Some exciting news here at Pacific Ropes. We're in the process of starting a fun rope access podcast! And Cameron (Cam), one of our Assistant Instructors, was our first experiment! It wasn't completely sound proofed (there was training happening in the background) and our mics may or may not be pointing in the right direction, but we managed to fumble through and I spent the time asking Cam how we got started in the rope access and why he decided to become an instructor. Enjoy!
How did you end up in Canada?
I've always been big into mountain biking. I did it growing up and even went to school for it. Yes, there is a degree you can get for outdoor recreation. I was sponsored for a little while doing it and heard that Whistler was a great place for mountain biking so I went there.
How did you hear about Rope Access?
I've always known about it being from Scotland. I'm from an island there called Skye and had a lot of high school friends who became NDT techs working in the North Sea. They use a lot of rope access there so it was always in the back of my mind. Also, when I was in Whistler, I worked on drilling rigs in Alberta and there was always talk about it there. I did get tired of working on the drilling rigs since it was so hard on the mind and the body so I thought maybe I would try rope access in a different application.
How was it hard working on the drilling rigs?
Working on the drilling rigs attracts a certain crowd, the manly men. There is a mentality of breaking in the new guy. And that’s the mentality I didn’t enjoy. And that’s’ why I like rope access. It’s the opposite. You also had to use a lot of manual machinery. I enjoyed the work there but was glad to leave the day with all my fingers. So this experience really pushed me to do something that was safety oriented, so I can be more comfortable at work and know I will go home at the end of my shift.
How did you start looking for jobs after your level 1 training?
I was in Whistler and I knew I wanted to come to Vancouver for rope access. So I emailed every single rope access company in Vancouver asking for a job. I got my first job doing cement work on high rises, with All star. I have a construction background as well, working with my dad. So, yeah, just emailed a bunch of rope access companies. With Allstar, I was doing cement work on swing stages and they promised that they would schedule me doing rope access work later. So after a few months of doing swing stage work, they put me in the course and I started doing rope work with them. That was in 2015.
How long did you stay with Allstar?
I was with them for a year and just wanted to move onto other things and expand my experience, and try to find something that immersed more into the safety side of things. I also wanted to learn and work under more experienced rope techs. At that time, there weren’t a lot of experienced rope techs hanging around the city. I was working with a lot of new level 1’s. So I went to Fort mac, and worked for Tacten for a little bit. Then bounced around with GRA as well at the same time. Bounced between the both of them.
How did you get the jobs with Tacten and GRA? Emailing again?
Yeah, emailing and just making a pest of myself. It’s all about networking. It counts for so much. I actually got a job with GRA and someone from Tacten was working along side of me and he helped me get a job at Tacten. And from there, you meet more people and are exposed to more opportunities. Everyone’s like minded so everyone is always trying to help each other and find work for each other. After that, I got a job with Axis and did a lot of drilling, rock stabilization, and geo work with them.What's your favourite and least favourite task on rope?
Worse task on rope is window cleaning. Dealing with the public is not ideal. When you’re trying to do your job and somebody comes out to tell you that you’re doing a terrible job, it’s not fun. Also, doing window washing in the winter is super cold. Favourite thing to be doing on ropes has been working with Axis. Good people there and the environment counts for so much. You’re up in the mountains the whole time. Another cool job is working on the Walter dale bridge. Just being up there and doing a lot of cool rigging tasks.
What qualities do you think someone will need to be a great rope tech?
Being self-critical and thinking about how you can do things better. And also being open to listening to other people’s opinions. There are so many ways you can do things on rope so not having an ego will help you learn and improve. Also, having determination. You may be working on a not so fun project for a long time. But determination and foresight will help you reach your goals.
What are your long term goals?
Sounds cheesy but be as good as I can be. As a level 3 many people think you know it all but no level 3 knows it all. There is so much to learn. I just want to be the best as I can be. That involves a lot of listening and taking notes. As long as I feel like I’m content and knowledgeable and happy that I’m progressing.
What’s the most recent learning experience?
Loads of things, I’m always learning. For example, during the gear talk lesson today, Josh mentioned there are 108 teeth in an ASAP.
What made you want to become an instructor?
I guess it's just the natural progression. It’s a great place to learn myself. When you’re instructing, you’re teaching but you’re learning a lot at the same time. With the safety aspect, I wanted to work in a safer environment. Being an instructor, it seems like you’re going the extra step and making sure you're helping shape a safer working environment on in the field.
What do you want your students to walk away with at the end of the week?
To feel competent in what they are doing. To come out of the course like they’ve learned something. That’s the main goal.
What piece of advice would you give someone who is new?
Study! Especially if you haven’t been on ropes before. Do your homework. And don’t expect to get a job right off the bait. You have to put in the work. Network and work hard.
Advice for upgrades and re-certifyers?
Nerves are good. They will help you. A bit nervous excitement will get you more focused. You get people not practicing things that they know they’ve got down but that ends up biting them in the butt. People are so keen to just get into the maneuvers right away and they don’t listen and then they miss some key elements or points.
How would you describe the rope access community over all?
Everybody seems to be here for the same reason. To do the job, make money, and go home in tact and have a good time doing it as well. It takes you to so many places, around the world in different industries. It can always be something new. It’s very exciting. The community is good people.
To read the rest of our Rope Tech Stories, click below!