Jim Phillips Celebrates 40 Years in the Electrical Industry

Jim Phillips celebrates 40 years in the electrical industry.  As a pioneer in the training industry, read how Jim began the company Brainfiller on the traditional back of the envelope as he travels down memory lane.  This interview was originally published in Voyage Phoenix magazine and has been updated here.

Voyage Phoenix: Jim, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.

Jim Phillips: The old Grateful Dead lyrics “What a long strange trip it’s been” is very appropriate for our story. To begin with, Branfiller.com is the brand that represents me personally and the training programs and products that I develop as well as forensics/expert witness services.

Our story begins as many other startups. Scribbles on an the back of an envelope and thoughts of filling a need. In the early 1980’s when I had “a real job” my employer would on occasion send me to a specialty training program usually held at a university. The registration and travel fees were quite expensive so this type of training was often limited to those working with larger companies with large training budgets. And training budgets back in those days were generally small since training was not considered to be as important back then.

At home I was receiving brochures in the mail for “warm and fuzzy” training. i.e. $99 how to organize yourself, how to talk to others, how to….. They would have a schedule much like a rock band where they were hitting 40 to 60 cities a year.

Then it hit me – one of THOSE moments! I don’t recall anything like this in the electrical industry. All we seemed to have were the expensive university programs. It’s time to bring training to the masses. But let me back up a few steps first.

As an Electrical Engineer with a BSEE Degree, my professional career began back in 1981 working in a small fledgling power system group that was part of a large equipment manufacturer. Our group (all 5 of us) were responsible for some pretty high-end analysis and engineering studies. But somewhere along the way, I was thrown into the deep end of the pool as they told me I would also be teaching at their corporate training events which were held many times each year. This was a total panic moment since I was a shy quiet early twenty-something engineer. But in time, I adjusted and learned to love training. I eventually moved on and headed up a group at a very large electric utility company and later also found myself teaching evening classes at a local college.

Fast forward, this was one of the motivations to bring training programs to the masses. I LOVE training. And recall the famous saying “do what you love”

So, along with my wife (a.k.a. best friend and business partner through this whole adventure) we set the wheels in motion. How do we get this hare-brained idea off the ground?

First, we needed a corporate identity and all the trimmings. We began with the name: “Technical Seminars Group” To the point and descriptive of what we did but it was soon changed it to “Technical Training Group” with a cute logo that I developed that was T2G like the chemical symbol of water – H2O. Years later we became known as Brainfiller.com

Since I still had a “real job”, we spent weekends and evenings creating a training program and developing our first direct mail brochure. All done from our “Corporate Headquarters” a.k.a. our house, and in “Suite 2C” thinking an address with a suite number looked more professional. However, the inside story told here for the first time – it was in inside joke. 2C simply stood for “Too Cool” Our own little bit of humor.

How would we promote this? For our first training program, the idea was to target an area out of state that I could drive to. Far enough away that no one at work would know (hopefully) but close enough that I could drive and not have a big expense. For marketing, we rented a mailing list from a trade magazine and they sent us a zillion old school sticky mailing labels. 

And then it began. My wife and I would stay up very late at night sitting cross legged on the living room floor with piles of brochures reaching up to our eyebrows. Classic rock blasting in the background, labeling, stamping, filling mail trays – often thinking – were we insane? – I still have that thought some days. We did everything ourselves because in the beginning, we had the time but we did not have the money to outsource it. The ultimate bootstrapping.

We also had to open a post office box to keep as much action away from our home address as possible. We even obtained an 800 telephone number – a number that we still have today – well over three decades later

Our next move was to become friends with the people at our local post office. Taking in trays of mail every day after my real job, then preparing more each evening. About a week after we delivered our first tray, we received an envelope at our post office box. I opened it and recalled screaming “HOLY #%@! SOMEONE REGISTERED FOR A CLASS – WE ARE IN BUSINESS!”

The big question: How do I find time for a training class when I have a full-time job and am trying to keep this quiet? V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N! I would schedule every vacation day in one-week blocks and have a one-day training class scheduled every day. This was often in the summer when our young kids were on summer break. We would load up the minivan with training material and go on the family tour. A new city each day, travel at night, teach again the next day. Rinse and repeat. I did this until we were in a position to leave the comforts of the corporate electric utility world.

