161. Hero – Tom Domitrovich, Vice President of Technical Sales at Eaton Transcript
Welcome to episode 161 of EECO Asks Why. Today, we have Tom Domitrovich back with us for hero conversation. We get to learn more about the man behind the screen, and you have to listen to more to hear what I mean. When I say that we’re going to hear about how Tom ended up working at Eaton, as well as some insight about his family, what really drives him. And some great stories about the people that helped him get to where he’s at his passion for ancestry shines throughout this episode. And we are so thankful to have him join us again.
Also, don’t forget listeners send us those industry war stories. We really want them, we want the good, the tough, and the inspiring send us that short clip or write in to have your story featured on the upcoming episode of EECO Asks Why. You can always keep those stories, generic and exclude company names and things like that.
You can get your submissions to us through a direct message on Instagram or Facebook, you can find the links in the show notes, and we look forward to hearing from all facets of industry. Now, without further ado, let’s sit down with Mr. Tom Domitrovich and find out what drives him on this episode of EECO Asks Why. Que the music.
Welcome EECO Asks Why. Today we have a hero conversation. I’m very excited for this one. I got Tom Domitrovich, who is the Vice President of technical sales at Eaton, and he is joining me today. So welcome, Tom.
Thanks Chris. Oh man.
I’m excited to have you excited to have you. Now where exactly are you located at?
I’m out of Weirton, West Virginia, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Up there, close to the power system experience center.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really close. And West Virginia is like an, a sliver right between Ohio and Pennsylvania. So, my wife loves this area, so that’s why I’m here.
Awesome. That’s awesome. Well, we love that you’re here with us and we like to get these conversations started just by hearing about your journey to where you’re at.
Oh, man. What a journey. We could go all day with that brother. Okay. All right, let’s go. All right. So when you want to hear, you want to hear how I got to be vice president of technical sales?
Maybe start back. Where’d you go to school at?
Oh, well, I grew up in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Aliquippa PA and I went to college at Gannon University, which is up in Erie, Pennsylvania. And you know, I went to school for electrical engineering. My brother’s an electrical engineer. And at the time I was going to go for EE tech. When I was trying to figure out, my dad worked in a steel mill. Okay. Jones and Laughlin steel corporation. So his dream was, my boys are going to get a college degree and, that’s what we did. There was never a question of, are you going to go to college? It was. What college are you going to go to? So it was good. I don’t know that college is for everybody, but I worked out good for both myself and my brother. I went for, I was going to go for EE tech a two year degree. My, my brother said, Hey, just go for electrical engineering. If you’re going to put the energy into two years, go four, so I did. And Gannon was trying to focus I think at that time on what they call digital elect, you know, like a microprocessor designs and things like that because I graduated in 90, so it was 86 to 90 when I went into college, but I fell in love with power systems.
I did an internship in Canton, Ohio power systems development, you know, when you’re doing internships, I was working with my uncle and construction jobs and stuff like that. And then I started my own little business where I was building lean tos and things like that, sheds and whatnot, putting the roofs on. And then I wanted to do something more in engineering. So I got my resume together and power systems development in Canton. They hired me at a small consulting firm. Paul O’Connor, Mr. O’Connor. When he hired me I’m like, what am I going to, you know, what are they going to have me do and stuff? And he says, make up a project, think, take a couple of days, make something up. It doesn’t have to be a real world and we’ll teach you. I’m like, wow, that’s pretty freaking cool. I like that. And I mean, who hires somebody and then says make up a project. Right?
So I said, I want to design a substation. So I sat down in his office as I want to design a substation. I had all these books, he had given me to read and he goes, well, he says, you’ve bit off a lot more than you can chew. He says, I got an idea. He says, we’re doing a systems analysis study for Union Carbide down in West Virginia. And you’re going to do the study. And I’m like, oh, well, great. And I said, what’s a short circuit and coordination study. He gave me some books. He gave me some, IEEE books and he says, go figure out what you need to do. Here’s the one-line diagrams for the plant. So I did, I went, I read the IEEE books and I figured out what my game plan was.
