Posts

The 3 Most Influential Women In My Life – A FIFO Blog Everyone Can Relate To

I write these blogs for many reasons, all outlined in previous articles. I get loads of feedback on the insight some get into FIFO life, including the challenges, the rewards and the unknowns. I guess readers of my blogs are split in to two groups.

Those who have worked away and can somewhat relate to what I write about. Sometimes it’s “Oh it’s not just me” or “I never looked at it like that” with some construction vs production / operations banter in their as well.

Then there are those who have not worked away. The family and friends of away workers. These readers seem to get an appreciation for what it is like when away from home to work and why we choose this path. Or some just seem to like the pictures of haunted houses, comics and toy cars.

This time, I’m choosing a different path. This time I want to share an experience that we can all relate to and have had to do at some stage in our lives. Some more than others, but it’s unfortunately is part of growing up.

This blog is about an opportunity I had to reflect and appreciate a special person. A couple of hours of my life that I will hold close for a long time and a nice little reminder for me to stop, put life on hold for a few moments and just remember every now and then.

3-jpeg_original

Friday the 4th of December of my last R&R. It was a warm but overcast and drizzly day with a strong north easterly wind blowing across Morten Bay. Just after 10AM, I was sitting in the back of an 20 foot SharkCat; hot coffee in hand and nursing a slab of granite while chatting to my parents and sister about nothing specific.with elaine_carrie

My sister was clutching a small box of coloured flower petals while my Dad held a thick decorated paper bag with a small decorative box inside. We chin wagged and laughed on the 15 min trip out but we knew that this morning would be tough for us all.

As a family, we were off sea to set free the ashes of my Great Aunt who’d pasted away just over 3 years ago.

Eileen “Dig” Newton was a magnificent lady. Born in 1924, she was raised in a simple time and formed simple but strong values. Her early years spent in Papua New Guinea; she never married, never held a drivers licence or owned a VRC and had the same job for over 3 decades.with regan

And although she had not an ounce of PC in her and never minced her words, she always spoke with respect and dignity.

Along with her older sister Caroline (my great Aunty Carrie) and her Husband
Les (my Great Pop), she spent 20 years raising my mum as a single working women in a small, modest but welcoming home.

When my sister and I came into the world, her attention turned to us and for the next 35 years. She nurtured us sternly, fairly, tolerantly and with as much love as her big heart could give.

In her later years there is nothing she would love more than being surrounded with infant and toddler grandchildren; who loved her company just as much.Grandkids

The engine noise started to dim and the sharkcat slowly started to drift to a holt. The only movement was of the waves and the noise of the wind whistling across the ocean chop was almost haunting. As my Dad struggled to remove the cap from the tin that contained Dig’s ashes, I caught my sister in a gaze toward the horizon.

In these few seconds, I wondered if she was thinking of the night we watched Haley’s Comet from Dig’s back landing, or eating fresh mangos that had fallen from the tree in her yard. Or was she wondering what ever happened to the “Jones Express”…our home made go cart that lived under her house?

Mum and Dad bent over the side of the boat and slowly set her ashes free…free to roam the stretch of coast line the Dig held so dear her whole life. As my sister slowly started to sprinkle the beautiful yellow petals into the ocean, I held the custom made memorial just under the water line.

An 180x180cm of slab of black granite with a brief but special message engraved on a stainless steel plate attached to it. It was as simple and unique as the lady we were there to celebrate.

As I let it go and watched it sink out of view; I thought of Scampy (Dig’s 3 legged dog), Cocky (her pet galah), the plaster Frankenstein head we made and painted for her and drinking Pasito on school holidays at her Bribie Island caravan park home.

Even when she had her old Pianola and used to load the sheet music all day for my sister and I. The noise was horrendous but we just loved playing that thing so much.

Looking around at my family, there were few tears and big smiles all round so I knew they were all remembering Dig as I was. As we all watched the petals float into the distance, it was time to head back to shore and get out of the rain.

As the engines fired up and we started to move, I thought about something that I hadn’t thought about for quite some time.

with Pop_carrie

I was sitting with Dig at her sister Caroline’s wake and we spoke about many things we hadn’t before. Stories about my Mum’s childhood, her time in Papua New Guinea and why she had left; about her childhood and how she got her nickname…Dig. This continued over the years to conversations about her memories of WW2 ending, the Kennedy assassination, and other major world events.

One day while I was sitting at work, around 4 years ago I had a brain storm…almost an epiphany! Calling her while rushing out of the office, she answered…

”Dig, it’s me!!”

“Oh! Elain.. oh I mean Warwi… I  mean Reeg!! What are you calling me for??”

This was standard for everyone…at least 2 names before she got yours right and then asking why you called. To which the response was always; “because I want to have a chat.” And then came the frustratingly sweet…

“Why?”

“Dig. I’m going to buy a Dictaphone and come to chat with you. I’d love to hear all your stories again so I can record them!!”

She finally agreed, although reluctantly so that afternoon I bought a Dictaphone and went for a visit. We spoke for a couple of hours and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had forgotten batteries!!

So on to the next time… Well, there was no next time. I never did take that Dictaphone up to chat with Dig again. In fact, it still sits in the centre console of my car. Every time I rummage through to find a pen, a receipt, a hair band for the girls; I come across that Dictaphone and wish somehow that it was full of stories from past generations.

A wish I know will never come true and stories I know we have just committed to the ocean.