The resignation from my “real job” was a bit funny. I call it my “real job” because having so much fun over all these years, has never felt like a real job. I told my manager that I wanted to talk with him privately in the conference room. He was puzzled. I proceeded to explain that I was resigning and moving to a small startup company – trying not to reveal that it was my startup company. I had kept this a well-guarded secret and absolutely no one there knew. So he had to pry and began asking all kinds of questions. What company? Where? What will you be doing? So, I finally caved and told him the story. He was quite surprised. How could you do this while working here? I showed him one of our brochures with our past training schedule. He looked stunned and said he would be right back. He arrived with my vacation schedule and held it up next to the training schedule and laughed as the dates matched perfectly. “I would have never imagined!”

Our little training company began to grow and instead of receiving training class registrations by mail as we had been, people began to call our 800 number and phone in their registrations. One of the more memorable phone registrations happened early one morning. My wife just got out of the shower and was in her robe when the telephone rang. She went running down the hallway to answer it. The person on the other end said this was Mr. so and so from some department that I don’t recall but in the title were the words “White House” She asked for the address as she always does and the person on the other end began to say those famous words: Sixteen Hundred Pennsylvania Avenue…. Still in her bath robe, she dropped the phone in shock. When she picked it up, the person chuckled and said “Yes, that White House” And all from Suite 2C.

Thirty-four years have passed since we were sitting cross legged on the floor – honestly, I’m not sure I could sit that way anymore.

VP: Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

JP: Every business has its challenges but on the whole, it has been fantastic. Why? A few of my simple rules:

  • Always do your best – no matter what. Do NOT cut corners, it will catch up with you.
  • Always maintain your integrity. Too many want to “sell their soul” to get ahead.
  • Always be honest. I have many competitors that will say whatever it takes. It doesn’t take long to figure out where the truth is – and it catches up with them.

Of course, there have been times where we could have capitalized on a good business opportunity, but at the expense of our core values. In the end we win by sticking with our beliefs.

Since we have been in business since 1987, we have seen major changes in the training industry. When I began, we were one of the very first to provide live engineering training programs to around 30 to 40 cities every year.  It was like our own “Rock Concert Tour” schedule. Everything was direct mail, word of mouth and an occasional magazine advertisement. This meant the cost of entry was quite high and the average person found it difficult to just jump in on a whim.

But also recall, back then that meant a life without the internet. Hard to imagine. Once the internet came along, it was the single biggest game changer. All of a sudden, it seemed like training websites were springing up overnight. Acme Training Company, ABC Training Company, XYZ Training Company, you get the idea. Everyone was suddenly “The World’s Best Training Company” according to their websites – so it must be true. But reputations catch up with people and many quickly had an abrupt ending.

The proliferation of all of the training websites is also the reason we changed our name along the way to Brainfiller.com – so we do not appear as just another “Acme Training Company” getting lost in the noise. People remember the name. Fortunately, our long history and especially our global reputation have also carried us very far.

VP: Brainfiller – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?

JP: Our business brand Branfiller.com is my identity. As the “brain” behind brainfiller, the services have grown significantly since our humble early days cross legged on the living room floor. Today, we are not only involved in electrical power and electrical safety training worldwide, but also forensics/expert witness, contributing editor to one of the largest magazines that serves the industry, and electrical standards development. Let me explain these one at a time.

Electrical Power Training – this is where it all began. Based on my experience in electrical power system design and analysis for the industrial and utility industries, the topics were directly related to the those industry segments. Over the years, I have been invited to speak all over the world which has resulted in some incredible adventures and making many international friends along the way.

The safety side of this came later when an emerging field know as ARC FLASH was being investigated. An arc flash is when energized electrical conductors touch creating an electrical explosion. You have probably seen a small version of this if you have ever jumped a car battery. There are often sparks. With an arc flash, there is so much power in the electrical system, that the sparks can create a massive explosion resulting in catastrophic damage, injury and death. I am one of the people directly involved with the research, theory and development of the electrical industry standards behind this potentially deadly phenomenon.

What does all this mean? I get to blow stuff up – literally. With electricity – kind of like our own private version of the TV show “Mythbusters” I would be lying if I said it was not fun.

This leads to another topic – Forensic Analysis and Expert Witness. From time to time, I am called upon to investigate what happened during some catastrophic electrical incident. My all-time number one investigation is when I was contacted several years ago about one of the nuclear power plants that had a major fire as a result of the Fukushima earthquake in 2011. The country of Japan sent a delegation to the U.S. to meet with a few of what we called “wizards and gurus” to determine out what happened.

