From cable testing to client repping

Michael Mills, fibre optic cable tester

To answer the question “what makes a really good fibre optic cable tester”, Michael Mills says laughingly: “Just copy me.”  He regards developing himself and others as one of the best things about working offshore.  “At times you feel that some people think that teaching others forms a threat.  In my opinion we need more guys to share their knowledge to help advance the industry and address the apparent skills gap offshore.”

Experience is the best teacher

From Greater Gabbard, up to Lincs, GT1, London Array, HELWIN 1, Borkum West 2, Walney and Gwynt y Môr, Michael has either installed or tested part of the cables that were laid to connect the turbines of these large European offshore wind farms. The different workplaces and situations have enabled him to develop various skills. “Each offshore job calls for another skill set. Low, medium, and high voltage testing, for example, require completely different skill sets and qualifications. However, I’m open to do it all. The same goes for rigging; sometimes, if you hold additional qualifications, you are asked to assist the team in another role and do things you don’t necessarily have to do because it’s nice to learn, and also to help out.” In addition to the business opportunities that come with gaining knowledge, Michael also gets energy from passing on his know-how. “It all starts with getting taught well. I was willing to start at the bottom and I talked to everyone and asked a lot of questions. With this, I got access to practical information. Nonetheless, I was also dependent on the will of the people around me. I was lucky to meet colleagues that were prepared to look over my shoulder at what I was doing and give me feedback whenever I had to do things differently. To me, it’s natural that you make extra efforts in trying to learn and also in mentoring others.” 

A hands-on representative

“I was once an onshore cable tester, for trains.  After a near-accident, I thought: that’s it, and I went offshore.  Of course, accidents happen everywhere, and offshore a simple mishap can have catastrophic consequences, but the mentality here is to always be very alert.”  Another reason for Michael to go and work offshore was that to him it’s less stressful.  “When you wake up in the morning you are already at work.  There’s no traffic to take into account; you can’t be late.  You just get up, have breakfast and get to work.  For me, it’s simply less stress.”  The variable character of the job also appeals to Michael.  Today he still encounters new and unusual challenges.  “My job is brilliant, I’ve seen a lot during my time offshore.  I’ve been to nice places, but I’ve also seen some horrible places.  Also, every time you go to another platform, you get to work with different systems and processes; you never get the same thing.”  Although Michael enjoys his current job, long term he aspires to the role of client representative.  His plan allows him five years to get there.  “At the moment I’m aiming for a client rep role, and from there I’ll hopefully climb further up the ladder.  My main reason is that I would like to have more responsibilities.  I would fulfil the rep role in a hands-on way by helping to make sure that all operational issues are running smoothly to ensure the job gets done safely and on time.  I would not like a purely observational role where you just sit in a room writing reports.  When asked how Atlas could help Michael achieve this goal; “To get to where I want to be, I first need to increase my health and safety knowledge and commercial understanding as a lot of duties refer back to a party’s contractual obligations.  So far, I have been helped by the fact that through an agency I can work for many different companies, so it would be great to also get the opportunity to get into a client rep role for someone who I have already worked for. I understand that Atlas are currently looking at working with a training partner to develop a client representative course. I find it important that an agency encourages personal development and work with their professionals to continually train and guide them.”