The slowing of the boat broke my reflective trance and looking around I realized it probably had done the same for my family. Glassy eyes and sombre looks greeted my refocusing eyes and I wondered were they all pondering missed opportunities with Dig?

I hoped not as that’s not what she would want us thinking about as she watched over us from her final resting place. By the time we got onto dry land, we were all ready for a coffee and some food so we headed to a great little organic café on the waterfront.

It was open and welcoming; of vintage but not old fashion, modest with a youthful spirit and just made us feel warm and comfortable…just like the lady we were there to celebrate.

IMG_5501[1]

I was recently told by a very wise woman that the 3rd and final stage of passing is when no one is left to remember you. I am hoping by penning these reflections, along with the memorial now at the bottom of the ocean, Dig will live on in thought long after I am gone.

We all have people dear to our hearts; both past and present. Those special grandparents, family members, and close friends whose impact on us is really only tangible as we move further on with our own lives.

I think about Dig often, along with other family and friends who have passed over the years and every time I do, I like to smile and be thankful that I have been blessed with their time, no matter how short.

Anyways, back to the regular content next time and if this blog reminds just one person to stop, reflect and smile about some memories of a special person, then it was worth it!!

So….

IMG_5498[1]

….keep safe and stay connected.

IMG_5396[1]

Live’n the Dream!” by Being Prepared for Opportunity – The Mick Andrews follow up

I am not a big believer in luck. Some years back, a fleeting life acquaintance said to me “luck is where opportunity and preparation meet” and that has stuck with me ever since.

Every time I hear someone say “I was so lucky”, or “yeh it was just blind luck” I always come back to this and think of how; even in some small way they have prepared for when opportunity may strike. I mean everyone who has ever won the lotto has prepared themselves for the win by purchasing the ticket!

2 blog articles ago, I wrote about Mick Andrews. An ambitious and dedicated young man that set his sights on his dream.

He planned and executed a FIFO strategy that would see him leave the industry with enough savings and experience to pursue his love of photography and travel. He also made a point to differentiate himself in some way which led him down an unknown path to Central America.

He “lived the dream” in away work to go and live his dream!!

Well since this post I have had plenty of questions about this young man; especially from those in my team and others who knew him.

As you can imagine, travelling remote parts of the world is significantly more exciting than emailing your old boss back so I was quite surprised and excited when I saw his name on an email in my inbox yesterday morning.

When I opened it, I could not believe what I read and was amazed at how his story was unfolding.

Here is what he wrote to me…

cubans

Hey mate,

So I’ve been trying to find different people and stuff to do while I’m away that I’d never get to do at home. I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole social media thing for a week or so for a reason. Here’s the story.

About 3 weeks ago I meet a guy who is a travelling journalist from Melbourne and over a few beers we got on straight away. So we decide to work together and do a collaboration or story about something while we are both travelling. 

4 days ago over breakfast I had been reading the Spanish newspaper to try and improve my Spanish when I noticed that there was a huge article about some Cuban migrants only 1 hour away on the Costa Rican border. I knew instantly this was where me and Dave had to go do. We hired a car, hired an interpreter and drove straight there.

We spent the whole day down there interviewing people who had travelled from Cuba and are now on their way to the USA by foot. They are being held at this border because the Nicaraguan government will not let any more Cubans into their country. 

Was a pretty emotional day to say the least as we spoke to countless people who have left everything back in Cuba to chase their dream of being a free citizen in America.

I took photos and video while Dave interviewed.

You want a story for your blog, here you go. Made front page of Vice News. We never thought it would but I loved taking these photos. 

Feel free to share this and name me in everything. 

Not sure where this will take me now but it’s a start. 

army3

Below is the link to the article in Vice News and as you can see when you read it, this was definitely a story worth pursuing.

https://news.vice.com/article/2500-cuban-migrants-are-still-stuck-in-costa-rica-and-theres-no-end-in-sight

It wasn’t luck that Mick was reading the paper that day, or that he met a journo to work with. These were both opportunities that crossed his path and the last 2  years preparation meant he could take full advantage of them.

If he had of stayed on at work one more swing…didn’t go on one R&R trip to get more experience, didn’t aim to chase new landscapes or wasn’t so eager to learn Spanish; this article would never have been written.

Mick would never have met Dave, these Cuban’s would have one less voice and Mick would still be drinking coffee in another cafe wondering where his next opportunity would come from.

For more of Mick’s amazing photography and information about him, check him out on Instagram at  mickandrewsphotgraphy and at www.mickandrewsphotography.com. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on Mick’s progress if / when I get any information. I know I am looking forward to hearing which path he will beat next.

Until the next instalment; keep safe, follow your passion and keep preparing because when that opportunity comes along you want to chase it as hard as you can!! Oh and stay connected!!

paper_people_hires

A night in the day of a FIFO night shift – Is it so different to day shift?

Night shift… Is it just day shift at night? Is it so much different?

I have had many night shift workers argue this point with me for many years and for good reason; they get paid more!! This tends to be the motivation for entering into, and not wanting to leave a night shift position.

In my blog on fatigue (…is it the cracked step in the work place ladder) I mentioned that one of the main causes of fatigue in our industry is shift work; particularly night shift.

I’ve worked most forms of night work through my career. 7pm-7am shifts that were evenly matched with day shifts to make up a 28 roster while in the UK. After hours on call that required 7 – 14 days of ad hoc night work. Various fill-ins and all nighters when required while work was busy…even working 4 nights / week as a head doorman in a Canadian Nightclub for 12 months.