I had to do a walk down. I had to make sure the one line diagram was updated. I had to do the impedance diagram and I had it all laid out and that whole summer I did by hand a short circuit and coordination study. I built my own light table for my time current characteristic curves. And it was absolutely awesome. And then at the end of the summer he laid SKM systems analysis software on the table and he said, tell me what this stuff does. And I installed it in the computer and I basically did in about two days everything that I spent all summer doing.
And I’ll tell you, Chris, you know, what was the most awesome part of the whole thing when you do a hand calculation of short-circuit occurrence and this was a, this was an ungrounded, it was grounded through a zigzag. Delta Delta transformers, all over the place. 2300 volts, paper insulated led cables. It was an old plant. And I did the stuff by hand. And then when I ran the numbers in the software and I compared they were almost identical. That was such a rewarding experience. I mean, I literally, I was like, high-fiving everybody in their cubicles. I’m like, I matched every one of those numbers. I was so happy when I left there. Paul O’Connor does not know how he changed my life because when I went, I was really good at a computer design, you know, using, we use the 886 processor back then, you know, and I would lay out all my little controls and stuff.
And I went back, I told my Dean of engineering. I want to go power. And Jerry Selvaggi, Mr. Selvaggi was the power systems engineering class teacher. And they were really facing out their power systems engineering. There was three people in my power systems classes, three, you can’t hide in a class of three people, you know? He would bring real-world projects because he had his consulting firm. He would bring problems to the class and we would help them solve them. And I’ll tell you what I just absolutely loved it. Nothing was better than crawling over a transformer on my little breadboard, if I made a mistake it went — and it was over.
You make a mistake in what we do and it’s a big boom. You know, unfortunately, sometimes it happens, but that changed my whole career. Then in Summer I went back to power systems development and it was funny. It was. We don’t have any openings. We had an opening for an intern.
He says if I have an opening, we’ll add you on, but you know, in the consulting business your workload, tells you if you need to hire people and you know, it is what it is. So then I went to work for Gilbert Commonwealth because of my experience in Canton, Ohio with power systems development and systems analysis software, and all that good stuff, because of that experience that got me through my job at Gilbert Commonwealth, which is also a consulting engineering firm. And I was doing short circuit studies, coordination studies and systems design. What I loved about Gilbert was they had industrial, commercial, fossil, power plants, nuclear power plants, and transmission distribution. So my goal was to get through all five. I did a project in an industrial.
I did a project in fossil. And I got into on, I did a commercial, I got into nuclear and then they shipped me down to Florida for crystal river, unit three, and they didn’t want me to leave. So I was on a six month assignment for three years. I’d get done with my one project and they’d say, Hey, we’re going to extend you another six months. Would you help us with the battery calculations? Sure. And I got done with that one. It’s Hey, you know, we’re doing an MCC replacement. Can you help us with that? And there’s another six months while I’m like, I’m in St. Petersburg, Florida. I mean, you know, I’m young guy and I’m like scuba diving, I’m fishing, I’m shooting trap.
I’m like, this is really cool. Then my mom ended up with cancer and I said, I got to get back to Pittsburgh. And that’s when I came to Eaton and the rest is history, man. I’ve been with Eaton since. 96.
Wow, man. That is what a story, man. That’s awesome.
Oh, I’ll tell you what, it’s been a, it’s been a journey. A lot of people have, they know exactly what they want to do in five years. Do you ever get that question in an interview? Where do you want to be in five years? You know, and you know what I say, I want to be employed. I want to be employed and I want to be adding value to whoever I’m working for.
Right, right. And this side of the dirt, that’s usually my answer. I want to be on this side of the dirt, you know.
That’s the truth. I want to be on the right side of the grass. That’s right. Yeah. That’s awesome.
You’re impacting so many people at your time with the stuff you’re making any advice, because this is all about the hero conversations, trying to get people excited about our industry. What advice would you give someone that wants to pursue a career like yourself?
You know, what advice would I, if somebody wants to be like an engineer. I would say. I know for me, it was hard work. One of my roommates in college, Mike Penson Statler. He was going to school to be a veterinarian. I would study my butt off I physics. I would be reading a physics book and one time I threw the physics will cross the floor because I’m like, I don’t get it. Mike walked over, grabbed that book. Literally, Chris, this is exactly what he went into his bedroom. I turned the TV on 20 minutes later. He came out and he taught me that chapter never had physics. Some people are just that smart and some people have to work very hard. I studied my butt off. I never settled. If I got a C I earned that C and I was still proud of that C. You’ve going to be a type of an individual that can accept failure as a learning experience. And I think that goes on everything. If you’re not failing at something, you’re not doing anything. And I think what stops a lot of people is there a fear of failing? Yeah. Of asking a bad question. And in some people will actually go to extents to lie when asked questions.