All kinds of off the wall theories were being floated but then it was my turn. I suggested with a 9.0 earthquake, maybe the electrical equipment was shaking so violently that energized parts made contact and caused an arc flash. This theory got their attention and next thing I know, we are in a high-power lab blowing up equipment to see if we can get a large fire. The answer – YES, we had a HUGE fire! I think I was close to burning the lab down with that one – they were not prepared for the size of the explosion or the resulting fire.

I am also involved with a lot of writing. In addition to writing technical documents. I was picked up years ago as a Contributing Editor for one of the largest trade magazines in the industry – Electrical Contractor Magazine where I have a regular column and features about arc flash and electrical safety. To date, I have published over 100 technical articles, several guides and a book on the subject of Arc Flash.

One of the most important areas that is central to our training is that I am personally in the leadership position as either Chair or Vice-Chair responsible for over 40 electrical standards and working with 42 different countries that define the industry globally. Quite a bit of responsibility that I take very seriously.

There are some days when I am sitting at home dumbfounded just reflecting – how did all this happen? Being directly responsible for the development of so many electrical standards means that when I create a training program and present it, it is not just another trainer reading a script like so many people out there. It is me telling it from the inside perspective saying things like “Well, here is what happened when we blew it up in the lab” or “here is why we wrote that requirement the way that we did.” The usual response is “wow, no one has ever been able to explain WHY, before”

VP: What is “success” or “successful” for you?

JP: I believe the definition of success is unique for everyone. For me it is just looking back saying, “Yes, this has been a good ride (so far)” It is also about being secure, achieving many personal goals, and instilling positive values in our family.  A very important role for our family is helping others through several charitable organizations.   We are blessed to be a blessing to others.  None of this success would be possible without the support of my wife and best friend of over 40 years.

Jim and his wife live in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He can be reached at: [email protected]

Originally published January 2018 Voyage Phoenix Magazine – updated.

Jim Phillips, P.E.

During Jim’s four decade career, he has been helping tens of thousands of people around the world understand electrical power system design, analysis and safety. Having taught over 2500 training programs during his career to people from all seven continents (Yes Antarctica is included!) He has developed an international reputation for being one of the best trainers and public speakers in the electric power industry.

Standards Development

Jim is very active in the development and holds leadership roles of many U.S. and international standards such as:

  • Vice Chair – IEEE 1584 IEEE Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations
  • International Chair – Geneva, Switzerland based International Electrotechnical Commission IEC TC78 – Live Working
  • Technical Committee Member – NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace 
  • Steering Committee – IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research Project.
  • Past Head of U.S. Delegation to IEC TC78 Committee – Live Working
  • Vice-Chairman – IEEE 1584.1 , Guide for the Specification of Scope and Deliverable Requirements for an Arc-Flash Hazard Calculation Study in Accordance with IEEE 1584
  • Liaison for both IEEE 1584 and IEC TC78 Working Group 15 (Global Arc Flash Standards)
  • IEEE 1683 Guide for Motor Control Centers Rated up to and Including 600 V AC or 1000 V DC with Recommendations Intended to Help Reduce Electrical Hazards
  • ASTM F18 Electrical Protective Equipment for Workers
  • IEC 61482-1-1 Determination of the Arc Rating of Clothing Materials and Evaluation of Protective Clothing Performance Using a Symmetrical Arc
  • IEC 61482-1-2 Determination of Arc Protection Class of Material and Clothing by Using a Constrained and Directed Arc (box test)
  • IEC 901: IEC Technical Report for Correlating the Results of Arc Test Methods to Electrotechnical Applications in Order to Select the Proper Electric arc Protective Equipment

Professional Background

  • Founder: President: Brainfiller.com
  • Founder: ArcFlashForum.com
  • Associate Director: Electrical Safety UK, Ltd. – Rotherham, United Kingdom
  • Contributing Editor – Award Winning NECA Magazine – Electrical Contractor

Awards and Recognition

  • 2020 Electrical Safety Excellence Award for: “Outstanding dedication and contributions to advance and accelerate the dispersion of information and knowledge impacting electrical safety through activities within the PCIC.”
  • Best Paper Award for the technical paper: Introduction to IEEE Standard 1584 – IEEE 1584 Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations – 2018 Edition.  Jim had the privilege of authoring this with three great friends and also presenting at the 2019 PCIC Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • IEEE Senior Member – 2011
  • IEEE Regional Professional Leadership Award 1993

He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) from the Ohio State University. His career began with Square D Company’s Power System Analysis Group where he was responsible for power system studies, software development and training at their engineering training programs – where his love of teaching all began.

