventually I was offered a job as a mold press operator at G&W Electric.
My fellow shop employees at G&W Electric called me “the professor” because I was able to resolve issues with the molding equipment. Long story short, I gradually worked my way to associate project engineer. The company even made it possible for me to get my Master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Electricity plays an important role in our everyday lives. Having uninterrupted power for places like hospitals, airports, etc. is key to economic growth and health. My job is to design reliable products that eliminate interruptions in the power supply and keep electrical linemen safe.
My greatest achievement at G&W so far is my work on a breakthrough design that has the potential to advance technology for the industry. Along with Don Martin (VP of Technology, G&W Electric), I led the invention of the first solid dielectric switch with a patented integrated visible break.
I’d like my legacy to be helping facilitate the transition from SF6 gas switchgear to greener and safer solid dielectric technology. I’d also like to create the most efficient, low cost mechanisms for electricity delivery so we can increase reliability while keeping down costs.
I’ve had to overcome adversity and push through barriers to get to where I am today. I want to be known as the guy who never gave up. To the young people out there with ambition: know that if you work hard you can get to where you want to be. You can invent your own future.