I mean, I was just talking to an individual at a business. And he had to let somebody go because the gentleman that he was trying to work with, that he had working for him would just not tell the truth. He would tell him to go do something. And he’d say, did you do that? Yeah, I did. And he’d say did you measure this to this? Yes I did. And then he’d go out there and he’d says it was obvious. He didn’t do that. You will never learn anything if you don’t recognize your own capabilities and your own weaknesses and strengths.
The other thing too is I think a lot of people think. And I can tell you just from my own experience and my family, my, you know, my dad said you’re going to go to college. Right. So we knew we were going to college. But not everybody should go to college. I’m really good with my hands. I really enjoy working on things. And I always sit there and think, boy, I wonder if I would have gone down the trade route would I own my own business today? Would I have my own contracting business, because if you’re really good with your hands, if you’re the best troubleshooter you’re doing you, the only thing you have to do is learn the business angle of that and maybe I could have been a business owner at this point. You never know. You only have to accept where you’re at, what you’re doing, and for me saying that I’m going to start my own business.
I always wanted to start my own business. Oh. Even as an engineer, I always said I’d love to have my own business, but there’s that comfort zone you’re in, you can say, am I going to leave this job to possibly fail and not have an income. You’ve got a family to think about. You’ve got bills you have to pay. School loans. I had to pay and all that good stuff. So there’s risk involved. And sometimes you’ve got to understand your risks, but I think it’s just hard work, no matter what it is, it’s just pouring on the coal.
It is great advice. Great advice. And another thing that I love to get your perception on is, you know, people, when they think about engineering or they think about industry and specific where they think about power they have their certain perceptions out there and they’re not, all positive either. So if you had a chance to debunk something around engineering or power that’s just not accurate. What would that be?
Oh, man, there was a lot of stuff that is accurate, you know? And, one of the perceptions, I think when you hear somebody come out of college, just somebody who’s a college graduate and a lot of people will look at that person and say, boy, he’s really smart. It’s not necessarily true. You may be. I call things. You may be very booksmart but you may not be very practical, smart. There are a lot of people that come out of school who also think they’re smart. And I would say it, it doesn’t even have to come out of school.
There are probably people in a trade that think they’re smart and they know everything because I’ve done that. I’ve been working in the business for 20 years. You know, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, but. There’s a level of being able to recognize you need, like, my dad used to call it, you going to eat humble pie. You going to be able to sit down and say, look, I’m not the guru on the job here, but together we’re going to get it done. And I think the big myth is that the engineer is going to be the person who’s going to solve the problems. And you know, that person knows everything. And that’s not the truth at all. Like I said earlier, or I don’t know if I said it to you or who, but college teaches you to learn a mass amount of information in a short period of time. When you come out of college, you’ve got so much learning to do, you know, people ask me what the key to success.
I think be a sponge. Learn as much as you can from everybody, the guy pushing a broom can teach you something and you might be able to share something you know, with that person. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, what your job is in life or on a project. Every individual plays an important role in success of the business and of each other.
In the engineer on the job, I’ll never forget my first I did a project. And I ordered equipment. The site electrician called me up and he said, are you the engineer? This is like my, for one of my first jobs. And I said, yeah, I’m the engineer on the job. He’s like can you come out to the site? I’m like, oh yeah, I couldn’t wait to put my white helmet on. I had my new boots on. My new work pants, you know, for the job site pants, you know? So I go out to the job site and I see this huge, big gray box sitting there. And I’m like, wow that’s a big piece of equipment.
And he goes, yeah. He says, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I said, oh really? He goes, yeah. He says, you bought that. I’m like, I bought that. Is that this? He goes, yeah. And he goes, now you’re going to tell me how I’m going to get that through that little door over there. And I’m like, I never thought about that. Yeah you got to get that in that little door. Chris I’m telling you. I was like, I had one of those moments where your jaw just drops, you know? And then he put his arm around me and he goes, don’t worry. He says, I got you covered. He’s already talked to the manufacturer. We can break it down in sections and get it in there. He says, but I will have to make two modifications to doors inside. He said, I want you to know about it. And I’m like, oh my gosh, I’m man. I’ll tell you. And I think that was the time when I realized you don’t know everything and you got to make sure you connect with everybody.
