This is a part of a series of profiles for Engineers Week, Feb.16-22, 2020.
Juan Diaz sounds like a proud papa when he talks about the burgeoning Lake Nona Medical City development. He’s watched it grow up since 2010, when it was little more than a twinkle in a developer’s eye. Ten years later his “baby,” as he calls the master planned community in south Orlando, is growing into its massive footprint, with hospitals and schools, and an urban-style Town Center of mixed-use buildings, hotels and restaurants.
The sights and sounds of construction are everywhere here as Diaz’ baby grows bigger and bigger every day.
“It’s amazing,” Diaz says as he looks around an environment that is positioned to one day become a city onto itself, albeit a very smart city. “And there’s so much more. I look at it, oh, man, I want to leave an imprint.”
In a way, he already has, not that anyone living, working or visiting here would notice it. That is, unless the community didn’t have reliable electrical power.
As Manager of Electric Distribution Engineering, and in previous positions at OUC, Diaz has been closely involved in the planning and design of Lake Nona Medical City’s underground electric infrastructure.
He heads a team of engineers that work on commercial and residential projects in Orlando and St. Cloud. They figure out how to get power to the customer while meeting developers’ construction schedules and demands for conformity to environmental aesthetics. It’s typical for large-scale projects to take three to five years from start to finish, with plans undergoing constant changes along the way.
It’s the kind of job that’s perfectly suited for Diaz, who describes himself as an inveterate problem-solver.
“My wife will tell you I’m always trying to solve problems,” he says, laughing.
Diaz admits as much, recalling that as a youngster he liked to tinker with broken electronic gadgets like remote controlled cars. “I often couldn’t repair them but I always learned something about how they worked,” he says.
It wasn’t until his junior year at the University of Central Florida (UCF) that he discovered he was destined to be an electrical engineer, but in what field he didn’t know. Computer engineering was a possibility, but after a few courses he switched to power systems.
“I was in the SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) at UCF when Orlando Alancastro came and encouraged us to consider working at OUC,” he says. Diaz did just that, and in 2003 he got a summer internship that led to a full-time position, eventually going to work for Alancastro, now Director of Distribution Engineering.
“I always look back and give thanks to my parents for encouraging me to continue my education at a very young age, ultimately leading to a contributing career,” says Diaz. “I was fortunate to realize my potential as an electrical engineer, and that has given me the opportunity to make a difference in a project the size and scope of Lake Nona Medical City. Its growth has been nothing less than amazing, and it’s still got a lot of growing up to do.”