But I have never worked on a constant night shift roster on a large project; let alone on a mega project while away from home. So is it much different to working days? Does it lead to increased fatigue? Let’s find out.

AliceCooperComicCover 2

Night shift requires workers to operate against their circadian rhythm. Before you ask, as I did; your circadian rhythm is your body clock that determines sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period.

Apparently, this body clock has evolved to be controlled by the same area of the brain that responds to daylight. This is why humans (most humans) are most alert during the day.

Disruptions to this rhythm are what contribute to fatigue and the more regular these disruptions, the higher the levels of fatigue can be. This can in turn lead to something called Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD).

Basically, SWSD is caused by constant disruptions to this circadian rhythm and is characterized by insomnia and excessive sleepiness. SWSD mostly affects people whose work hours overlap with the typical sleep period.keep-calm-i-work-the-nightshift

The effects of SWSD cannot be taken lightly. Many studies have shown side effects of prolonged exposure to SWSD can be increased heart disease, digestive disorders, clinical depression and….the big C (eeks).

Ok… so enough about sleep disorders; we’ve all been tired and felt the effects. Had a few big nights in a row and found it hard to adjust. Been on call for a week or two and had a day or two off work to recover. Or maybe have even worked night shift at some stage and had to cope with the rigours of disrupted / unusual sleep patterns.

But what does night shift look like on a resources project while working away? Is it different to night shift on a large project working close to home? Is it different to night shift in another profession working close to home? Also, what are these abnormal sleep patterns? Do they actually make a difference?

Writing a thesis on the comparisons will do no one any favours; particularly given I struggle with 1500 words. But what I can do is compare a day in my life working on a mega project away from home to a day in the life of a night shift equivalent.

A colleague of mine has kindly agreed to share his experiences. At a high level, we have many things in common. We are similar ages, comparative job scopes / responsibilities, similar attitude to work / the project and share a similar love for life and family.

As well as a high level run down of his day, I have also asked for his insights into night shift; thoughts, feelings and anything else to help understand the life of a night shift worker. My insights, thoughts and feelings can be read in most of the previous blogs…so you will have to go looking!! So, below is a comparison of our working “day”.

IMG_5179

…times by 25 groundhog days and that’s my roster.

Insights from this night shift worker:

Dayshift is a hive of madness with everyone trying to get their own tasks for the day over the line and seems to be no real cohesion to a department.  Nightshift is a lot more team orientated as there is a lot less madness, with each department more willing to assist each other. The leaders on nights foster this and it works very well.

You can get a lot more done on night shift both individually and as a team due to the lack of competition for resources, materials, radios etc. The permit situation however is more complex as there are less of the client operatives and other resources required to get the work done.0b928b18e3721358bf903dd7b1e57c184fc8e6db65d149c54f713a1dc11db0d0

My transition from days to nights was more about getting used to the sleep patterns than the work. I get a lot more tired on night shift than on days and haven’t been able to fully adjust to the change. It is the same for returning from R&R. It does take some management and adjustment to settle into the night shift pattern.

For those who have joined the brotherhood of FIFO or have done so in the past they will tell you that you earn every cent of your pay while away.  Missing the good things in life and the sacrifices we make are not worth it at times. When family are sick or even pass those hours and days of helplessness are awful. Working nights definitely magnifies the effects this, it’s one more factor to adjust to. We all hope that one day we can pay off our house or retire, whatever the goal it will be well earned. 

These are only my experiences and others will have a different slant on how things work but at the moment it works for me and my family.

In contrast to the above, I was chatting to another night shift employee in a similar position who wants to be changed to days. I was actually quite surprised…so quizzed him on this and he told me…

“I’d love to do days. My missus would be stoked if I went back on days. The extra money is great but the lifestyle is horrible”.

“With the time difference, I can’t call the kids from camp and have a relaxed chat. I don’t get to talk to the wife for very long and when I go home it takes me a few days to adjust which frustrates everyone”.

“It’s hard on nights. No support, resources and coordination as well. Days seem a lot better run”.

AliceCooperComicCover 2

So did we answer the question; is night shift just day shift at night? Is there any difference? Well I think that’s only something you, the reader can tell me. Everyone will have their own differing opinion on this, particularly the night shift workers.

Whether they are called night walkers, zombies, graveyard dogs or just night shifters…they are still workers with all of the same challenges as their counterparts on day shift; they just seem to be a little bit more tired. I hope this blog gives you just that bit more insight into night shift and the extra factors that make it that little bit more challenging.

You might do shift work, day work, highly physical work, technical work; even part time work. You could work from home, near home, away from home or a combination of these. The take away is that no matter what your working situation, actively managing any kind of fatigue is important.

Until the next instalment; keep calm, work nights and stay connected!!

IMG_1723

 

“Live’n the dream…” To go & LIVE YOUR DREAM!

“Live’n the Dream…”

It’s something most of us say in passing about the last meeting, our day, our week or life on site in general. It’s typically meant in jest as this is the furthest thing from actually living the dream that is possible at the time. I know I say it most days. And most days I have it said to me, or in ear shot of me.

“How’s your day?”.

“Oh I’m live’n the dream!!!” (insert sarcastic emoji face)

“You too eh, I thought it was just me….”

Some days I hear it and think it’s a shame these amazing, powerful words; an ideology for most, have been diluted into a sarcastic passing comment. Sometimes we lose focus of why we are doing what we are doing and just get stuck in the daily grind.