And a good engineer is a problem solver, right? And we’re all engineers. Everybody thinks that everybody goes, well, you’re only an engineer if you get a degree, that’s, in my opinion, there are a lot of electricians who are engineers, because they can look at a project or. And take what they know, the fundamentals, and solve that problem. Keep it safe, save the customer money and get that job done fast. And I would say that person is probably more of an engineer than I am, depending upon what you’re working on. Sure. I just have. I used to call it a pigskin and someone said, no, Tom, that’s a sheepskin. Shows you how smart I am. Right. But no, but I, you know, I think that. The, you know, going to go on to college teaches you how to learn information, but everybody is an engineer in their own way.
That’s for sure. For sure. I guess maybe one question I love to know about your role, particularly the role you’re in right now is when are you the happiest, what work brings you the most joy?
So, when I first started working for Eaton, I was at a nuclear power plant and I was designing power systems. I was engineering drawings. I was working on the security system, put an entirely new security system in for a nuclear plant, which was really cool. And then my mom had cancer, so I wanted to get home. So I got home and I started working at Eaton. My goal was. I don’t want to take a pay cut. I want to stay as engineering and my job, I always said, I never want to be a salesperson. I am an engineer. People would say, are you in sales? I am an electrical engineer. I was, I always defensive about that.
So I went to work at Eaton and I was an application engineer, but I was on a help desk. And in my mind though, Chris, I was like, oh man, I got to wear one of those little earbuds. And I’ve got to take a call and then I’m going to have to work with somebody. And I’m going to be looking at catalog numbers and trying to figure out what to order. And I’m thinking, this is not me, but then I’m thinking my mother needs me. I need to be home. I will make this work. Eaton’s a big company. It was transitioning from Westinghouse to Eaton at the time. So I went and I sat on that and I had all the books that the gentleman I was replacing wasn’t leaving yet.
So I had to sit and read catalogs and I was all frustrated. And then finally I get on the phones and I’m telling you, it was like a light bulb. I got the phone, The first phone call I got was or one of the first few, it was a gentleman in a wastewater treatment plant. He goes, boy, I need your help. I said, what do you need, sir? He goes, listen. He’s I’m in a wastewater treatment plant. He goes, I need your help right now because in about 20 minutes, I’m going to be knee deep in it. Literally. I’m like, okay, what do you got? He goes, I got a programmable logic controller. He says, it’s a 10 box Westinghouse, 10 box. And then boom. I grabbed Jim Babcock and I grabbed this person on the phone and we walked him through and we solved his problem. He thanked me and hung up and I was like, this is awesome. You know, like, this is what it is all about because it, it is about solving problems.
I had a sales guy call me in from Seattle Washington and he says, Hey, he says, I’m going in to see a customer. And I need to know everything there is about an iQ analyzer, because, and he says, I don’t know anything. And the IQ analyzer at that time was our most complicated monitoring device. And I’m like, there is no way I said, when you’re going in as well, can we schedule a call?
He’s like no. He’s I’m going in right now. He said he got about 10 minutes and I tell him, I says, okay, here’s what I want. I want you to go in there, show him the device, tell him, look. And I was on a help desk that had 24/7 service because we bailed people out from being in knee deep, in, in a, in those situations. So I told him, I says, you’re going to give him, and you’re going to tell him that when they buy our product, they’re are very technical. And if they have a problem call this 800 number. And there were four of us on the phones. I said, one of us was going to pick up, like we always do just like I did for him.
And I said, and then we’ll walk him through what the product is and we’ll answer his questions. And he’s like, that’s a good idea. So I told the other three guys, I said, Hey if I can’t think of his name, Paul Fritz. I said, Paul. This is what’s going on. His customer’s going to ask questions. So he’s going to be just, you’re just going to basically answer his questions about the product, just like we always do. And they’re like, okay, great. So I got the call and I said, Hey, you know, in, and he asked all the right questions. I walked him through the product, showed him how it was done. And he’s like, well, how do I get ahold of you guys? So it’s one 800. And I gave him the number. I said, and we work 24/7, back then we carried pagers and we had one cell phone. It was an AT&T big gray cell phone. And we passed it with each other. Today we all have cell phones. Right. But Paul sent me a case of smoked salmon, be flew it in, and you know what?
