Welcome to PowerSpot, Plug Power’s new blog series where we’ll highlight the Plug Power employees who inspire us and, we hope, will inspire you too. Today, we’re meeting Dan O’Connell, the site manager for Plug Power’s new Rochester facility, the recently acquired American Fuel Cell.
Dan, could you explain what you do for a living in 20 words or fewer.
I manage the Rochester Operations team where we are working on Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) research, development and manufacturing.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
I’m an environmentalist at heart and have always wanted to do my part in cleaning up the environment for future generations. I believe that widespread adoption of fuel cell technology is one of the best ways I can accomplish that goal. I spent many years working on automotive applications for fuel cells and I’m now excited to work on material handling and backup power opportunities.
Tell us one of the most extraordinary/unusual experiences you’ve had during your career.
I was very fortunate to travel extensively and experience many different cultures through my work. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to live in Brazil for a year while I worked on releasing the world’s first fuel injected 100% ethanol fuel systems for production. Despite the widespread poverty in Brazil, I met a lot of great people and enjoyed the culture immensely. I still have many friends there and have vacationed there with my family.
Late one-night driving home from the proving grounds, the vehicle broke down in a very poor, scary part of town. I didn’t speak much Portuguese at the time, cell phones weren’t invented yet, and I had a car full of expensive electronic test equipment. Needless to say, I was pretty concerned. A half a dozen very young children hanging out nearby came up and escorted me to a pay phone, called a tow truck, and explained exactly where I was. They waited with me until the truck came. This incident had a profound impact on me, renewed my faith in humanity, and reminded me that kindness can be found in any situation.
If you could go back and give your 21-year-old self a valuable piece of advice, what would you say?
No one ever said it was going to be fair, so maintain a positive attitude no matter what the circumstances and always follow your passion. Stop worrying about who gets the credit, take more calculated risks, and don’t be afraid to take a stand for what you believe in and what you know is right.
Share your favorite book, and why it’s top of your list.
The Blue Zones series by Dan Buettner. Great lessons from around the globe on living a better, more balanced, longer life.
Do you have a life philosophy? If so, what is it?
Don’t fight – flee, and if you can’t flee – flow – Robert Elias M.D.
We’re excited to have Dan and the Rochester team join Plug Power as we all continue working to change the way the world moves.