Jim Phillips, P.E. Receives Two Prestigious Awards from IEEE PCIC 

Jim Phillips, P.E. receives two prestigious awards from IEEE PCIC 

Jim Phillips, founder of Brainfiller.com, recently received TWO prestigious awards from IEEE PCIC.  These include:

The 2020 Electrical Safety Excellence Award for: “Outstanding dedication and contributions to advance and accelerate the dispersion of information and knowledge impacting electrical safety through activities within the PCIC.”

Best Paper Award for the technical paper: Introduction to IEEE Standard 1584 – IEEE 1584 Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations – 2018 Edition.  Jim had the privilege of authoring this with three great friends and also presenting at the 2019 PCIC Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The PCIC conference typically has around 1500 attendees and IEEE has over 400,000 Members represented by more than 160 countries.

As founder of the company now known as Brainfiller.com in 1987, Jim has developed over 20 different training programs on the subjects of electrical power, arc flash, and electrical safety.  He has taught almost 2500 programs globally over his four-decade career.  He shares that expertise as Associate Director of Electrical Safety (UK) Ltd. in Rotherham, England.

Jim has dedicated a large part of his career to the advancement of electrical safety including being the current Vice-Chair of IEEE 1584 – IEEE Guide for Arc Flash Hazard Calculations, International Chair of IEC TC 78 Live Working which includes over 40 standards and publications represented by more than 40 countries, Technical Committee Member of NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, Steering Committee Member of IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research Project, Author of over 100 articles and technical publications, Author of the book Complete Guide to Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculation Studies, and much more. 

More about Jim 

Congratulations Jim!

Brainfiller – Proud Sponsor of John Laughlin at the 2019 OUSCI

Brainfiller, Inc. is a proud sponsor of John Laughlin’s Electric Vehicle during the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI) recently held in Las Vegas, Nevada.  John has been racing competitively for over ten years with different cars in various categories and has earned the reputation of finishing at or near the top.

John stated that during his latest competition he received lots of high-fives all weekend for the incredible performance displayed by his Tesla Model 3 equipped with full Mountain Pass Performance suspension.

He placed 1st in class for all segments. He placed 3rd in Speed Stop and 6th in Autocross. Amazing what you can do with the power of DC!

The car was undefeated all year in GTE, and brought home both the GTE class win and the OUSCI GTE event win!

Congratulations John!

Jim Phillips, P.E. Awarded the Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology – MIET

Jim Phillips, P.E. Awarded the Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology – MIET

expert-witness-Jim-Phillips

LATEST NEWS

October 10, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ: On February 15, 2016 – Stevenage (London), England – Jim Phillips, founder of Brainfiller.com and ArcFlashForum.com was awarded the recognition of Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology – MIET.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is working to engineer a better world. It’s heritage dates back to 1871, and today the mission is to inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community, supporting technology innovation to meet the needs of society.

  • The IET provides expert advice to the UK’s Parliament, Government and other agencies. Each year it makes around 30 submissions to the UK Government and the EU on engineering related policy issues.
  • The IET produces fact files and briefings available to the public.
  • The IET is regularly in the mainstream and specialist media explaining the impacts of engineering and technology on society.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has over 167,000 members worldwide in 150 countries.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology is registered as a Charity in England and Wales (No. 211014) and Scotland (No. SC038698).

About Brainfiller Inc.: Founded in 1987 by Jim Phillips, P.E. in Scottsdale, AZ; Brainfiller.com began as T2G Technical Training Group, an alternative to University sponsored short courses. Over the last 30-years, Brainfiller.com has grown to be one of the most reputable Electric Power and Arc Flash Training companies worldwide. Brainfiller.com has a library of online resources of Jim Phillips books, DVD’s, training programs, global training schedule and e-learning courses.