IMG_1774

So, let’s turn this around. Let’s put some positivity back into these 3 words. After all for some people, working FIFO or other away jobs, are where dreams are made and realised!! In my time, I have come across some amazing stories of guys and girls coming into this line of work with an exit plan; most typically a financial one. Hitting their goal point and then going to fulfil the dream of a life time.

I work everyday with these highly motivated, goal oriented people. Their commitment to their job and their team is a credit to them and goes a long way to achieving all that they want from this lifestyle.

There are many examples of:

  • Buying a house, another house or paying off the mortgage;
  • Extended / frequent overseas holidays;
  • Dream cars…boats and more cars;
  • Or just saving to have lots of time off.

A colleague of mine has a picture of a Shelby AC Cobra on his screen saver. I remember first meeting him and commenting on the car, asking if it was his. He responded with “No but it will be. That’s my motivation to keep coming back”.

A few more that have stood out are:

  • Successfully starting up and operating an events management company – a keen interest prior to FIFO life;
  • Financing an international move for an entire family…the entire extended family;
  • Starting up a small accessories business in South East Asia…a result of frequent trips to a favourite R&R destination;
  • Family holiday of a lifetime around the US for 6 months, all kids in tow…also made possible with mum working for an airline working away when required;
  • Buying a retirement house for Mum and Dad who lost all savings due to investment reasons…

All of these achievements were realised because the workers came into the working away lifestyle, particularly FIFO; with an exit plan. They have / had clear goals, or at least some milestones they wanted to meet.

I’ve always thought it is very important. Not only do I think it limits the sense “why am I here / what am I doing” which can bring you down and magnify other negative emotions. But also allows you to make mini milestones to re-evaluate your choice of career and lifestyle.

IMG_1786

I’d like to share with you a fantastic story of an ex-team member who did exactly that. He had a plan, set his goal, spent 18 months “live’n the dream…” and is now living his dream!!

He was (still is) a likeable guy and interesting, but one I knew was getting itchy feet about his time on this project. He came from another department on the site and really settled into the team, found his groove and created his niche.

A young man. Single and quite worldly; he was always up for a laugh and was open about his passion for photography and travel. Most R&Rs he would be off around Australia or Southern Asia in search of the ultimate photo.

One day he came into my office and closing the door nervously behind him, he said “mate, can I have a chat”.

The next couple of minutes we spoke about the resignation letter he had just handed me, discussed leaving dates and also around the extra time he just offered to get the team through a hand over period for his work.

After the official discussion was over and I thanked him for his efforts; we started to generally chat. Nothing outside what I’d usually ask when a team member decides to move on. “Do you have anything lined up”, “what are your plans”, “make sure you look us up on LinkedIn”.

“I’m off to pursue my own business”, he told me.

Obviously this really captured my attention and started an hour conversation that was as memorable as it was inspiring.

I had been following his Instagram page for a few months. Looking forward to the amazing beach, surf and landscape photos that would be posted after his R&R adventures. Remote beaches. Crystal clean barrels closing out with palm trees in the background. Fire orange sun sets with a surfer silhouetted on the face of a perfect crumbling right hander.

I used to think…now this guy is living the dream!!

Hearing his plans to pursue his business, I was so excited for him that I just had to extract as much information as I could.

Me: “So when did you just start to love photography?”

Him: “Around 5 years ago mate…a mate of mine is a phot-hog so I guess I have to blame him” (although I’d say thank him)

Me: “When did you first start to hatch a plan to pursue it as a business?”IMG_1781

Him: “I love to travel and I love to take photos. So thought why not combine the two. I started with beach shots from my trips but realized that heaps of people were doing them, so now I travel to photograph different things. It’s a lot of hard work but with the love for what I do, I think I can make it work.”

Me: “How is it all going then?”

Him: “Yeh, its going well mate. I am at the point now where I have decided I want to do it full time and really make a go of it.”

Now, just when I thought I could not be any more engaged in the conversation…BOOM!! I am at the point now where I have decided I want to do it full time and really make a go of it.

Hearing this I realized that this guy had a plan and this was his next step…planned, calculated next step and he was literally resigning to pursue a dream!!

I had to find out more. More about his FIFO experience. More about his planning, how he got through it. What I can learn from him? What can others take away from this story?

Me: “Did you come to this project with a vision for this?”

Him: “Honestly; I came here to get in and get out. I had a vision of what I wanted to do and a target amount of money I needed to make that happen. I also knew what I needed to do on my R&Rs and over the last 18 months, everything was aimed at that goal.”

Me: “How did you stay focused on the end goal. What did you do along the way during your FIFO journey to set
yourself up for success?”IMG_1783

Him: “Friends and family were a big help and support network. Also trying to constantly push myself out of my comfort zone to counter the routine of 26 days on swing. I’d take trips to get different / unique images; stuff to set me apart from the competition. Things like diving with whale sharks, great white sharks, sky diving, remote places…just chasing the perfect image”.

Me: “Did you have an exact point in mind on when to exit – time, money, age, experience?

Him: “I had a rough time line but really did depend on the budget I’d set. I had some great photographic experience from my travels so I checked the bank account and decided it was time to pack up and travel Central America with a great mate…who also worked up here.”

Me: “What did you like about FIFO; benefits / opportunities?”

