When I was “in the trenches” working construction, I used to think the inspector onsite had a pretty gravy job. I mean come on, man! All he or she had to do was show up and watch people work. They never got dirty, drove nice trucks, wore nice work clothes, and the rumor was they made a ton of money doing little.
I mention the above only half-joking. I did think they did not do much but get in the way most of the time and at the time I could not really see that they did a lot during the day. Yeah once in a while they would correct someone for a safety infraction or maybe give a thumbs up on a situation before backfilling. My perspective as well as others could not have been further from the truth.
It was not until I took my first inspection job that I realized the duties and responsibilities of the inspector. I remember the first morning walking into a field office trailer and seeing over 40 inspectors. A couple of gentlemen who were older than me asked if I was looking for the contractor’s trailer. I told them no, that I was a new utility inspector. I found out a few days later from the Chief Inspector that I was the youngest inspector in the group.
From the first day as an inspector, I knew this was the kind of work I wanted to do. After a week or so during a morning inspection meeting, I made my mind up that I wanted to be a Chief Inspector. From that point on I did everything I could to learn from everybody I was around. I volunteered for every inspection task that I could and was upfront about my background and areas where I lacked knowledge. I was lucky to have worked under a Chief who recognized my drive and work ethic and threw me in all sorts of different tasks knowing if I got in over my head I would call him or who he assigned to assist me if I needed help. I was incredibly grateful to be the last inspector to leave that spread on my first inspection job.
I continued my pursuit for a Chief Inspector role working various utility and welding inspector roles across the country going wherever the work was. In 2002 I was surprisingly requested to fill the role as an Assistant Chief on a project in Utah. Immediately I was overwhelmed with self-doubt thinking I was not “seasoned” enough to fill that role. Both the Super Chief and Chief assured me that I was the one they wanted to fill the position and offered me an open line directly to them if I got into a situation that I was uncertain about. That was all I needed to hear, and I took the position.
Finally, in 2003, I landed a small API 653 project and was hired as the Chief Inspector. I went back and forth between roles as a welding inspector and a chief inspector for the next 2-1/2 years. In 2006 I landed a position in Wyoming where I stayed for 9 years and 9 months as a third-party Chief Inspector initially before being moved to the Construction Manager role. I have been working as a Chief or a Construction Manager ever since.
I may have gotten a bit long-winded with my background but I wanted to try to put together a timeline for those of you who are interested in being an inspector or those who are in it and are looking to advance in the field. One of the points I hope you can take from my journey is there is some work involved and determination needed if you want to reach certain levels as an inspector. Now, of course, there are exceptions to everything. My experience is just one of many to which a person can reach certain positions that they desire. There are lots of variables that can contribute to one’s timeline and how quickly they reach that position.
If you are thinking about entering or are already in an inspection role of the oil and gas industry, I would like to pose a question to you. “What do you think makes an individual a good inspector?” You might say knowledge of the business, experience in the trade (welding, coating, lowering-in, dirt, hydrostatic testing, bores, etc.), ability to talk to people, someone who is safety orientated, someone who understands specifications, drawings, and regulations, and you might mention someone who works well with others, is a team player. Okay, time to compare your list of what makes a good inspector. Were your thoughts or ideas among the list of things I mentioned? If so, you are 95% incorrect. Yep, I went there! And yes, it is true. Although these areas are certain qualities that one would expect to see in an inspector none of them make that a person a good inspector. Trust me, I am 100% right when I make that statement. Let me say it again, the qualities that you listed, and I mentioned above do not constitute a good inspector.
So, do I have your attention to wanting to be an inspector? Or are you wondering why you have not been able to advance further in the inspection field? The answer is quite simple and for many is exceedingly difficult to obtain and navigate. The one attribute needed to be a good inspector or advance your career as an inspector is attitude. Your attitude is the driving force behind everything you do when it comes to your profession and personal lives. All the qualities you listed, and I mentioned above referencing what makes a good inspector will flounder and be nonexistent if your attitude is in the crapper. It is just that simple. You can show up with all the worldly experience and certifications that can be had within the oil and gas industry. You can recite all the specifications and regulations by memory and can weld a broken heart and the crack of dawn. But, if your attitude is not in the right frame, you will fail exponentially. You might fall between the cracks for a period and “fake” your way through but eventually, you will meet your own demise, and hopefully, it is not at others’ expense.
Attitude comes from self-awareness. What are your feelings, desires, and motives? How well do you know yourself? What areas do you need to work on or adjust that will put your attitude in the right framework to be an inspector? Are you short-tempered? Do you have an ego? Are you harboring emotions or feelings from an experience with an inspector or co-worker? Is your personal life on shaky ground? Are you looking for notoriety? Is your priority self-image? The only way you can truly know if your attitude is in the right configuration to be a good inspector is how honest you are with yourself. Do you have enough humility to honestly evaluate yourself and list the areas you need to change to be the kind of inspector you need to be? The task of self-evaluation can be daunting and overwhelming but trust me, in the long run, you will be a better you and a good or better inspector after having gone through the process.
Take care and be safe!
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