U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and Graduate of The Ocean Corporation
Smoke’s clearing. The horizon is coming more into focus. Little is left on this tour and the homecoming will be well overdue. We’re back home on base awaiting a few signatures to complete the SEPS process. So what’s next? How do I transfer my skills back to the civilian life? For the past four years, I only knew to stay vigilant, giving your all, being there for your brothers who stood next to you in trying times.
Home sweet home. Being 24 and a few years behind my siblings and peers compared to where they are in life, I sit stagnant in which direction to go. There is an industry that many people would never hear about if it were not for someone who was already in the position. It started out as “Hey, have you found a job? I know there are good opportunities in NDT.” Knowing nothing of what NDT (nondestructive testing) is, I rely on the trusty internet to educate me. Lo and behold, it was something that I found really interesting.
The Ocean Corporation (TOC) was the first option to come up on my search. It did have good reviews and did accept my VA benefits, which was a huge plus, especially not having much after separation from the Corps. Though I was only a few months removed, I had started attending a four-year university so I wondered if it was going to work scheduling both full-time college classes, half day classes at The Ocean Corporation, and somehow, still find time to work because we all know that bills do not pay themselves. I did make the tough decision to drop my courses at the University of Houston to focus on the curriculum at TOC. Why would I drop a college degree for certifications at a vocational school? Though the intelligence was there, I have struggled with ADHD all my life and college courses were just taking too long to complete. Add the reality of life and, needless to say, I needed a job and quickly. I had no idea the income that the NDT industry would bring, but I knew it should be better than a part-time job at a big box store.
Eventually that day came. I was graduating from TOC. Coincidentally I almost missed my graduation in part, because Jeff Brown, the Director of Student Services, put me in contact with various companies and I got hired earlier in the day, when we were supposed to be getting our diplomas that evening. The instructors were knowledgeable and I could see that they had passion for what they did from their time working in the field.
Taking what I had learned from TOC, I thought I was God’s gift to NDT primarily in Radiography Testing (RT). Marine Corps Boot Camp, random training courses, and a couple tours overseas all lead up to what the RT world would present to me. Being an industrial radiographer meant that I was going to have to get dirty, be miserable, and work long hours. Hey! What the heck? That sounds horrible, right? Chasing pipelines in the trenches, climbing scaffolding to get into pipe racks, or late nights performing radiography at fabrication shops is not much different from the treacherous training and environments a Marine encounters. You could say that I was already used to working in a fast-paced environment. From running back and forth cranking out the radioactive material to make an exposure to enduring Houston’s summer heat, the Marine Corp tailored me to be mentally and physically tough.
Of course, I would not be where I am without having someone to introduce the job to me. It has taken me to places that I would have never thought to go. I have travelled to many states, worked in various Chemical and Petroleum Refineries throughout the U.S., and seen the backcountry running with pipeline jobs. My journey in NDT has taken me from being a TOC graduate to where I am now, a Regional Quality Manager for an NDT services company.
IRISNDT gave me a call asking if I was interested in an assistant position. My role would be to assist the level II radiography technician with the setup of exposures, processing film, and practicing on interpretation of the radiographs. A short 10 months later, I broke out running my own truck and having an assistant to help me with the grunt work. That is where the fun began to happen. I worked with some great people and not so great people, but we always got the job done. I was known to be a productive tech but it did come with a little hiccup at times. My quality would suffer when I got too far ahead of myself. After a few years of running a RT truck, our Deer Park (TX) office needed a new Dispatcher. The same Operation Director who hired me asked if I was interested in that position. Yes, it would put me on salary but I would be losing all of the OT I was making out in the field. It was a raise if I worked 40 hours a week but I usually worked 50 to 100 hours a week making it a pay cut by the end of the year. My role as a Dispatcher was to supervise the staff, scheduling them and keep them working, since some were on call. I had to be the interface between the Clients and IRISNDT as well as other small logistical duties.
There are levels to each nondestructive testing method. Level I technicians are typically the assistants, who potentially just started their careers. Level II technicians are the inspectors who perform the testing method, perform system calibrations, write the NDT reports, interpret and evaluate the findings. Level III technicians are the professionals of the inspection method. They make sure the company is in conformity with its governing parties such as ASNT, ASME, API and AWS to mention a few, establishing the qualification and certification manual, writing the work procedures, establish the training program, and they also assist with meeting the requirements to hold ISO and NADCAP certifications. IRISNDT’s Quality Manager offered me an opportunity to test for my level III certification. I will tell you, it was not easy at all! That was the hardest test that I have ever taken. Not only do you test to be a professional in that method but still have to show knowledge in every testing method along with knowledge in materials and processes.
Thinking that dispatching was the height of my career, I thought wrong. After 5 years of dispatching, I was promoted to Regional Quality Manager for IRISNDT. My stress level has never been so high with all of my responsibilities, but I love what I do. I have great rapport with the staff. Upper management treats me well and continues to offer me great opportunities. Who would have thought I could reach so much potential within my first 10 years at IRISNDT?