Thoughts on the value of enjoyment and fulfilment in work

Happy New Year to all BINDT readers; may it be profitable and fulfilling!

Our working hours take up a significant portion of our waking hours. Work can be somewhat of a slog, just putting in our time, or it can be an activity that provides us with opportunities to utilise our skills and talents and offers a large measure of satisfaction.

Do you get up in the morning and look forward to the working day with relish or dread… or something between the two? It is important to fill our time outside our ‘day job’ with activities that provide ‘food for the soul’.

I had my 82nd birthday in 2017 and am taking stock of my working life. I have just changed jobs, leaving an enormous corporation trading on the stock exchange and providing the full spectrum of NDT services and moving to a much smaller company, specialising in advanced NDT services and constantly in contact with innovative applications.

I grew up in Edinburgh and attended Heriot-Watt University, without a clear sense of what I wanted to do in terms of a career. I taught high school science and maths for several years but still had an itch to travel and search for new opportunities.

So, I headed to France to pick grapes in Burgundy and stayed there for four years, working in the wine business, attending Université de Dijon, studying enology and playing rugby. Work, study and sport proved fulfilling; I moved out of my comfort zone, learned a new language and tasted some extraordinary wines.

I had the opportunity to move to the United States, again without a clear career path, and by pure happenstance got a job in non-destructive testing. The year was 1960 and ultrasonic technology was relatively crude. I was based in Oklahoma, before moving to Texas and subsequently California, and, as NDT technology progressed, so did my education. I was among the first group certified by ASNT to Level III. At one stage, I was the only technician certified by the US Navy to inspect silver braze joints. I obtained certification as a registered professional engineer in the state of California.

Life was a whirlwind of activity, travel and continual learning opportunities! I was instrumental in the formation of the Santa Monica Rugby Club, where we were National Champions and sent six of our players to the Eagles for the inaugural game against Australia, later coaching the USA Eagles.

There was a brief flirtation with an art gallery on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, Edinburgh Gallery West, which provided the opportunity for Scottish artists to exhibit in Los Angeles. Living in Los Angeles, I could not avoid the temptation to dabble in acting and had a brief and less than sensational career in the local theatre.

I did not intend for this article to be a list of my achievements, but rather an example of how
work does not have to be all consuming and how space can be made for activities outside of
the working structures, where other aspects of our talents and interests can be explored.

I started my own NDT company to provide ultrasonic services to the marine and petrochemical industries and the College of Oceaneering provided me with the opportunity to teach NDT for underwater applications. Teaching NDT became an integral part of my NDT life and is still one of my favourite activities. I have been able to see the progression of numerous candidates from their introduction to NDT theory to becoming valuable and knowledgeable advanced NDT technicians.
So, why am I still working and why NDT? It is all about quality of life, injecting back knowledge and experience and the ever-changing and fascinating world of NDT.

Lest we forget, there exist in this workspace an astonishing variety of fascinating personalities and characters. I have the honour and pleasure to count so many as my friends. This article does not presage the end of my NDT career, nor does it mean that this article will cease soon. I intend to continue ‘Letter from America’, with news and information about technologies and personalities this side of the ocean.

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