I didn’t eat salmon at the time. I gave it all away. Those in my career, I can say that. It was one of the best jobs I ever had because I was solving problems, real world issues. And what I do today. With the educational stuff I put on and people who know me will send me emails. They’ll contact me with problems. I’ve helped people with other manufacturers products. Okay. I had Donny Cook, Shelby county, Alabama, call me up and he his main went out of the jail down. It transfer, switch, transferred over and it tripped the generator circuit breaker. And he says you know, they’ve been pulling maintenance on the generator. He says, I’m trying to figure this out. And I said, well, send me the one line diagram. I did the coordination study for him. I told him exactly what was wrong. None of his breakers had the right settings in them and they weren’t my product. And he went back in, he hired I don’t know who he hired, but he hired somebody to go back and set everything correctly. That’s to me, that is the satisfaction I want out of a job. I thoroughly enjoy helping people solve problems.
Oh man. That’s great. That is so great. I thank you for all the examples. I mean, it was wonderful. Just hearing about your career. I’m loving it. I’m loving it. I do want to get, talk about you outside of work now. So let’s take it a turn down a dirt road. What hobbies do you got? What do you enjoy doing for fun?
I love the hunting fish. I love to hunt and I had a bird dog at one point I had a Brittany, Lady. She was a junior hunter on quail and up here it’s grouse. Right? So we hunt grouse up in here, but grouse has really thinned out over the years. It’s not like I was when I was a kid. But because of the travel and everything, I don’t get out hunting as much. So I picked up a different hobby. Now I play my guitar. So I love music. I always have loved music. So when I was in high school, I played saxophone. And in college I played saxophone. Played a little bit of drums. So I took up the guitar. I was my nephew, my little nephew wanted to learn how to play guitar. So I said, I made him a deal. I said, okay, I will buy you a guitar and I will pay for lessons, but I’m going to buy a guitar too. And to make sure you practice, we’re going to practice together.
Well he’s and we started out good. We, you know, I would take him to, I had his books and everything. You know, I couldn’t sit in there and say, I want you to pay. I want to teach both of us because you know, it just wouldn’t be fair to him. So he took his classes and then I was practicing on my own. And then he would come home and we would practice together. But then he got older and he wanted to play football and wanted to play baseball. And so that took the place of the guitar. But I was like, you know what, I’m liking this. So I’ve had my guitar. For quite some time. And when I started to travel more, I realized I could not tell my wife I’m coming home. I haven’t been home from Sunday to Friday. I’m coming home Friday and I’m going to go sit in a tree, bow hunting on Saturday. I just couldn’t do it. You know? So home time is really important to me and, but now you would think over these COVID years, right? This year, you would think that Tom would have been in a tree this past fall.
But, I mean, I’ve got my Marshall half stack. I got my twin reverb. I’ve got my telecaster or my Stratocaster, my Gibson Les Paul, my Taylor acoustic. Now I can actually mic it and record some stuff. So I’ve been experimenting with that. And I wipe the guns down every now and then, and I still have those. I’ve got a, quite a good collection. I used to collect a Smith and Wesson and Colts. I love Colt, the Colt Python and the diamond back and all the old Smiths. I called them the gold box Smiths. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a five screws and four screws, Smiths and all that good stuff. Smith collector knows the screws on those, the number of screws on a gun.
That’s awesome, man. Sounds like you have a lot of fun playing a guitar, man. That’s great.
Yeah, I enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot. And a friend of mine who he used to bring his guitar to the. And when we were at a specific building here in Pittsburgh area, he used to bring his guitar and then we would play together in a conference room. He had a taylor and I had acoustic. We would play our acoustics and he taught me a lot and he left, he went to work at our Asheville facility and then he worked in Raleigh and then he left the company and he worked for somebody out west and he just he called me this week. He said, Hey, I’m back in town.
That’s awesome. Yeah. How about your family? You mentioned your wife there. So what would you like to share about your family?