Him: “Clearly it has given an opportunity to get ahead with my life and to set me up to travel, see amazing parts of the world and most of all working to do what I love. FIFO is a hard lifestyle and can see how people get trapped, or feel like they are trapped, but I came here with a plan, a goal and now it is time to go.”

IMG_1780

As you can see, this is indeed a success story to come out of the FIFO lifestyle. It is one of many hundreds, if not thousands, of similar tales of folks realising their dreams through pursuing a career working away from home.

I think it is necessary to share these as it is such a positive thing to experience first hand and pass them on. If this story inspires just one person to chase down their dreams through a working away lifestyle; then I call this blog a success.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!!

paper_people_hires

 

NOTE: At the time of the posting of this article, the subject of the blog was travelling Central America. All images used in the cover photo and body of this article were supplied by him for use in this blog. Once confirmed, I will post all website and social media information on the One Minute Closer Facebook page. If you would to know more about the subject or would like to request contact details, please email me on info@oneminutecloser.com.au. He’s a stand up guy and a magnificent photographer.

More FIFO Working Away FAQs Answered… with more pictures!!

It seems that from the response to my first FAQs blog and conversations / mail since, the FAQs on FIFO is a topic of interest and the response has been somewhat unexpected. It seems that a lot of people across the board are interested in what life is like when working away.

What also surprised me from the feedback was that life in accommodation camp was quite different to what those that feedback expected it to be. A lot of family and friends saying “It looks different to what I expected…but not too sure what I expected”, or something like that.

I really hope sharing this information, especially with some pictures, gives you more insight into the world of FIFO project life. I think it helps create a more accurate picture of what life out here is like and maybe put into perspective some of the harder things about working away the have been discussed previously.

So, that being said…here are some more answer to some FAQs!

 

What exercise facilities are available?

All camps I have stayed in have Gyms…to differing standards. The last IMG_4990accommodation I was in had a brand new, very spacious, heavily equipped gym with floor / boxing facilities and separate large cardio room.

The one before that; 4 shipping containers joined together with a bunch of weights lying around.

My current camp has two gyms, a variety of equipment and are very crowded most times. There are outdoor facilities though which make it handy and I love outdoor training!

 

Is there a supermarket nearby?

Not on my current job. There are small shops that cater for things like chocolate, drinks, snacks, toiletries etc. Most remote camps have these small retail facilities with supermarkets or convenience stores being a long drive or flight away.

You can though bring certain foods to camp when you come back from R&R (examples on the facebook page) or if you know Dinnersomeone coming from Perth or Karratha mid swing…it’s a good source of groceries. Generally if you plan ahead, you can get a good variety of the course of your swing.

 

Is the mess / food hall / whatever you call it, open all the time?

Not all the time. The mess opens at 4am and operates for breakfast. The crib facilities (where you make your lunch) are available until 1200 to cater for late arrivals or those not at work. Mess opens again for dinner at 5pm until 8pm.

 

What’s the food like?

As previously discussed, the food is what you make of it. It’s notIMG_4596 gourmet selection but there are enough options to keep you healthy and interested. This is fairly true for all of the camps at which I have stayed. The dinner mess here has a “healthy” option selection if you want to try and watch what you eat. The picture on the right is a pretty standard selection from the health side.

There is also an outdoor BBQ area here every night that caters BBQ steaks, chicken, fish, sausages and burgers. Not the whole range every night but the selection is good enough to get variety. Also, this keeps me away from the mess so I don’t have to try and walk past the desert bar!

 

What’s your favourite food at work?

Have to say ice cream!!!IMG_1746

Saying that though, my eyes do light up in the morning when I see that BBQ meatballs are out for crib that day! I load up on the meatballs, cover with red onion, pineapple and cheese…then about 10am, it’s into the microwave for 2 minutes with some lemon pepper seasoning. So…damn…GOOD!

 

Can you befriend the cooks to make special requests (E.g. Gluten free)?

At some camps, yes but this one, no. At previous camps I could get custom made omelettes for breakfast and cooked to order grilled steak, chicken or fish.  There are some options that are gluten free and the staff are usually pretty accommodating to pointing these out.

Again, I think there is enough variety to cater for most dietary requirements, especially if you bring some supplies with.

 

What’s your best friend’s name? Do you have a special handshake/fist pump?

I don’t really have a BF at work, but plenty of work colleagues that I find I can relax and chat to after-hours about work, life or just nothing in particular. Having a great back to back in my role definitely helps and makes the days a lot more light-hearted.

We are all in this crazy thing together so I find the comradely between like-minded people on these projects quite strong and extremely important for maintaining mental and emotional well-being while I am away.

Work is work and we all have our dis-agreements. But because you can’t walk away at the end of the day, the relationships you develop with your colleagues, subordinates and superiors is quite unique…and yes may lead to some special handshakes!

 

Do you speak to you family often?

The mobile coverage at the camp is questionable at best and in peak times it’s extremely bad. We do have land line access from within our rooms but with the time difference, it’s hard to get the kids before they go to sleep by the time I get home from work.

I try to finish early a couple of times a week so I am back at camp to Skype or call at 5pm. To my sister, not as much as I should (Check out this earlier post for more) and again with time differences and her kids it’s hard to nail down some quality chat time. We do try for at least once a week.

My parents, at least 2 times a week when they are not grey nomad-ing.

 

Do you miss your kids?

