Part Two: Work Everyday Like It’s Your First
In a special bonus article for OGGN Perspective, contributing writer Stephen Forrester had a chance to speak with a long-time NOV welder and training instructor, Luis Medrano. In Part II of the article, Luis talks about continuing to grow with Quality Tubing, training people from around the world on welding procedures for different coiled tubing strings, his role assisting new product development with new ideas for better designs, and advice he gives to his son to make sure you’re always happy at your job.
As time went on, Luis stayed at Quality Tubing, continuing to grow personally and professionally. Wanting to better himself, he went back to school and got an associate degree from San Jacinto college in welding. “I really did learn a lot from the program,” he says. “It was really good for me.”
He also got married and had children, and through family life and his schooling, he kept working. Luis’ ability to continue pushing forward during these challenging times was not only due to his innate drive and tenacity, but because he had the support of a company and group of people he worked with that had become a family. The benefits he was getting from Quality Tubing, as well, were better than those usually given to people in his job category. Working for Quality Tubing and later NOV, he fondly notes, had been good for him, had given him chances that most people didn’t get.
“You really can go from the very bottom up to the top here,” he says with a smile. “You can go from a helper to leading an operation, to supervising people. And I’ve always been really proud of that.”
Companies often talk about career mobility, how desire and drive are enough to help you transition from one place to another, so this concept resonates with me. Seeing it put into practice with someone who transformed over such a long time is truly awesome, and it speaks to the culture Quality Tubing has built.
Luis didn’t go back into welding, instead becoming the de facto king of training at Quality Tubing. “I was training not only all of our internal people but also customers and outside welders on welding procedures,” he says, “and they came from all over. If they buy our product, they can come here, and we’ll train them.” Leading a 2-week course, Luis trains even inexperienced welders in Quality Tubing techniques, taking them from zero to hero in record time consistently each time. This way, customers don’t have to keep bringing back strings for repair or don’t have to hire third-party welding companies each time. It’s a value-add that gets baked into everything, starting right at the initial sale.
“It not only helps our internal people get trained up on the best way to do things,” Kevin chimes in, “but it really is a valuable sales tool for us. This isn’t the way things are normally done.”
People from across the world have come to Luis’ training classes, from virtually every continent and more countries than he can remember. “One guy,” Luis says, “came from Indonesia, and he didn’t speak any English. So, communicating was difficult, but we made it happen; we made it work, with sounds and this kind of sign language we developed. And at the end, he could make a really nice weld, and he left the training course happy.”
One thing I haven’t explored is the relationship between Luis and Kevin, so I dig a bit more. Turns out that though Luis functionally reports to Kevin, theirs is very much a relationship of partners, of collaborators. Luis ends up being included in virtually everything related to new product development and new procedures, from concept to final execution, as welding is at the core of all that Quality Tubing does. Having Luis involved also eliminates the need for retraining as procedures are implemented and revised. One great example is the recent development of procedures for NOV’s new advanced thermally processed (ATP) coiled tubing product, commonly referred to as “quench and temper” coiled tubing. While this product was still in the earliest stages, Luis started working on the welding procedures.
“It’s really one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Kevin proclaims, “making up the weld procedures before the materials even arrived.”
Luis adds, “With Kevin being in new product development, he’ll come to me at the beginning, and we’ll talk about it, discuss what we want to do, what we want to accomplish. And then we’ll do the welds, and we’ll test them, and if they work, they work.” The end goals of establishing these kinds of procedures are to achieve greater consistency and repeatability in manufacturing design, and to enable the welders to do their job the same day that Quality Tubing gets the steel in. This is now the gold standard for how products and procedures will be developed moving forward, minimizing downtime between the starting point and shipping something out to a customer as well as the necessary amount of training. Luis is the first stage gate in a very important process.
“The more you do something, the better you become,” Luis offers, “and you have to love what you do. So, we’ve kept getting better and better over the years.” Things have changed a lot since Luis started in 1989, like dramatic improvements in technology. This, combined with better training, has meant that what three people used to do on one bias line, three people can now do on two bias lines—a 100% increase in productivity. “It can be hard to adjust to that change,” Luis admits, “but we had to. And you know what? It benefitted us in the end.” Embracing change made the job more fun, with Luis explaining that the human element has become one of his greatest joys over the years. “Welders can be quite…” he says, looking around as though someone might overhear us, “…characters,” and, grinning, “yeah, quite characters.”
It’s that challenge of figuring people out—what makes them tick, how to motivate and inspire them—that’s helped Luis come to love training with the same passion that he originally loved welding all those years ago. That’s why he takes a selfie with his students at the end of every 2-week training session, making them feel human, valued. That’s why he started working on training manuals for Spanish speakers, helping those in his native language with technical translations. “It really is remarkable,” Kevin says proudly, “to have a technical translator that’s also a welder and a trainer. It’s unheard of.” Luis, humble, looks away in a bit of embarrassment. He deserves the praise, but he eschews it. “It’s a team effort,” he says, “it really is everyone coming together.”
After celebrating his 32-year milestone with the company this year, Luis ends the interview with a very poignant reflection.
“This is what I tell my son: that you need to go work every day like it’s your first day at work. If you can do that, if you can honestly do that, you’ll last a long time.”
It was so simple, yet so profound. I simply fell silent.
We must capture that nervous excitement, that joy, that positive energy and motivation and desire to succeed, and remember it, and make every day like our first. We can all get burned out in our jobs, feel underappreciated, become overburdened with too much or not challenged enough. But if we take Luis’ advice, we push past it all. We’re better than that. We’re thankful for what we have, the opportunities we’ve been given, and the chance to do more, to be more. I’m so grateful to have met Luis and been reminded of this very important fact.
All images are copyright of NOV and used with permission.