You Know the Drill: Jack of All Trades
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. I drill, I install tanks, I install water pumps, go out and service problems. When people have no water, we make that a priority to get somebody there right away because that’s an emergency. We get to the customer, go out and get it diagnosed. If there’s something we don’t normally stock, we have plenty of suppliers that we can run and get what we need (from). The other thing we do is install treatment systems. My boss does his own water testing. He’s qualified in water testing. We basically cover everything to do with water systems. … Where our shop is located is only a half mile from my house, so that makes it a benefit. I could walk to work if I had to, which I’ve done already just to get a little exercise. The environment, getting out and meeting new people; that’s what keeps me coming back —making them feel good that I did a good job repairing their water problems. The customers always come first and that’s what keeps me coming back. (And) the job itself, being outside, working with new people every day. That’s basically what keeps me coming back — and the great attitude amongst all the other guys that I work with. It’s a great environment to work in.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. I’m on a job right now and I’m drilling geothermal boreholes. My job is to drill down so many feet to get these geo loops in and we’re having a little bit of a problem getting down to where we need to be. So right now we have to drill multiple holes. It is stressful at some points, but at the end of the day you’re doing your best to get everything done that you can and just to get the job done for the customer so we can stop making a mess basically, because it does get messy. … There’s some days that in the morning we could get a service call that comes in and the boss will send two guys to do a service call, or if those guys aren’t available, they’ll send me and another guy to get the job done and get back to what we were originally doing, like coming back to this job for the geothermal boreholes.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. What I’d say to that is work hard and take notes. For certain areas/certain jobs, remembering everything that you learn is a task. It gets stressful. Sometimes I need a kick in the behind to remember everything because there’s so much to remember. Sometimes my coworkers will say, “Didn’t we do this?” and then the light bulb goes on and it’s like, OK that’s how we fixed this. My coworkers have been in this business, too, for quite a while, and everybody has to remember everything that goes on, where jobs were, and it’s just a big task, but we work together. I couldn’t ask for better employees to work with.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. It’s all a learning process. You have your good days, you have your bad days. That’s a really tough question to answer. … If I knew then what I know now I’d be striving to learn more because every year something new comes out or every six months something new comes out. So you’re constantly learning. … It’s just learn as you go. Listen to the boss and what he tells you to do and everything goes smoothly. That’s the basic thing. Just do what the boss tells you and that’s it. There is no simple way of doing things. We all go over instructions on what’s got to be done and what we try to get done in a day. If it doesn’t happen, there’s always the next day.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. I would have to say all of my tools and all of the boss’s tools. There is no real certain tool that you can’t work without. You’ve got pipe wrenches, you’ve got adjustables, you’ve got volt meters, you have pressure gauges. Basically, everything is a must. There is no certain tool that you can’t do without, whether it be a hoist, a drill, a well drilling rig, you can’t do without it. Everything you acquire that you put together in your own tool bag, plus whatever the boss supplies, you really can’t do without any of it. Everything you have, you use.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. When in doubt run it out. That pertains specifically to the water well, before you’re setting your casing. If you’re unsure of something, if you don’t think you’re in solid bedrock, run it until you know you’re in. Other than that, once you know you’re in bedrock, you come out with your 8-inch hammer and, say, your 6-inch casing and you go to town. You just drill until you get good water and you see the customer with a smile on his face when you’ve got a gusher coming out of the hole and you’re good to go. Nobody likes to go deep, but it varies from place to place.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. When the recession started way back when, we were busier than anything. It was non-stop go, go, go. Then towards the end of the recession that’s when everything started to slow down and it started to get rough. For the most part, what kept us going was the geothermal drilling end of it. In the past, I would say, couple years, everything started picking back up. The housing’s starting to come back here and there. It’s not back to what it was, but it is making a comeback. So I’d say for the most part, the geothermal was the thing that was keeping us going the most and the recession didn’t hit us until it started ending. Construction workers got hit in the beginning, we got hit at the end of the recession and then it just dropped off and the only thing that kept us going was the geothermal. But now the water wells and geothermal are working together. So everything’s making a decent comeback. We had a slow point in time and it’s all coming around.