My family on my, my, I have one, I’ve only have one brother, but my father came from a family of 12. Yeah. 12 kids. And so, I lost my mother and then I lost my dad but you know, with such a big family my uncle, Steve, last survivor of the Malmedy massacre. So the Malmedy massacre during world war II was over in Malmedy France. And they captured a column and my uncle was in that column. They put them all on a field. You’ll read about it in books. You’ll see it in movies where they executed everybody in a field and only a few survived. My uncle managed to hit the ground when the shooting stopped. He played dead.
And as the soldiers were walking by you know, making sure they did their job and then when they left, he laid there for a few hours and he got up and a few other couple other people got up and then they ran back to a farm. One of those things where you know, they made them shuck their clothes and all that other good stuff, and he was blonde and he looked German. So he was blonde hair and he wasn’t really into sports. So he says, he’s walking down a road and a US Jeep pulls up and know they got the gun on them. And he says, he’s raising his hands. He’s going US, US. I’m your soldier. You know, US soldier. He says, don’t shoot you because they didn’t have their uniforms.
And then now what do they ask them? Who won the world series? My uncle Steve goes, I don’t know who won the world series. He says, I don’t follow baseball. He says, I’m from Aliquippa Pennsylvania. My mother is Sophia. My father’s John. He says we live in 1252 and he gives him his address. And he’s like, you know, I’m a US soldier, you know?
And but you know, think about it. You might, my grandmother got the letter that he was killed in battle because they assumed that he was killed. And then she had to get the next letter that says that he was alive. But there were four brothers that were in world war II at the same time.
So, you know, he always has good stories. My uncle Ray he was in the tanks. My uncle Murph was, is John. We always called them Murph. My family was big on, not my dad, but the rest of my family was always big on nicknames. I mean, I had an aunt pippy, I mean, who called, who calls her dear aunt pippy. You know, I had a Murph it’s there. His name was John. Duty. She was Sophia. I, well, you know, they were just big on nicknames, but my dad never liked that. But he was the youngest of 12. He was youngest of 12. Wow. So it was just me and my brother and my brother works. He works for Eaton as well.
So he used to work for AEP. That’s why I went to Canton, Ohio, because he was living in Canton. And then you know, we have my wife and I have two dogs. We have labs.
Oh, nice. Yeah. Well, you’re having a fun time and family’s important. And thank you, Tom, for sharing. What’s sure, man.
No, not a problem. I, you know, my mother, she, she was a special person and it doesn’t matter. How long is she died in two, right, right around nine 11, right before nine 11 occurred. Wow. And it doesn’t matter how long that woman was just a special woman. She was just a very very good person. And when you lose a parent, you know, it never leaves you.
You know what Tom this has been great getting to know you I love your passion. I mean, I just it’s been a true blessing for me just to meet you and to hear your story. And we call EECO Asks Why and this is, I guess my favorite part of the show is the why. So if somebody wants to know, you know, Tom, what is your personal, why, what would that be?
Oh why I do what I do?
Just your personal, why. The drive behind Tom?
Oh, man. Well, my, drive, it is how I was raised. It’s a part of me it’s my family has always been passionate about everything. My dad always told me, you know, you’re a Domitrovich, you’re going to succeed no matter what you do, you just got to put 110% into it. He never settled for anything less. And we as a family always poured 110% of everything we did. So it’s just, I think it’s part of my fabric. It’s just, if I wasn’t doing this, if I, no matter what I would be doing. I would, even if I failed, I knew that I put 110% in that failure, you know? But that’s just the way I was raised. I think it’s all about family. It’s all about how you interact and, you know, some people are blessed with really great backgrounds like that. Great family. Some people aren’t as blessed, but, and there are those portions of those people who aren’t as blessed, but that family environment that still find a passion because of their friends. It’s all about relationships, in my opinion.
It is. Tom, this has been great. Thank you so much. We’ll make sure for our listeners out there that we put links to everything. Every way to get in touch with Tom, to follow him, his personal website, now, YouTube channels all those connections points. He’s put out great information on a regular basis. I really encourage listeners to check him out. And Tom, just thank you so much again for taking the time with us on EECO Asks Why.
Thank you for the opportunity, Chris. Always good.
Absolutely. You have a wonderful day.