Are you happy?

It was not a bit black over Bill’s mother’s this morning. Far from it. The sun was shining and it was the warmest day for a couple of weeks. The trees were nearly all in full leaf and provided a lush green backdrop to the incessant birdsong. It was a day for an easy run, so no real physical discomfort. The result of all of these contributions was that I was happy. This is not surprising: the sun 
always makes people happy. Being outdoors and surrounded by nature is promoted as a way of improving wellbeing and mental health; similarly, exercise is known to help relaxation and reduce stress. Strenuous exercise produces endorphins, but there was none of that today!

Happiness is something we all aspire to and, as a result, a big industry has been built up that offers help and instruction on how to achieve happiness in our lives. Recently, there was an article in Professional Engineer, the IMechE magazine. Well, it was more of an agony aunt page. A question was asked about career progression and a selection of people had written in with advice. One of the respondents advised the enquirer to “…only apply for roles within the organisation that you believe you will enjoy and can make a strong contribution in”. There is a subtle difference between enjoyment and happiness but, if you enjoy doing something, you tend to do better at it. The combination of enjoyment and the satisfaction of a good job will likely engender happiness at work. This raises the question of whether doing NDT, or being an NDT professional, makes you happy. One way to find out, following many sources of advice, is to make a list of the credits and the debits. So here is my initial balance sheet:
  • A key positive for me is the technical demands required for the design and implementation of techniques: generation of ideas; problem solving; decision making; calculations; experimentation; and assessment of evidence.  
  • These technical challenges can be generated by a number of disciplines, but the attraction of NDT is the variety of disciplines that need to be engaged in order to solve problems or design techniques and procedures. There is the knowledge of the physical principles, the component materials and the defects being 
sought. Automated inspections bring in mechanical manipulators, signal processing for data collection and analysis and image formation and analysis. With future technology this is only going to grow.  
  • NDT is one of the few disciplines that demands theoretical knowledge combined with practical skill for implementation. This also calls for an appreciation of quality assurance and human factors.
  • There are not too many of us, so we can easily build long-standing relationships with each other. However, there is sufficient turnover to keep the NDT community fresh and up to date.
  • NDT provides an important contribution to society in supporting the public and the environment through safety and sustainability, 
which is a big plus.
  • Completing an NDT task requires expertise and adaptability in communication: verbal and written; informal and formal; detailed and simple.
  • The biggest negative is the refusal, by many outside the NDT community, to appreciate the benefits of an inspection properly applied. This incorporates the view that it is a reluctant purchase, conducted as a box-ticking exercise.
  • Non-NDT engineers are able to understand the basic principles of NDT, which leads to them having a simplistic view and, consequently, a lack of appreciation for the level of competence required. Coupled with the above, NDT is not held in the esteem it deserves.
  • NDT suffers from time pressure as it is not engaged early enough in the design or operational process. It is inevitably applied too late, when contingency has been used up and the rush to complete the job is at its height. No allowance is then made if NDT finds a defect that requires action, which has negative
Maybe you have other items to add to the plus or minus columns? Once the two lists are complete, the challenge is to work out an overall result. Or you could just go with gut instinct. Does NDT make you happy?

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Wood or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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