Saturday, October 24, 2020

I Chose Inspection As A Profession In The Oil and Gas Industry

I have mentioned in some of my articles and posts on LinkedIn how I got into inspection. I have also mentioned that I am a third-generation oil and gas. I worked as an Operator in compression after leaving a construction contractor. I worked there for nearly 5 years and seeing an opportunity to get back closer to home we moved back to Casper, WY. I tried some sales and immediately realized I did not like it and was called for an Inspection project in Colorado in the summer of 1998.

I jumped at the opportunity because it meant a better paycheck and a chance to be a better provider for my family at the time. I also liked working outdoors and not tied to an inside position. I don't think I was on the job less than a week and I found myself thinking I finally found something I liked. At first, I was overwhelmed with a lot of doubt and lacking self-confidence. But after about a month I was feeling comfortable with the position. A lot of that comfort came from the Chief Inspector and many of the inspectors I got to know. My dad also provided a tremendous amount of phone support. The caveat of the position was my family was in WY and at the time I just figured I would eventually get back to WY sooner than later and be working projects there.

After a period of time, I became even more attached to the inspection role. I liked the positions that I had and met so many really good-hearted people everywhere I went. I think the biggest attraction to me was the constant changes always taking place when working as an inspector. The challenges if you will. I learned that with every project comes its own set of challenges and that part I had a weird liking for. It's hard for me to put my finger on how to exactly describe it. I liked the aspect that you needed to be ready to handle any kind of situation that arises.

I initially worked FERC projects around the country for about 7 1/2 years and then went back and forth in between gathering lines and API 653 Tank Repair work and API 650 work. My dad hung his stinger up in 1996 and went into inspection. He mostly chased tank repair work and was always busy. When the pipeline projects were slow I would take a tank repair project that would typically last 3 - 5 months. The tank work was a nice change of pace and I did that for several years.

I was on my way out of MT and ND after doing some tank work for a major oil company and received a call from another company whom I had never heard of until I got the call. They wanted to lay a 12" pipeline in the Powder River Basin as part of their CBM gathering system. I took that project and stayed in the area for nearly 10 years. It was a great run. I learned plenty and was able to hone my skills with many of the challenges that came along with those projects.

Being an inspector has its pros and cons. Typically, as with many positions in the industry, you are usually on the road a lot going to wherever the work is. You learn to accept that is part of the position. It is not for everybody and it certainly can be hard on the family life IF you let it. I learned the hard way and didn't take note of the signs of deteriorating family life until it was too late. I made a lot of mistakes on that end of things. I should have been more cognizant of the situation and planned accordingly to make sure my relationships with my 5 boys and wife stayed intact. I heard for years how hard this industry is on the home life and bought into that ideology up until recently. I think differently now.

There are a lot of professions out that that require many hours of dedication and time away from home. The oil and gas industry is not the only one. Having gone deep into the thought of my own life and spent countless hours on why my personal life played out as it did I finally realized what the ultimate cause of the failure was. It has nothing to do with the industry a person works in and everything to do with how two people in a relationship choose to keep their relationship going. It's real easy to blame the profession or something else as the cause of a failed relationship instead of accepting responsibility for your actions or lack thereof. Blaming your significant other's profession because your relationship is in the crapper is just a cop-out. There is blame on both of the individuals and it is their responsibility to figure out what they have to do to keep their relationship strong. It might be that the one who works the profession that keeps them apart will decide to change careers. But, I also think there are ways to keep the relationship together without changing careers. It all boils down to what the two of you decide together and both are happy within your own comfort zone.

I got out in the weeds a bit with that last paragraph but I felt it needed to be addressed as I have heard and been a part of many discussions with my fellow workers about personal life and working away from home. Inspectors usually work in a profession that takes them away from home. Those of you who are thinking about joining the profession, you need to be ready for a lifestyle change and all the good and bad that go along with it.

The inspection position is one where you are typically the unpopular person because you are correcting things and approving or disapproving of other workers' actions. It is a position that also requires you to carry a lot of responsibility and accountability. You must possess a certain skill set to fill the position and be willing to be flexible and assertive when the situation is justified. It requires the ability to learn information quickly and be ready for constant changes in your daily activities. You have to be able to navigate multiple personalities and deal with a huge spectrum of emotions and attitudes. A lot of people view the inspector's position as "easy." There are days that are. However, what those individuals do not see is what is going on in the inspector's head. What they are doing at night to make sure they are familiarizing themselves with the project documents and writing reports. The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. As with any position, there is a large part of the inspector's role that nobody ever sees or is aware of until they become one. it is not easy but has its rewards if you are inclined to dedicate yourself and commit to being a professional just as you would in any profession.

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