Terribly!! I miss them so much and coming back to site is extremely tough but the time at home is what I call “quality time”. I get to make them brekky and dinner every day. I can drop them to school / kindy and volunteer to help out with sporting and activity days.IMG_4945[1]

This is the constant conundrum for away workers I think…one hand, working to give your family everything they
need, having a solid income and spending quality time with them while at home. On the other, spending extended periods away from them and missing so many special events…

As I write this I am 2 days from going home and all I can picture is the 3 of them running down the road, arms out-stretched screaming…”Daddy!!!”.

 

What do you miss most when you are away?

My kids 100%. I do also miss not getting to spend time with friends as much as I’d like. And you know, I really miss time at home. Actual time in my own home, in my own space; being in a totally familiar, safe and welcoming place.

I do miss being able to totally relax, have a beer or wine on my own back deck looking west at the sunset and reflecting. Reflecting on the “whys” in life and how 26 more days has not bought me closer to any answers.

Oh and I also miss the beach.

IMG_1749[1]

 

What do you look forward to most about going away?

Coming back to see how the project is going. These jobs are so big they and so critical to an organisation’s success; when they change it is always a significant chain of events.

Actual physical, on the ground change is usually slow and un-noticeable over the week or 2 that I am off. But at the IMG_1739level of the organisation at which I work, the dynamics around how the project is being executed change rapidly.

IMG_1740Staff turnover, position changes, work front prioritization, system handover, procedural updates, incident investigations, hierarchy shifts, skylines, fish-bones, manning curves, milestones….it’s an exciting environment.

 

What’s your favourite colour?

Good question. I am a black and white person but since looking at interior colouring for home, I think I’m a Red / Blue person. My parents bought me an amazing street painting while in Mexico with vibrant reds and blues and just love the combination.

 

Is your office like in a big building or like one of those relocatable caravans?

Well, to be honest it’s some from column A and some from column B. My particular office is in a single story relocatable office. It’s no high rise

IMG_1630head office but it’s comfortable enough for what we use it for.

There are 2 story versions here also, pretty much the same but twice as high. They have all the essential / standard features we need to execute the project and no complaints about the working conditions.

Our team office is located directly across the road from the main power generation plant and about a 3 minute walk onto the work site.

Yes, this is my desk and yes I sit on a big ball….

 

Who’s your celebrity crush?

Kath ZJ, Amber Herd for sure…oh and Gloria from Modern Family. But…I did watch the movie Columbina and Guardians of the Galaxy a few months back as was quite taken with the actress in those.

It was bought to my attention by my back 2 back that they were the same actress so I need to add Zoe Saldana to the list.

Oh and both great movies if you haven’t seen them!

DCIM106GOPRO

Well I think that’s a wrap for this entry but still plenty more FAQs in the stock pile to answer…so there will be a part 3. Hopefully this gives that little bit more insight into the away life of a partner, friend or family member.

Or maybe it will help with your choice to embark on a career that takes you away from home for extended periods. Whatever you got out of reading this blog, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!

IMG_1724

Some FIFO FAQs Answered… with pictures!!

Everyone gets asked questions about their job. Questions from family, friends and others who are just generally interested. The basic fabric of my job is no different to most peoples; but what is different is where I actually work and the fact I live in an accommodation complex far from home….actually far from anything at all!

To those who have never experienced a remote construction site or resources operation, this is a very foreign and hard to conceptualise environment. Elements of life that I take for granted, others find hard to believe. This is my view every morning…

Work Roster App

In my ‘What it Means to Work Away from Home’ blog, I explained that my motivation for building One Minute Closer was through 3 questions I was continually asked. So…in this and upcoming blog entries, I will attempt to answer some of the other questions I am asked (yes I actually write them down when I hear them…not awkward at all!).

Let’s start with a question from my sister.

Q. How do you work 7 days a week? What’s that like? 

A. Well to be honest, every day tends to be radically different for me and is one of the reasons can firstly; work for weeks in a row and secondly; why I keep coming back for more! At the level of the project and organisation at which I work, it’s by no means a daily grind.

It’s a very dynamic working environment and no matter how hard we try to plan and schedule; it tends to be very reactive. I am exposed to the most senior ranks of the project; the high level planning, discussions and hissy fits that take place between the grown-ups. I also spend a lot of time at the coal face with the teams who are executing the works. I report on progress, hold ups, safety and employee relations; to name a few.

I have direct interface into other departmental teams, client teams, client contractors and site HSSE. My job my maybe many things but it is certainly not mundane, boring or groundhog day!

Q. Do you live at the actual job site? As in, get out of bed & walk to your office or is it a bus situation?

A. Here the camp is approx. 4 kms from site so buses to and from work are supplied. IMG_1557The accommodation in which I curre
ntly am is on the walking track so whenever I can I will run or walk home. It’s a great way to finish the day or warm up for some more training when I get back! (view on the morning and afternoon bus…and yes I draw on my boots during meetings).

Previous accommodation I have experienced has been IMG_1549closer to the job site…as in get out of bed and walk to the offices. But even with these, the site offices are usually off site and due to pedestrian access; mostly require you to drive or bus to and from. Of course off shore facilities are slightly different with the accommodation being close, but even these sites are designed and built with safety top of mind; meaning accommodation and operational facilities are well segregated.

 

Q. Do you have your own room?

A. Yes, I do have my own room. In some camps I have stayed in, there has been a IMG_4585requirement to either share a room (day / night shift) or to share a common bathroom. I have experienced both and it works fine as most people have the respect for the others privacy and property. Typically I have had the same room for my entire rotation but occasionally you will be swapped out but again, it’s not such a big deal.

