Under the Surface with Joe Zink: New to SUE
It was a year and a half ago that I first held the relatively small piece of equipment that could save a client millions of dollars. That was my first day on the job as a Subsurface Utility Engineer.
I started in the Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) industry with no experience; what I did know was it was our responsibility to diminish damaged utilities and injuries on construction sites due to mismarked or unmarked underground utilities. Just like every new job, there have been challenges. Although similar to completing a jigsaw puzzle, completing the challenge instills a sense of pride. The opportunities presented to me since becoming a SUE Locator at UPI have proven I made the right career change and have only just begun my trajectory to becoming one of the best in the industry.
Quality Over Quantity
While most utility locators begin their career in the public sector, I am grateful I started mine on the private side with UPI. We have a commitment to quality above all else, not driven by a quota to complete as many tickets as possible in a day. We handle each project with the same level of importance, so our clients are always getting exactly what they need. Starting on the private side also presents more growth opportunities at a faster pace. I have been able to quickly advance in my career and am already transitioning to spending time in the office connecting on the front-end with clients.
The Equipment is Only as Good as the Locator Handling It
We work with top-of-the-line equipment in order to detect and map underground utilities. But ultimately, accurate and quality mapping is up to the locator. Misinformation on job sites and undetectable utilities are common, so problem solving is critical to successfully completing the job. Accepting that not everything is locatable was the hardest part for me, but learning how to effectively troubleshoot has taught me how to put all the puzzle pieces together. For example, I’ve gotten familiar with finding challenging utilities through records research and resourceful solutions to trace utilities, such as running fish tape through PVC to locate the line. It’s imperative to never get lazy with your work; laziness leads to mistakes. Take your time and make sure you are confident in what you’re doing.
View from the Field
I love being in the field and the time I get to spend outdoors and will continue to work in the field a few days a week. My boots have been on the ground of some of the biggest federal facilities in the region, to include the CIA Headquarters, Andrews Air Force Base, Quantico, Indian Head Naval Base and MLK Memorial. Our team has even mapped underground utilities in Spain at Naval Base Rota. My best memory to date is standing on the side of the runway at Andrews Air Force Base while watching the Fighter Jets take off 50 yards away. SUE gives you experiences many civilians don’t get and provides variety to keep you on your toes since no two jobs are the same.
Learn from the Best to Become One of the Best
The SUE industry is growing rapidly as builders and engineers truly recognize the value and security provided by having a private locator map and designate utilities. There is no better time than right now to get involved. Though a relatively young industry, there are SUE locators that have been around for 10+ years. Those are the people you want coaching you as you learn the ins and outs of locating. I’m fortunate to have started with the UPI team that brings this echelon of experience. It is a great feeling to be proud of the work we do and be part of large-scale projects that provide places for people to experience life to its fullest.