I’m sure we have all been there before, fresh of our first course and eager to prove to our superiors that our time spent working as assistants has been a waste of our talents. Quietly whispering to yourself, “it’s about damn time” that first time the boss calls you into his office to inform you will be going on your first solo run. The problem is, we get so caught up in the ‘hype’ of being technicians that we actually forget the basic steps in a job, steps that, if our assistant selves had seen, they would have probably laughed at us in disgust.

For this story leads me back to 2009, fresh off my UT I course after working as a “polycell technician” for 6 months (yes I am not very seasoned in the industry yet) I was given the task of going out to do a lamination scan on a man-way cover for a client I had been servicing with my mentor for quite a while now. The client had seen me in action and felt I was competent enough to work alone. Anyway, so I get there, all smiles, greeting the welders and QCs with an air of confidence that was missing in my assistant days. I approach this cover as if it were a harmless buck and I were a stealthy predator ready to pounce. I get to it and pull out my bag of toys complete with a brand new stainless steel ruler (a gift from my mentor… yes we’re really cheap on the gift side in Durban). I pull out my zero degree, put on my machine and begin my set up, once I am calibrated I’m ready to go, I place my probe my probe on the cover and am shocked to see no back-wall echo. Frantically I recheck my calibrations and see that every things perfect, 2 back-wall echoes at 20 and 40mm. I try again and still no back-wall echo. My mind is racing, “What am I doing wrong? I’m calibrated correctly. This is 60mm Carbon steel so I should have no problem pushing sound through it?? I’ve scanned thicker before!!!”, eventually I swallow my pride and phone my mentor, we slowly and methodically go through all the possible scenarios when he finally lets out a tiny laugh and I hear the sound of him slapping his forehead, he then asks me “Evo, have you changed your range after calibrating?” Those words feel like a punch in the gut, too embarrassed to reply I cut the call and think to myself, “What a fool! Scanning a 60mm sample with my range on 50mm!” I tuck my tail between my legs, adjust my range and complete the job. Needless to say when I got back to the office this guy is standing there waiting for me with a smile as big as a Cheshire cat’s.

As I said before, I am relatively ‘green’ in our industry and have no doubt I will make many more stupid mistakes as time passes by and I’m ok with that, but one things for sure, the first thing I do after I have calibrated nowadays is change my range! This industry depends mainly on human input and with that comes the definite possibility if human error, however, if we all learn from our mistakes rather than choose to ignore them, then they aren’t really mistakes, they then become lessons. Lessons we can, as I have, share with others and maybe they can learn from them to (or at least get a good laugh out of!)

Evashan Maistry-Thavar