For additional information, please contact [email protected] or 800-874-8883.

http://brainfiller.com

http://www.arcflashforum.com

Jim Phillips, P.E. Joins Electrical Safety UK as Associate Director

Jim Phillips, P.E. Joins Electrical Safety UK as Associate Director

NASA Shuttle Jim Phillips

LATEST NEWS
October 3, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ: On August 4, 2016 Jim Phillips P.E. joined Electrical Safety UK as an Associate Director.  He brings his 35 years of experience to ESUK which includes helping tens of thousands of people around the world understand electrical power system design, analysis and safety. Having taught over 2000 training seminars during his career to people from all seven continents, he has developed a reputation for being one of the best trainers and public speakers in the electric power industry. The highlights include:

  • International Chairman of IEC TC78 – Live Working
  • Secretary of IEEE 1584 IEEE Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations
  • Head of U.S. Delegation to European Based IEC TC78 Committee – Live Working
  • Liaison Officer between IEEE 1584 and European based IEC arc flash committees
  • Author of the book: Complete Guide to Arc Flash Hazard Calculation Studies
  • Is a Contributing Editor for Multi Award Winning – Electrical Contractor Magazine
  • Founder of the internationally known website: ArcFlashForum.com 

Located in Rotherham, (Sheffield), England, Electrical Safety UK is a specialist company concerned with the safety of workers who carry out electrical work. We advise industrial & commercial organisations and utility service providers on matters of electrical safety, write procedures and rules, and train their staff and contractors.

About Brainfiller Inc.: Founded in 1987 by Jim Phillips, P.E. in Scottsdale, AZ; Brainfiller.com began as T2G Technical Training Group, an alternative to University sponsored short courses. Over the last 30-years, Brainfiller.com has grown to be one of the most reputable Electric Power and Arc Flash Training companies worldwide. Brainfiller.com has a library of online resources of Jim Phillips books, DVD’s, training programs, global training schedule and e-learning courses.

For additional information, please contact [email protected] or 800-874-8883.

http://brainfiller.com

http://www.arcflashforum.com

 

International Electrotechnical Commission Committee 78 Approves New Chairman

International Electrotechnical Commission Committee 78 Approves New Chairman

Jim Phillips Photo

LATEST NEWS

September 26, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ: Jim Phillips, P.E., founder of Brainfiller.com and ArcFlashForum.com was recently nominated and approved as the International Chairman of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) Technical Committee 78 for Live Working. Mr. Phillips is only the 4th person to hold this position in the committee’s 41-year history. His position is the overall management of this Technical Committee which is responsible for developing and maintaining more than 30 different International Standards for tools, protective equipment, devices and arc flash protection for utilization in live working for the electrical power industry. TC 78 is comprised of 42 participating and observing countries from around the world.

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the IEC, founded in 1906, is the world’s leading organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. It is The IEC’s mission to promote international co-operation on all questions of standardization and related matters in these technologies. http://www.iec.ch/

About Brainfiller Inc.: Founded in 1987 by Jim Phillips, P.E. in Scottsdale, AZ; Brainfiller.com began as T2G Technical Training Group, an alternative to University sponsored short courses. Over the last 30-years, Brainfiller.com has grown to be one of the most reputable Electric Power and Arc Flash Training companies worldwide. Brainfiller.com has a library of online resources of Jim Phillips books, DVD’s, training programs, global training schedule and e-learning courses.

For additional information, please contact [email protected] or 800-874-8883.

http://brainfiller.com

http://www.arcflashforum.com

 

Jim Phillips to Speak at 2016 IEEE/ESMO Conference

IEEE ESMO logo

 

LATEST NEWS

Jim Phillips Photo

September 12, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ: Jim Phillips, P.E., founder of Brainfiller.com and ArcFlashForum.com, will be a speaker at the 2016 IEEE/ESMO conference held in Columbus, OH on Monday, September 12, 2016. The conference is the premier event for electric utility professionals, contracting, construction and consulting companies who are interested in the hands on solutions for the engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of the world’s power delivery systems. During this four day event, people from more than 40 countries will be represented and will gain the knowledge and expertise required to effectively build, operate and maintain the world’s power-delivery systems.

Mr. Phillips presentation is based on the Technical Paper titled: IEC TC78 “Live working”, a historical overview, new structure, programme of work, and market relevance. It will provide an update of IEC TC78 activities, as he undertakes the new role as the IEC TC78’s 4th International Chairman.

About Brainfiller Inc.: Founded in 1987 by Jim Phillips, P.E. in Scottsdale, AZ; Brainfiller.com began as T2G Technical Training Group, an alternative to University sponsored short courses. Over the last 30-years, Brainfiller.com has grown to be one of the most reputable Electric Power and Arc Flash Training companies worldwide. Brainfiller.com has a library of online resources of Jim Phillips books, DVD’s, training programs, global training schedule and e-learning courses.

For additional information, please contact [email protected]  or 800-874-8883.

http://brainfiller.com

http://www.arcflashforum.com