NDT Career path and Family Transmission with Éric Rodrigue

Hello Eric! In order for our readers to get to know you better and your NDT career, could you briefly introduce yourself? i.e. current position, past experiences, number of years at Nucleom…

Hello Hélène! I am Eric Rodrigue, Director of Operations at Nucleom for the province of Quebec. I have been working at Nucleom for about 4 and a half years, almost 5. I have 23 years of experience in the business. I started at the bottom of the ladder as a helper and I climbed the ladder as I went along. I was a Technician Helper, then a Technician in radiography where I obtained my level 2 cards. After 9 years, I changed companies to become an Inspector in a foundry (2 years), after which I worked in various industries (mines, pipelines). I then held positions as Supervisor and Operations Manager. Thanks to my background, I have a certain understanding of the issues in the field and the environment in which technicians work.

What is your background – in other words, did you have any NDT-specific training? Did you know before you started your NDT career that you wanted to work in this field, or did you fall into it by chance?

I got into NDT totally by accident – I didn’t know this business – the story is very funny. My sister had a boyfriend who worked in an NDT company. On Christmas Eve 1999, he told me that he needed a helper and he offered me to come with him to Montreal. At that time, I had been working as a night watchman in a hotel for over a year and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I quit my job and became his technical assistant. As time went on, the company encouraged me to look for my cards, especially penetrating cash, and I was able to progress in this area. I didn’t go to school as it can be the case for metallurgy, I learned everything on the job. By chance I came to NDT, I was there at the right time and I took the opportunity.

“I quit my job and became his technical assistant”

We know that this sector is not well known, especially among young people, which represents a real challenge for the sector but also a real opportunity when they choose their career path. What is your opinion on the subject?

I think there is not enough promotion in the Cegep. You can find a multitude of courses there but there are none on inspection. The only course that exists is given by Emploi Québec but it is more dedicated to people in reconversion, often 30 years old and more. There are courses in metallurgy, but they do not include an inspection component. From this observation, I think that the promotion must come from us. It is up to us, NDT companies, to go to training centers, job fairs, etc., to make the sector known. Over the last 40 years, it is mainly a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation. Little by little, we are managing to recruit new technicians by other means, especially through the efforts of human resources.

Your son, Steven, also works at Nucleom. We can say that you introduced him to the NDT world, do you think that transmission and inheritance – especially family inheritance – has an important part to play in the attraction of a specialist?

The thing about my son and my children in general is that they have been hearing about NDT since they were born. My close friends also work in NDT, Steven has always heard me talk about it on the phone. He knows what x-ray or ultrasound is. When he was a kid, he even played with an ultrasound machine and scanned plates for fun. So he was more familiar with NDT than other kids from the start. What happened to Steven is that we (Nucleom) needed a helper, I offered him and he accepted to help us on the side of his studies at the Cegep. He loved it. Of course, the family transmission has a role to play in introducing potential new technicians to the field, but you can’t rely only on the family heritage.

“When he was a kid, he even played with an ultrasound machine”

Could you tell us an anecdote with your son, if you have ever worked together?

The first time Steven came to help me on a job site, he was teased by the welders because he looks so young, he’s 18. They didn’t think he was old enough to be on a job site. I thought it was very funny. On a more personal note, I liked seeing him enjoy being on the job site and the sparkle in his eyes when he found the job. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was emotional, but it was very nice to be able to witness his first time on the job site, especially since he was so confident. Another anecdote, Steven is in architecture at Cegep and his professor learned that he was working on the side for an inspection company. He asked him to give a presentation to his class on NDT and structural inspection, especially welds, because he was intrigued by the industry.

What attracted you to Nucleom? We surely offer something you haven’t found elsewhere.

What I like most about Nucleom is that it is a Quebec/Canadian company. The founders have a way of thinking similar to mine and are not disconnected from the reality of technicians. They are human and easily accessible. I like the proximity with people, the team work and the fact that my ideas are taken into account. I really like the story of Nucleom : they build everything from scratch and are where they are today, while keeping their inventive heart.

“At Nucleom, we all have our hearts in the right place”

As Director of Operations in Montreal at Nucleom, could you explain to our readers your daily tasks?

I’m not an Operations Manager in the strict sense of the word because I also take care of a Business Development component, to look for new contracts and develop clients. Often, a client will call me or one of my colleagues, we will make a quote, we will have to follow up with the client and in case of a PO, make sure we have the necessary manpower, make the schedule, send the technicians on site, make the report, the invoicing, etc. I coordinate all these actions and in case of a problem, I will send the technicians to the site. I coordinate all these actions and if there is a problem, I find solutions. I’m like the conductor of the whole orchestra. I also make sure that the technician who is going to do the job has all the necessary information. I’m the nerve center: everything comes in and out of the operations through me, and everything comes back to me too. It’s a job that requires you to be available all week long, it’s a real full-time job (24/7). You have to be dedicated but if you love your job you don’t see it as a constraint, it’s more like a passion.

What do you think NDT has to offer to industries (nuclear, petrochemical, pipeline, refinery, gas…)? Advanced non-destructive testing is full of advantages.

The heavy industry (nuclear, petrochemical, pulp and paper…) is already familiar with the business because it is an industry governed by standards and laws. Insurance companies also require inspections to insure the plants afterwards. Without insurance, accidents (equipment breakdown, structural weakening, personnel accidents) will not be covered due to the lack of due diligence by the companies. This type of accident can amount to millions of dollars in costs. In this context, inspections provide insurance – literally and figuratively – to companies. In contrast, other industries where inspections are not mandatory perceive them as additional and unnecessary costs, when if they had inspected their equipment they could have avoided production stoppages and a consequent loss of money. Equipment replacement is far more expensive than maintenance or repair. Millions of dollars can be saved by acting upstream.

“Inspections provide insurance to companies”

Eric, if you let your imagination run wild, what do you think the future of NDT is?

I don’t think the approach of some industries to inspections (pro-inspection versus anti-inspection) will change, although the mindset is slowly changing. Today’s new generation is thinking differently and has a particular interest in reliability, environmental and insurance issues, which is helping to increase the appeal of inspections. On the other hand, techniques will continue to evolve in terms of technology. We will see an increase in technological innovation for inspection methods. Of course, a state-of-the-art machine will cost more to amortize R&D costs, but it will be more efficient on the job, for faster and more accurate inspection.

We are coming to the end of our interview “Demystifying NDT with Eric Rodrigue”, do you have any final words for our readers?

So yes, for someone who wants to learn, get out of their comfort zone, see the world… NDT will allow them to do that. It’s a profession that allows you to meet people from all walks of life and work in various industries. NDT is a challenging world, you are not behind your screen doing the same thing all day. I got to see things that I never thought I would see, like gold mines. It’s a great job and it pays well, without necessarily having a university education.


Other interesting articles

Nucleom joins Canadians for CANDU campaign

Nucleom joins Canadians for CANDU campaign [Quebec, Quebec – May 30th, 2024] – Nucleom is proud to announce its support for […]

Nucleom at the 2023 IPEIA Conference: Ensuring Pressure Equipment Integrity through Advanced NDT Inspection

Are you attending the 2023 IPEIA (International Pressure Equipment Integrity Association) conference in Jasper this year? Nucleom, a leading Non-Destructive […]