 

Q. What size bed do you have? I mean you’re a big guy, so do they cram you in a single bed?

IMG_4587

A. Yes…yes they do. The beds in my current accommodation camp are single beds, as were the ones in my last camp. Most camps I have stayed in are single or king single but in my final role of the last project I had a permanent room with a double bed. Single is OK, you get used to it. As long as it is semi comfortable and I have a pillow; it’s just a place to sleep.

Q. What facilities are available in your room for cooking?

A. In all the camps I’ve stayed in, there are no facilities for cooking in your room. Some have BBQ facilities but that’s about it. All food prep is done in the kitchen and food is served in a central mess..or two. I have stayed in hotel rooms when on rotation and away for one off trips; training, testing etc, and these tend to be self-contained with basic kitchen facilities. This makes a nice change to be able to prepare a simple meal every now and then.

Q. Do you have your own bathroom?IMG_4588

A. Yes, I haven’t share a bathroom for a little while now. I have stayed in accommodation where the bathroom was shared between 2 rooms and a couple where it was common with shower cubicles.

 

 

 

Q. Is there a communal Laundromat? Is there like laundry etiquette?

A. Yes and yes. Most accommodations I’ve stayed in have small communal laundries; 3-8 machines (washers and dryers) in each but my last one was one big laundry for 1200 people. General etiquette, I’m pretty sure, is that you can change someone’s clothes out of a washer into a dryer or remove from a dryer and place in a neat pile if you need a machine.

As you can imagine at peak times the machines are scarce and this seems to work OK. I have a couple of issues with this as usually I have gym clothes (Under Armour etc) and boardies (quick drys) that I don’t like to put into the dryer so I always try and do my washing later at nights. I try to time my change to the dryer before I go to bed and then collect first thing in the morning….if I remember. I’ve worn wet shirts to work on way more than one occasion…

If I am taking someone’s clothes out of the dryer I also like to folder them up and leave them in a neat pile; I hate when I find all my clothes scattered across the laundry. Just think that this is good manners and have never heard anyone complain!

Q. Do you get Foxtel?

A. Yes, most camps I’ve stayed in have some kind of pay TV. Usually it’s the standard package of a couple of movie channels, a few sports channels, comedy, FOX8, Discovery, NatGeo etc. Usually you get also some free to air channels and now with digital the choice is pretty good.

With the more modern facilities, most people have hard drives or depending how good the internet is, Apple TV so I never really am stuck for TV selection. Not that I watch too much but is always good for when you are sick or a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon.

I did experiment with mini-series’ about a year ago and spent every night for weeks trying to get as many tips from Walter White and Jessie Pinkman on how to run a successful Meth empire. Wasn’t really a viable career option so now I’m onto Banshee.

IMG_4656[1]

 

 

Q. What time do you start/finish work?

A. I start work at 500 and usually finish anytime between 1700 and 1900. This is pretty standard for my current and previous roles. This can vary across site with start times being 600-630 and most of the crew finished by 1700.

Q. What’s a normal ‘swing’?

A. My normal swing now is 26/9 – 26 days on and 9 days off. Others I have worked are 10/4, 19/9.

 

Q. Do you really wear Hi Vis all the time?

DCIM106GOPRO

A. Yes. I wear Hi Vis every day while at work. This includes fire retardant long pants, long sleeve shirt, safety glasses and boots. Gloves are also required most places as well as a hard hat. Hi Vis is required in all areas here except in accommodation areas; including if you go for a road run outside of camp in designated tracks. Over half my day, three quarters of the year is spent wearing hi vis!

Q. Are people social out at night or does everybody just hang in their rooms?

Q. Do you have ‘events’ out there? Like special dinners or trivia nights or anything?

Q. Can you play sport out there? Like a social touch footy team?

A. Some people are and some not so much. At this camp, as with most others there is plenty to keep you occupied after hours; outside your room. There’s the obvious like the gym, running or outside exercise.

Because of the facilities here there is boot camp, organised touch footy, soccer, swimming, tennis, frizby, netball and basketball (check out FB timeline for netball shots). There are also organised events like trivia and Sundays there is usually some kind of acoustic show or karaoke in the wet mess (bar). There are many people who bring instruments out also and music rooms are available to practice / play.

Most camps are fairly social with wet mess (bars) facilities and common areas; some with BBQs. I guess at the end of the day you have the opportunity to be as social or otherwise as you feel like being.

DCIM105GOPRO

So I hope that gives you some insight into life away from home in an accommodation camp, on a resources construction site. I have plenty more questions written down so watch this space for more FAQs. Also, if you think I can answer one that you have, please send me an email on info@oneminutecloser.com.au or message me on Facebook.

See also an excellent article written by Amanda on her visit to a camp complex; written from the perspective of a partner.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!

paper_people_hires

Women in FIFO Away Work: Part 1 – The Fierce Cub in the Oil and Gas Pride

As discussed in my ‘What is a Fly-In Fly-Out Worker?’ blog, away workers extend far beyond the realms of the FIFO community. Further to this, it is not just men who up and leave their partners, families and friends to pursue a career.

All industries that survive and revolve around sending workers away from their homes for extended periods of time, often to remote and isolated locations, owe their ongoing success to women in their work force. From the female leaders of organisations, experts in their field; women in technical roles, support services or trades; to the partners, sisters, daughters and mothers left behind – women are an integral part.

