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From Forklifts to Oil & Gas to Solar: How Alan Found His Calling

December 8, 2021
Bastrop, TX

When Paul Mitchell’s headquarters moved to California and the warehouse closed, they all decided to get their CDL licenses together. Alan drove trucks for the next 16 years.

But when his son Alantay was born, Alan didn’t want to go on the road anymore. So he got a job driving locally in Houston, Texas for a concrete company. “Over a period of time, I made my way up to dispatcher. That was me moving up the ladder. We got to talk every morning and every evening, and it allowed me to get to know the guys,” he says.

That experience made him realize what was missing during his years driving truck—being around people.

When an expediter job in oil & gas presented itself to Alan, he took it. In addition to the fun of meeting new people and getting back to his warehouse days ordering equipment, he says he learned a lot. “I take everything as educational. I learned a lot about stuff I didn’t know. We drive the highway and we never know what pipes are underground while you’re driving. Just to know about the oil and gas industry was great,” he says.

It also introduced him to something he had a good eye for and a keen interest in—safety. “In O&G, I would always see something, and when I did I would speak up: ‘We got guys 30 feet up in the air and are not tied off.’

I would see so much on the job, so I said, 'Let me go and get these safety licenses.'

His interest in safety led him to his current job with Workrise, ensuring the safety of workers on solar fields of a thousand acres or more. “It’s hard work. It’s a lot of walking. To put solar panels onto the rack, that’s all by hand,” he says. And Alan would know. For the 6 months he was getting his certifications to be a safety coordinator, he was working out on the solar farms alongside the techs. “Out here, one day is sunny, the next day is raining. That could mean easy slips, trips, falls, and accidents happening because it’s muddy."

Alan says that’s what makes his job as a safety coordinator so important, and so rewarding.

"I make sure everybody on the job site is as safe as possible. I give a speech every morning about the conditions changing on the job site, and how we can prevent the accidents before they happen. I talk to them about being prepared, getting plenty of rest, and getting there on time so you can feel good about the work."

As a self-described “people person” Alan says he’s found his niche. His only regret is not becoming a safety coordinator earlier in his career.

The funny thing for Alan is that he didn’t really like the safety coordinators he had while truck driving because “they felt like police.” And that’s what led him to his other golden rule: Treat everybody not the way you want to be treated, but treat them better. How does that play out on the job site?

“I don’t confront anyone about a safety issue in a public setting, I pull them aside. We’ll walk the whole job site, laughing and joking, then I tell them, ‘Let’s talk: I care about you. I want you to get home safe’,” Alan says. “I got guys who are away from home like me and need someone to talk to and to listen.”

Being away from home isn’t as tough for him as it used to be, Alan admits. Alantay, now 12, loves traveling to visit his dad on the road and hang out in his RV. “I’m not a video game guy, but he brings his systems and his computer. He is adamant about getting me updated on technology. We love watching movies, and wrestling—I let him win.”

Alan is looking forward to retiring with his RV, but in the meantime he wants to keep learning and bettering himself in the safety industry. “There’s other certifications I can get. I would like to know more about inspecting cranes and the counterweight of cranes,” he says. This theme of self-improvement is exactly what Alan says he would encourage in others just starting their journey in the skilled trades.

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