Women face the same challenges as their male counterparts while working away, as well as some additional ones that come with the territory of working in some male dominated industries.

I have asked one such woman for her insight into what working away from home means to her.

She is an inspirational woman. She has been an integral part of one of Australia’s largest projects for many years and has built and maintained the respect of her colleagues in every part of her working journey. She has successfully pursued her career in a male dominated industry with interstate travel, moves overseas and extended periods on a FIFO roster.

FIFO Australia

These are her thoughts:

I’ve worked as an engineer in the Oil & Gas industry for the best part of the last 10 years. During this time, travel has been a constant feature of my job in one form or another. I’ve made countless trips to locations all over the world to witness equipment testing in vendor factories, attend training courses, or participate in industry forums. I spent almost five years living overseas on expat assignments in Houston and in London and I’ve recently completed a two-year stint of working FIFO to a remote location on a two week on/two week off roster.

While all of this has made for a lot of adventure and excitement, it still meant that I have spent a lot of time away from family and close friends in order to pursue my career goals. However, I can without question say that the Passporttravelling I have done as part of my job has been incredibly fulfilling. In a purely professional context it has hugely broadened my experience and exposure within my company and given me real insight into how best to work and
interact with people from all over the world. This is something which has proven to be immensely valuable in such an international and multicultural industry.

In a personal context, the benefits of my work travel have been even more valuable. It has helped me to grow in confidence and independence as I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone. Moving unaccompanied to the other side of the world taught me that I could figure pretty much anything out on my own – that it wasn’t really that hard to set up a bank account in a foreign country, or to get car insurance, or to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Having to make friends in cities where I had none taught me to say ‘yes’ to invitations that I might otherwise have turned down. I have developed the skill of being someone who is willing to give things a try, which I think is an important part of growing as a person both in and out of the workplace.

I started working FIFO after a little over 7 years in the Oil & Gas industry. Having worked for so long in a male-dominated industry and having already done so much travelling I have to admit I didn’t think I would find it particularly hard to adjust to the FIFO lifestyle, but there are elements to the FIFO life that made it an entirely different beast.

For one thing, there really are not many women on site. There are certainly a few, and the numbers are increasing! But still nowhere near the 50/50 split of normal life, or even the 80/20 split of my Engineering course quoteat university. This means that women stand out, whether they want to or not. It took a while to adjust to the way that seemingly trivial actions would be noticed and commented upon. “I saw you buying an ice-cream last night!” or “I saw you going out for a run!”

While almost always meant in a friendly spirit, it was still an odd and uncomfortable feeling to know that I was being watched while going about my normal (and very unexciting!) business. The plus side, though, is that having such a clear point of difference made it very easy to be memorable. The fact that my face and my name stood out in a sea of male faces and names gave me an amazing opportunity to get my hard work and successes noticed by people who could help make a difference to my career.

Another unexpected aspect of FIFO life was that personal interactions with co-workers are very different on site. When working away it can be hard to stay connected to friends and family back home. I often felt isolated from the life I had left behind, and family and friends found it hard to understand what I was doing or to keep track of when I’d be coming home. Given these feelings of disconnection, the natural inclination is to lean on the people around you on site.

This can be a really positive thing in some ways. I became much closer to my colleagues and knew a lot more about them as people outside of work than I ever did when working in an office. This led me to forge some strong friendships and set up a support network of people who understood exactly what challenges I was facing and what I was going through. These friendships were predominantly with other women – while there may not be many of them on site, the ones there are tend to be good ones!

The downside to this, however, is that boundaries can far more easily become blurred, even if you don’t want them to be. I am an open and friendly person by nature – I like to form connections with the people around me. When working in traditional office jobs there is a much clearer distinction between ‘work’ life and ‘home’ life. I have never experienced any major issues in this environment, even though they have always been very male-dominated.

wonder-woman-comic-5-things-you-need-to-know-ftr

But people working FIFO spend at least as many evenings with their colleagues as they do with their families. They don’t automatically have that daily reinforcement and reconnection of going home to their partners every night. And once those feelings of disconnection set in, it is very easy once again to turn to the people around you and start looking for the wrong sort of connections there instead.

Also let’s be honest, it is much easier to cheat on your partner when you’re working FIFO – there’s no need to make up excuses for not coming straight home from work or to invent business trips away! So after a couple of very awkward encounters I found I had to become much more guarded in my interaction with some people on site so as to avoid giving the wrong impression.

The main thing that I took out of my FIFO experience, however, was exactly that – the experience. It is very common to hear people in my industry sneering at ‘office’ engineers who have never spent time in the field and have no idea what it’s like ‘in the real world’. To have the opportunity to prove that as a woman I am just as capable of working in a FIFO role has been incredibly valuable. Having earned my stripes in a site context has given me a credibility that I don’t believe I could have acquired any other way.

I have always felt respected by my colleagues and been confident in my abilities, but my time on site has made the difference between me sitting in a meeting saying “are you sure that’s right?” and me sitting in a meeting saying “no, that’s not right”. I am a more assertive and confident professional and a stronger person for the experience, which has made even the most challenging parts more than worthwhile.

Woman on a Rock

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I did. I think this gives great insight into the challenges and rewards that can be achieved by women not only in this industry but across the board in away work.

Also, hopefully this is motivation and a great example for at least one budding female engineer out there to take the plunge and pursue her career ambitions through working away!

Do you know or work with some inspirational women in tough workplaces? I’d love to hear about them and am sure a lot of other people would also.

Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!